It’s been said that Gen Z have endless amounts of information but virtually no mentors. So, what kind of leaders are they looking for?
Leaders Who Serve as Models
We’ve been looking at Gen Z: What Every Church Needs to Think About when trying to reach the younger generation. In this, my last post of the series, we reflect on where our lives cross with young people in Gen Z. Specifically, we ask, are we becoming leaders who Gen Z will respond to?
Historically, teachers, parents, and preachers could pass on information and knowledge to young people. However, we have found that Gen Z have endless amounts of information at their fingertips, without the help of intermediaries.
Young people will not wait to ask at youth group or Sunday services to ask about the Bible or Christian beliefs on lifestyle issues. Instead, most young people will go straight to Google or Youtube.
So, what is our role?
Youth For Christ, asked young people; “What are things that make someone trustworthy?”. An astonishing 57% of Generation Z answered, “Once they have proved themselves.”
This is the key to our primary function as missional youth leaders. If we desire to influence, we must impart true wisdom. Information we have learned, but not personally applied to our lives, will get lost like white noise.
Our job is to model. Our task is to one who can say, like the apostle Paul,
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
1 Corinthians 11:1
Leaders who Share their Lives
If we want to lead and influence, we must share our lives. And this cannot happen from a distance. Young people will not grow from us being on the stage or behind a pulpit.
We are called to teach and preach the Word, but it isn’t just for the purpose of relaying information. We now have access to the scriptures, in the West, in our pockets at anytime.
So, Gen Z’s questions are not primarily “What?”, but instead, “How?”. Like, “How do I apply these words to my life?”. In my experience, I see young people looking to me to answer the following questions:
Young People’s FAQ’s
What does it look like to be a Christian in everyday life?
What does it look like to pray?
What does it look like to be tempted and not give in?
What does it look like to mess up and have to ask for forgiveness?
What does it look like to resolve a conflict with friends?
What does it look like to sit down and have dinner with your family?
What does it look like to interact with the person behind the till?
What does it look like to be disappointed with God when our prayers aren’t answered?
What does it look like to cook a meal?
What does it look like to respond to someone who is opposed to Christians and Christianity?
We are youth leaders, we need to serve as role models and share our lives with our young people. This has an impact on how we choose to spend our time and how we view success.
It seems that Gen Z will not be reached in masse. Instead, ministry needs to be up close and personal. Gen Z do not need teachers as much as they need parents. They do not need preachers as much as they need pastors.
These truths may seem overwhelming to us as emerging, missional youth leaders. But feeling overwhelmed can make us ask important questions, such as;
Youth Leader FAQ’s
I cannot relationally lead everyone, so, who should I spend my time with?
I am only slightly older than the young people I am trying to lead and I haven’t had a lot of life experience yet. How do I model true wisdom?
I’m not sure I have ever had an older Christian model. How do I pass on something which I have never received?
These questions will hopefully drive us to realise, we cannot embark on this task of modelling and sharing life by ourselves. We learn to pour into a few young people who can in turn pour into their friends. We learn to identify and raise up a team of caring adults who can care for the few.
When looking for caring adults who fit this description, there is good news! Gen Z is looking for good role models and wants to spend time with the older generations!
Premier Christianity say that Gen Z want to be included. They want to take part. They want to be mentored. Unlike Baby Boomers and Gen X who didn’t want anything to do with their elders. Gen Z want to be friends with their elders.
“They want to see that older people mean what they say about being a disciple of Jesus. They want to see what it looks like.”
Premier Christianity, 2019
We need to correct the common misconception amongst churchgoers that the best youth leaders are young. Instead, youth leaders need to be willing to open their lives to young people and serve as the kind of imperfect examples and role models which Gen Z are crying out for.
Darin is a coach at heart. He loves to develop young leaders to become effective in their local ministries. Darin also serves as Head of Training as he oversees Reign Ministries' training programmes and resources. Darin has been discipling young people for 25 years and brings his love for young people into every part of our organisation.
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