Belong: We are God’s Family! (Week 3)

Teaching the Next Generations

John 21:15-17

Guest Speaker:  Natalie Werking

These verses in John pick up after Jesus had been walking with His disciples on earth, died on the cross and then was resurrected and returned.  Peter had denied Jesus three times and here Jesus is bringing him back into fellowship.  Jesus asks Peter if he loves him three times.  You can tell it is hurting Peter that he kept asking…  Jesus doesn’t say “Feed my sheep” all three times.  The first time he tells Peter to “feed my lambs”, the young ones under 18.
 
Peter was not exactly youth leader material, right?  He has a hot temper and he denied Jesus three times!  What we have here is a picture of Jesus’ heart.  He asks Peter first to feed His young ones.
 
 
Today we are going to look at Generation Z.  Kids under the age of 20.  They are the majority generation today.  In fact they are the largest generation that has ever lived!  They are not the “next” generation, they are the current generation today!
 

Let’s look at some qualities that help to define Generation Z:

  • Tech Innate. They grew up in this age of technology.  (previously we were tech savvy, tech adept).  They don’t know a world without cell phones.  They can manage five screens at a time.  This is nothing for them.  They spend 5-8 hours a day on screens.  They are sometimes called “screenagers”.  They have access.  They can Google anything.  Their attention span is about 8 seconds (compared to a goldfish which is 9 seconds).  Technology is affecting all of us.  I used to go to Grandma’s house and make cookies and pies with her.  Nowadays she is checking Facebook.
  • Diverse.  They are the most diverse in history.   About half of Generation Z is non-white.
  • Women.  This is the age of women.  More females than ever are going to college.  Rates of females going to college soared last year.  We are seeing a resurgence of feminism.
  • Activists.  They are informed about what is going on in the world and they want to do something about it.  Millennials  before them were sometimes known as “slacktivists”.  They wanted to do something, they just really didn’t want to do something.   With Gen Z we are seeing incredible rates of volunteerism.  They are passionate about causes.
  • Success.  For the first time in history this generation says that their education and professional achievement are number one to them.  “Knowing who I” am is at the top.  Even hobbies and gender identity rank far above family, religion, race, money and politics.
  • DIY.  They want to do things themselves.
  • Morality Shift.  We see a shift in morality for the fist time in about 70 years.  Only about 34% would say that lying is morally wrong.   And they have enormously more choices than ever before.  If you sign up for Facebook you now have 58 gender options to choose from. By comparison, when Ellen came out in 1997 she lost her job and did not work for 6 years.  That wouldn’t happen today if a celebrity made an announcement like this.
  • 4%.   This is how many Gen Z kids claim to have a biblical worldview.  Remember that this generation is the largest in history.  So at a drop of 2% we are still talking about a very large number!
 
Generation Z is a blank slate.  They have no ideas about God.  30% are Nones.  When asked about their religious affiliation they say None.  They won’t grow up and come back to church because they were never there!  Knowing that going to church is the right things to do is becoming less and less – even in the “Bible Belt.”

In the 1960’s, there were 10 things listed as Biblical values.  The general population agreed with about 8 out of 10.  Now there has been a big shift and the distance from these values is much further.  Their questions are answered by Google and Alexa, not the Bible – not even their parents.

They are drawn to the supernatural.  And things are becoming darker.   They are looking for answers.  We are on the verge of a mental crisis.  They are losing their grip on skills for social interaction which makes them ripe for depression and all kinds of other problems.

The church can offer them hope and the answers to a lot of their questions.  We don’t want to be like the older brother in the Prodigal Son story and scorn them and say they don’t deserve better.  We want to reflect the Father’s heart.  We want to love them.
 

Matthew 18:10-14.    Where to Start?  The disciples have been arguing about who is the greatest amount them.  Jesus plops a child in front of them and tells them to be like the child.  He then tells the parable about the lost sheep and then he talks about kids again.  Is Jesus pointing us to kids?  Was anything Jesus said by accident?

He really cares about that one lost kid.  Leave the 99 and go out to find that lost kid.  There are lost out there.  Maybe it’s not about us.  Maybe it’s about them.

Barna’s Research tells us that most people (85%) make their commitment to Christ between the ages of 4 and 14.  From 15 – 30 only 10% and after 30 only 5%.   It’s almost as if Jesus read Barna’s research!

It’s not about us, but about the kids younger than 15.  Many Muslim countries forbid evangelizing kids under age 15.  They know that’s when it is most effective.  They allow adults to go to church – just not kids.  The fact is, if you want to change a country, you start with the kids.

 

 

John 21:3-6A New Reality.  After Jesus revealed himself the disciples were faced with a new reality.  Peter went right back to what his old ways.  He went out to fish.  It was what he knew best.  The other disciples joined him.  They didn’t catch anything that whole night.  Jesus showed up again the next morning and told experienced fishermen where to fish.  They caught more than they could handle.  Same boat.  Same guys.  Same strategy.  They just followed Jesus’ directions and changed location.

The end of John 21 is where I began today.  Jesus told Peter to feed His lambs.

We can stay here in our church and keep fishing, doing our thing.  What if all it takes is a slight location change.  An Easter egg hunt in the city park?  Dive at Parker School?  Where would Jesus have us cast our nets?

Cultural sociologists tell us we are on the verge of a major cultural shift like we haven’t seen since the 1940s.  Businesses are changing the way they reach this generation.  The army is changing the way they recruit this generation.  What will we, the church do to reach Generation Z?

We have a huge generation of young people that is globally connected, loves diversity, is passionate about activism and a good cause.  If we can reach them, I am convinced that they can complete the great commission in their lifetime!

 

Will we just go fishing?  Or will we obey Jesus and go fishing in a different location?  This generation is going to get fired up and change the world.  Will they do it for Jesus?  Don’t just go fishing.  Do whatever it takes to reach Generation Z.  Adjust a little bit for a miraculous catch!
 
Listen to it here.

 


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