(Pt. 5, final post) The Teen Decade:
This is the final post in a series to start 2018 on"The Teen Decade." For 5 years now I have been calling Youth Leaders to recognize the times we are in. This is one time in a century that we have the teen years (2013-2019). There are seven years and we only have two years left. Here is the prayer I have been praying for 2018 as we head into another year. Please join me in praying it every week.
"God, in 2018, I promise to bring this teen generation before you for The Greatest Awakening America has ever seen!"
This is a great time to emphasize an Awakening in the teenagers of our country. America has seen probably four spiritual shifts in her history (The 1st and 2nd Great Awakenings of the mid 1700's and the mid 1800's with Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finney and others, the Azusa Revival of the early 1900's with William Seymour and others, and the Jesus Movement of the mid 1900's with Billy Graham and others.)
I believe that young people in America are going to lead the next one. The Third Great Awakening. If the Church is in the hands of the young people that I see across America, the Church is in great hands.
This closing post is about how to grow the spiritual passion and hunger of youth today.
SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE AND DESPERATION IN YOUTH MINISTRY
This generation (Millennials and GenZ) is more comfortable with the supernatural than the Church is. They are FAMILIAR with the supernatural while the Church is FOREIGN to the supernatural. It really shouldn't be difficult to get this generation passionate and hungry for God. But, right now, the statistics are not encouraging.
In the latest Gallup study, David Kinnaman shares findings from an exhaustive 4-year study of the present generation. They are not encouraging. For more detailed information, please see the Impact 360 research based resources at www.barna.org entitled, "Who is GenZ?" It is a must-read for everyone working with young people in America.
An overview admits that this present generation has begun their religious exploration and faith journey much further away than the generation before them. Here are a few thoughts from the findings:
-only 4% of them come from a biblical world view
-atheism has doubled among the teens in this age-group (born 1999-present, they are about 13-18) from the percentage in the general population
-only 59% say they are some kind of Christian
-more than 80% believe faith is relevant in their life
-and 37% believe it is impossible to know for sure if God is real
So, in a societal setting like this, how do we increase a passion and hunger for God? Here are some creative and practical ways to increase a passion and hunger for God in this generation:
1. Youth Leaders must live a personal spiritual life that is contagious - We are not going to convince teenagers to become passionate and hungry for God if we are not. We must model the spiritual disciplines (prayer, bible reading, worship, giving, fasting, simplicity, etc.) consistently to them. They are watching. And our lives are the gateway to a dynamic Christian life for those who are around us. The reality is, we may be the only Christian some of our students ever see. So, what do they see? Do they sense our relationship with God because we are praying, do they see us reading the bible, do they hear us abandoned in worship, do they witness us sharing our faith, and have they experienced our giving? Spiritually healthy Youth Leaders produce spiritually healthy Youth Ministry.
2. Teach the spiritual disciplines (prayer, bible reading, worship, giving, fasting, simplicity, etc.) in every setting that you can - This would include the scheduled youth service, small groups, and personal mentoring and coaching relationships with students. We are not born with a desire to pray and read the bible. This must be taught. Teaching teenagers HOW to read and not just WHY to read is critical to their faith. Too many Youth Leaders have challenged students to pray and to read the bible and to worship and to share their faith. But we haven't taught them how to do those things. A comprehensive instruction of the spiritual disciplines will build passion and hunger for God in young teenagers. They cannot be Christian without the definition.
3. Model the Kingdom of God in neutral settings- Remember, more miracles happened in the bible outside of the temple. Just in Mark 1-6 there are about 26 works of Jesus among the people. And only 2 of those took place in the temple or the synagogue. That is astounding. Because we operate the opposite of this today. We have created a generation co-dependent upon the safety of the Church building or the youth service to practice their faith. A generation who equates serving God with going to Church. Youth Group is the place they go to be spiritual. But their faith never gets to their home, their school, their workplace, their team, or their squad. The Youth Ministry in America cannot solely highlight serving God in the youth service. It must get to context. In the neutral setting of where students live.
4. The supernatural relationship of the presence of the Holy Spirit- One thing we have learned from this generation is that they love the supernatural. It is in their movies, music, reading, and our culture. In order for Youth Ministry to see students take their faith into neutral settings and to live their faith outside of the Church, they must see that God is present with them. Always. There is an obvious lack of understanding of who the Holy Spirit is and how He works in our lives. When Jesus ascended, He placed a major emphasis upon the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He would bring us power, conviction, truth, and help with gifts in time of our need. Some of the most mature young teenagers in my ministry over the years have had a great relationship with the Holy Spirit and they have demonstrated power to live for Christ because of it. All throughout scripture moments turned into movements because of the Holy Spirit's work.
The Next Great Awakening
It really shouldn't be difficult to increase the passion and hunger for God in this generation. They already know how to worship! They worship self, materialism, and Icons on a daily basis. The hard part is not to teach them to worship, but, to teach them how to worship God. If we are going to see an Awakening in this Millennial and Generation Z today, we must prepare them spiritually.
We must demonstrate to them spiritually healthy leadership in all of these areas. Looking at the research can be disappointing. Or, it can give us great anticipation. There are so many signs of a comeback! Because I believe that God does His greatest work in the midst of our greatest need. And right now, this generation needs God as never before.