4 things Gen Z longs for and how we can fulfill those longings in Christian fellowship.
As leaders, it’s our responsibility that we are actually answering questions that those we serve are asking. It’s our job to meet needs that people are feeling. It’s our opportunity to minister in ways that resonate with the hearts of a generation. Otherwise, we are simply droning on, making more work for ourselves, and creating problems that God never intended for us and when we turn around—nobody will be following.
This is why it’s absolutely vital to find out what young adults are actually longing for. Here are four of them:
On the college campus, one of the most common questions my wife and I get asked is “how do I make friends?” Followers, likes, and fans are different than rewarding relationships that can last a lifetime! Especially coming out of a global pandemic where loneliness is at an all time high. We as ministry leaders have the opportunity to offer our friendship and create contagious community.
It has been for decades that the loneliest demographic of Americans has been 55+ year old men. Harvard has found that the physical effects that loneliness has on the body and mind bring about an equivalent health risk as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Another study about men over the age of 55 will statistically speaking not make another friend the rest of their lives. Young adults ages 18–25 are reporting high rates loneliness and isolation as of 2021 research.
I admire Pastor Brad Lewis (Chi Alpha Pastor at NDSU) who befriended me. His life philosophy even after 30-plus years of ministry on the same campus is that he might meet his next best friend he’s ever had tomorrow, or the day after that. Remember that everyone is created for and currently craving community. Let’s help facilitate friendship. One of the things Jesus was known for in his ministry reputation was that he was a friend of sinners. This means that sinners and people who were very different from Jesus actually liked him and longed for friendship with him.
Along with friendship, is intergenerational relationships. Millennials and Generation Z seem to be starving for the wisdom from those further along the journey than them. I see two gaps: mentors themselves and those desiring to be mentored. There is so many people in the older generation that I know personally who are ready and just waiting to be asked to mentor someone. And I find it interesting that so many college students and young adults I know are praying about and seeking out someone who can be a mentor to them. My advice if you’re older: Make yourself available. And if you’re younger: Ask.
In the process of mentoring, reverse mentoring is also a possibility. Typically mentoring has been seen as the older generation offers wisdom to the younger generation. My wife Micah says it best: “You’re never too old to learn, and you’re never too young to teach.” The reality is that when you’re a lifelong learner who is humble and teachable every person you meet has something to offer and you have something to offer every person you meet.
Mentoring is magnetic. Where it exists—both generations will stick. Let’s model mentoring and make mentorship a priority. Mentoring works only where there is humility paired with honor. Younger generations must honor those who have gone before us. Older generations must be humble to recognize that they are not divine—but they do have something to offer.
Leaders cast vision, model the mission, set the strategy, embody the values and create a wake for others to follow. This is especially essential for a generation that is longing to be a part of a cause that is greater than themselves. Young people today would rather make an impact than an income, and this is an occasion for leaders to steward and offer opportunities to create and contribute. Whether in the military, marketplace, ministry, mission field or as a stay-at-home mom—leadership is vital and it’s lacking in our world.
How can people follow us unless we have first been where we are leading them? I love what John Maxwell says about the role of a leader. He says: “Leaders know the way, go the way and show the way.” You don’t need me to tell you that there is a lack of leadership in our world. And many “leaders” do not practice in private what they portray in public.
Let’s live leadership out. May our creed match our deed. May we actually practice what we preach. This is becoming a leader who is worthy of being followed.
BONUS —> Pastors:
Pastors are spiritual leaders. People are longing for a personal pastor. Someone who provides pastoral care. This is our opportunity of caring for the souls and spiritual well-being of those we shepherd and lead. Spiritual leaders can ask us hard questions like: “Are we praying? Journaling? Fasting? Reading God’s word? Desiring the spiritual disciplines?” Everyone needs a pastor. Even pastors need pastors.
Pastors help us:
• Start our faith.
• Stir up our faith.
• Stay in faith.
• Share our faith.
A case study in spiritual leadership is Paul who invested in —> Timothy who invested into —> Ephesian Church. We see this in 2 Timothy 2:2—“Entrust what I teach you to others who will also teach others.”
I would ask anyone this series of questions to reflect on: are you plugged into a local church community? Do you have leaders you fear in your life whom you are accountable to?
One layer deeper in the realm of spiritual leadership is discipleship. Discipleship, by the way is a requirement of the great commission and not a recommendation. First we become disciples who are fully devoted followers of Jesus and commit to the cause of Christ past any point of return. Then we make disciples who also make other disciples like I mentioned as a form of spiritual leadership above.
Life-on-life discipleship looks like:
• Accountability. Someone you fear.
• Authority. Someone you submit to.
• Ask questions. Someone who asks hard questions and who you can ask hard questions to.
• Speak the truth in love. Someone who can call you out.
Things I think about in regards to discipleship:
• Can one effectively disciple others without having ever been discipled themselves?
• What happens after a person surrenders their life to the lordship of Jesus as their Savior?
• What comes after water baptism?
• How do you measure discipleship?
Surely discipleship is more qualitative than quantitative. I’d submit to you that discipleship is more focused on personal relationships than programs. Disciples are committed to the cause of Christ no matter the cost. Not just the benefits of faith.
The next generation is asking the why. I agree with Andy Stanley that “there’s a big difference between questioning God and asking God a question.” In our churches and ministries—are we offering true discipleship? The kind that follows Jesus no matter the cost—even if it’s a cross of our own. Will we willingly follow Jesus even if it means we would lose our own job, our reputation, even our own lives?
This article originally appeared on CampusMinistry.org and is reposted here by permission.