The latest Barna report is out and, ouch, Generation Z is the first truly post Christian generation in American history. According to the research teenagers today are TWICE as likely to identify as atheist or LGBTQ.
The trajectory of the rejection of the historic Christian faith is accelerating and must be slowed down, then turned around. But how?
Here are the A, B, C's of reaching Generation Z:
Accelerate your intercessory prayer efforts for the next generation.
The word "intercession" comes from two Latin words that mean "I go" and "between." An intercessor is a "go between." An intercessor stand between the lost person and the danger of all the forces of Satan, the judgment of God and an eternity in hell.
I’ll never forget my daily walk to Brown Elementary as a kid. It was about a 10 block walk from my house. That doesn’t sound like much but Denver is known for its major snowstorms and, sometimes, it could be a long, cold walk to and from school.
So I talked my mom into buying me a thick leather jacket that we found on sale. It was the coolest thing I owned and it kept me warm during the cold Colorado winters.
And I’m glad I had it on one particular day.
That was the day that two German Shepherds, that were often running loose in our neighborhood, ran across the street and attacked me. These dogs had, once again, escaped their back yard and were headed full speed straight for me. My heart was pounding as I backed up to a chain link fence and prayed.
I knew these dogs were about to attack. They weren’t barking, they were charging with their ears back and their teeth bared. Without thinking I crossed my arms in front of my face and grabbed the chain link fence I had backed up against. I was standing with my arms blocking my face and holding on as tightly as I could as these dogs tore at me, trying to pull me to the ground. I knew that if these dogs could pull me off the fence and onto the ground they could easily kill me. I was fighting for my life.
For at least a few minutes these dogs tore into me. They bit and bit and bit but couldn’t bite through my thick leather jacket and, by God’s grace, they couldn’t drag me to the ground. But I knew that I couldn’t last very much longer. I could feel my fingers slipping and my grip giving way.
Then, out of nowhere, a little old lady named "Ma Zeemer" came shuffling down the street with a baseball bat. She was yelling and screaming and waving her bat. She got right in between me and those dogs. She threw herself in the danger and swung that bat until finally those two dogs ran away.
Ma Zeemer may have saved my life.
Ma Zeemer was my intercessor….because she got between me and the danger…she got between me and two ferocious dogs.
She risked everything to save me. She risked her comfort. She risked her time. She risked her safety.
We must stand between the next generation and the danger that is facing them. We must pray for them and recruit our churches to do the same.
Bring them a Gospel that contains the elements of a great story (that just happens to be true!)
This generation resonates with great stories complete with enemies and heroes, rejection and redemption. And the Gospel story, told well, contains all of these elements. We have a villain (Satan), a victim (humanity) and a hero (Jesus!)
In the story of the Gospel we have the three necessary elements (according to drama expert David Mamet) for what makes a good plot: "Yes! No! But wait!"
"Yes!"- Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in perfect unity with each other and their Creator! No sin, no shame, no clothes, no problems! Yes, everything is awesome (cue the Lego song!)
"No!"- Adam and Eve break God's one command and hurl all of humanity into darkness and separation from him. Things go from bad (kicked out of God's garden) to worse (worldwide flood) to even worse (the people of the world reject and crucify God's Son.)
"But wait!"- This rejected, crucified Son becomes the Savior by conquering sin, Satan and death through his resurrection. And now all of those who simply put their faith in him receive eternal life with God as a free gift.
Eden is restored and the curse is removed And they lived happily ever after.
Not too long ago I preached a sermon to a room full of Generation Zers that contained these three elements and it really impacted them. It's built on a GOSPEL acrostic we use to tell the story of the Good News of Jesus to teenagers.
And, after we tell the Gospel story, we should unpack the reality that this story is in the non-fiction session of the libray. It is a true story. The stunning, facts-backed truth of the Gospel should capture the minds, not just the hearts, of Generation Z.
Convince, equip and unleash Christian teenagers to Gospelize their worlds.
The best one to reach a teenager is another teenager. Teens have HUGE influence with their own peers. If this influence can be leveraged for the Gospel it can be the real game changer in reaching the next generation.
For the last 26 years I have had the privilege of leading a ministry called Dare 2 Share. We have had the privilege of equipping well over a million teenagers to share the good news of Jesus with their friends, classmates and teammates. We have seen first hand the power of teen-to-teen evangelism again and again.
Training teenagers to "gospelize" includes inspiring them to share the Gospel, equipping them how to bring it up in a natural way and training them to do the follow up afterward.
All of our basic evangelism training can be found on a free app that we developed called Dare 2 Share. Go to the app store and download it now...and get the teens in your world to do the same. It will help equip them (and you) to share the Good News of Jesus in a Good News way!
These are the A, B, C's of reaching Generation Z. And I'm going to add a D just because I can.
Dare to build a different type of youth ministry.
Too often our youth groups are just sanctified versions of Dave and Busters. Don't get me wrong, I love Dave and Busters, but it's no subsitute for real youth ministry.
If your youth ministry is long on games and short on the message and mission of Jesus it's probably not making the impact you are longing for down deep inside. It's time to build something better, deeper and way more effective. It's time to build a greenhouse type youth ministry where teenagers fall in love with Jesus, gain an unshakeable tribe and get a cause to live and lead...the very cause of Christ.
It's time to build more Gospel Advancing, disciple multiplying ministries. I'm convinced that Generation Z will flock to them. And you and the other youth leaders who choose to build them will find legacy and impact in youth ministry like never before.
Generation Z can be reached. The power of the Gospel is greater than their resistance. As a matter of fact, the real message of Jesus, may just be what they have been waiting for this entire time.
Let's reach them ALL!