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Loving Gen Z with the Truth of the Gospel

As parents, relatives, friends, and mentors to young people, we are striving to teach the next generation about the love of Christ and to help them grow and mature as Christians. However, though our intentions are good, we can sometimes struggle with the best way of reaching younger people, especially the super technological Gen Z.

Last year our friends at Ambassadors for Christ International (AFC) hosted an online symposium on the topic, “Understanding Gen Z.” The main presenter was Joy Cheng, Director of Programming for Far Eastern Broadcasting Company in Southern California, and author of the book, Family Ministry Training Manual for Teachers.  She is also mom to three Gen Z kids.

The audience for this symposium was primarily American-born Chinese (ABC) and overseas-born Chinese (OBC), but the characteristics and challenges she highlights are true of Gen Z young people of all ethnicities, and the insights and calls to action are relevant to all of us as well.

AFC has made her presentation available online. You can watch it here.

Joy begins her talk with a confession: “I have trouble understanding Gen Z, both as a mom and a preacher. The more I study and serve, the more inadequate I feel.”

For the North American Chinese church, she sees two primary challenges. The first is generational. Different generations simply see the world differently.  The second is cultural. There are cultural barriers and linguistic barriers. There are conflicts between local culture, immigrant culture, and American culture. Reminding us that “the problem is serious,” she warns that “if we don’t pay the price to learn, study, grow, and work with them, we may be the last generation of Chinese believers.”

In her presentation, Joy highlights five characteristics of Gen Z:

  1. They are a generation of technology. In other words, they do not know a world without the internet and smart phones. “It’s hard to grasp how wide and long and deep is their love for the phone,” she notes, while acknowledging that those of us who are older struggle with this as well.
  2. They are a generation of traumas. While the world has always been filled with traumatic events (wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and so on) technology has delivered the immediacy and horror of these events right to their hands, allowing them to experience the traumatic events in a more personal way. In the past, these would have been and felt more distant.
  3. They are a generation of undefined identity. They live in the tension of not wanting to be defined by anyone but themselves and desperately wanting to belong.
  4. They are a generation of authenticity. They reject the notion of ultimate truth, seeking truth in themselves only. “They seek for truths without the Truth.” They look to themselves, feelings, and intuitions for guidance.
  5. They are a generation of lies. They have absorbed the lies of the culture: “I am the center of my universe. I deserve to be happy all the time. I must have choices. I am my own authority. Information is all I need so I don’t need teachers.”

Joy then helpfully reminds us that none of this is new, stating, “All generations have experienced this. All of us have more technology than the previous generation. All have traumas. All have identity crises. All desire authenticity. All have believed lies.”

She closes by reminding us that, even as generations and technologies change, the need for salvation and love remain. The mission also remains the same. “The most loving thing we do as parents,” she says, “is love our children with the truth of the gospel. We are the missionaries to this generation.”

I encourage you to take the time to watch the entire presentation. And as you do, pray for the Gen Z young people in your life, asking God how you can best love them with the truth of the gospel.

For Reflection and Prayer

Who are the Gen Z young people in your life? Pray for each one by name! Though this generation has a reputation for being obsessed with technology, they also long for real, personal connection. How might you connect with your “zoomers”? Something as simple as going for a walk or out for ice cream can help them to open up to you so you can better understand their life experiences.

Young people crave authenticity and meaning. If they are offered meaningful relationships where they feel valued, they will turn to us rather than Google when they have important concerns or questions. What are ways that Gen Zs can be included in the life of your family and church? How can you begin to discuss serious issues with them and get their perspectives so they will develop into thoughtful, faithful adults?

Throughout the Scriptures, we see God using young people to bring about his purposes. Think of Samuel, David, and Esther. As you meditate on these stories, ask God to inspire the young people you love with courage and vision to seek God’s will for their lives. And ask God to show you how you can mentor them along the way.

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Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University …View Full Bio

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