Listen

listening 

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, James 1:19

As we close in on the end of the year and gear up for the new year, I pondered as to what I should write that might be worthwhile for all.  After some thought, I decided that I would do something similar to what I have done before.

Some of us beat ourselves up this time of year coming up with resolutions for the New Year. Things like start working out at a health club or exercise more.  Usually, those resolutions last about 3 months, and then often end up in your rear-view mirror, only to be dredged up again the following year.

I ran across a book entitled My One Word (see the video below) which intrigued me. Instead of coming up with a list of “to-do’s” or resolutions which are aimed at self-help, the author suggests that you choose one word that describes what you hope God will accomplish in you for the next year.

The word will be with you all year – something you can focus on, meditate on.  My word for last year was Listen.  Not surprisingly, when I asked my wife which word she thought I chose, she guessed it right off.  I guess she thinks I needed to focus on listening. After a year, I realized how much I needed to improve.

I realized that I often wasn’t listening to others very well, often absent-mindedly thinking of a response to whatever they had to say without totally absorbing what they wanted to say. Mentoring requires a lot of listening, and so it was a good choice for me.

I think I have improved at listening to other people. I have also concentrated on listening to God more.  I can be impulsive, and waiting on His input on decisions or directions has made me more patient.

While I feel like I made progress, I think that I will repeat Listen as my word for 2018. That’s just me.  There’s more to do.

For you, the reader, think about One Word that you could select. We might not be able to remember a lengthy resolution, but at least you can remember one word.  Several people emailed me after I did the post before, and gave me their one word.  One of them chose the word “Trust”.  I like that.

The challenge here for all is to select just one word for the next year. I found that the one word stuck with me and was a constant reminder of something I needed help on.  Is there an area in your life that you need to work on with God’s help?  Use the One Word concept to guide you through next year.   You’ll be glad you did.

 MENTOR TAKEAWAY:   Mentoring is more about listening than talking. Mentees are affirmed when you value what they have to say.

FURTHER STUDY:  For the video What’s Your One Word? http://www.faithgateway.com/what-is-my-oneword/?utm_source=devosdaily&utm_campaign=devosdaily20170104&utm_medium=email#.WG-dJ7GZM_U

The book My One Word is available at Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/My-One-Word-Change-Your-ebook/dp/B008EGUFF2/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483709932&sr=1-1&keywords=my+one+word

WORSHIP: Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “Take My Life” which reminds us to be open to letting God do a work in us. Take My Life (And Let It Be) Chris Tomlin [Lyrics] – YouTube

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.   SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

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Failure

failure                                        

 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion foreverPsalm 73:26

 This is a practical topic for every mentor (and mentee).  When I met with the very first man I agreed to mentor years ago, I told him a couple of things up front.  One of them was that it is a lot easier to learn from the mistakes of others, and that I had made 100’s of them.  I had a lot to tell him.

When people approach me about mentoring, I usually tell them that one of the key ingredients to being a successful mentor is to put your pride in your back pocket and take a large dose of humility daily. Just like a vitamin, humility goes a long way to forge a relationship with the next generation.

Mentoring is not about just sharing your successes in life. By most standards, the typical mentor has had some level of success in his or her career. But all  have learned from their mistakes and most have been helped along the way.

The best mentors are willing to share their failures as illustrations of what can go wrong. I was asked to speak to an MBA class at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School years ago.  The class was about commercial real estate, and I asked the professor, Tony Ciochetti, what he wanted me to talk about.

His answer surprised me.  He wanted me to talk about real estate deals that went bad, and the reasons that they went bad. It was intended to provide context to his students that not all projects or developments are successful.

From my own experience, I came up with 10 projects where things went wrong, or were based on assumptions which turned out to be incorrect, leading to some very difficult workouts.

The session with the MBA students went well. They learned that you can plan for a lot of things, but you can’t plan for everything that might happen during a project that might take 2 years to complete.

One is prudent to consider tax consequences, but but having all of the rules altered in the middle of the project by a change of law can result in drastic changes to the outcome. That actually happened in 1986.

Shifting back to mentoring, I have commented many times that every relationship has at least four levels of communication. These levels are separate and usually are done sequentially. The levels are:

  • Fact – sharing a fact such as “today is Wednesday”.
  • Opinion – sharing your opinion about a topic such as “Wednesday is the worst day of the week”.
  • Feeling – sharing your feelings such as “I hate Wednesdays”.
  • Transparency – Sharing that “I have difficulty with Wednesdays because it reminds me of my father’s recent death”.

As noted, rarely does one get to the transparency level. Women reach feeling much faster than men, and most men get stuck at communicating at the opinion level. Think about your conversations with your friends, and I think you will realize how accurate this is.

Most conversations are not done at an authentic and transparent level at the beginning  Part of that, I think, is that we fear being vulnerable and admit our insecurities and mistakes. Also, men are brought up in a culture where the mantra is to “never let them see you sweat.”

Why is this important? Well, one of the highest values of the next generation is that they crave authenticity. They want to interact with people who are real with them and willing to share their lives – both the good and the bad.  That, of course, requires mentors to develop an ability to be transparent.

Regi Campbell writes a weekly blog for Radical Mentoring. I’ve attended one of his annual workshops in the Georgia mountains, and admire what he has accomplished, although he admits it took over 10 years to gain a foothold with his process.

In a recent blog, he observed that the intensity of young people increases when your stories are about failure you have experienced.  They don’t take well to what he calls “victory laps” which often looks like self-promotion than being authentic. I agree.

Regi ascribes the power of “failure stories” to the following (I have added one at the end):

  • Authenticity – Your failures taught you lessons of what you did wrong and what you learned, as well as what you would do differently the next time. Mentees can’t get that information from any other source. They see you as real and authentic, and become more willing to listen to other stuff.
  • Approachability – You drop your guard by telling them that you aren’t perfect yet you managed to succeed despite your own shortcomings. It is an expression of humility which goes a long way to being more accessible.
  • Emotion – Regi suggests that all decisions are made at an emotional level. Most meaningful learning is the result of engaging ones’ emotions, including emotions of pain, embarrassment or remorse when things go badly.
  • Value – Mistakes are costly, thus valuable because it leads to wisdom gained from a painful experience. There’s value in that.
  • Believability – Most mentees won’t connect with your success stories – they can’t relate to your achievements, but they can relate to your shortcomings. They can see that their success can be accomplished despite setbacks and failure along the way.
  • Challenging – Young people look up to a leader who shares his failures and shortcomings. It may be the start of helping them believe in themselves and realize their own potential. They also see “the chance to stand on the shoulders of one who’s gone where he wants to go.”
  • Transparency – Sharing personal failures gets the level of communication past Fact, Opinion and Feeling in a hurry. If you are willing to show humility and transparency, your mentee will develop trust and be transparent in return.

The challenge is pretty straightforward.  Mentors need to be willing to express humility and vulnerability to their mentees.  They want to know that you messed up, and that you learned from your mistakes.  They will make their own mistakes, but possibly not the same ones you did. In addition, you will develop an ability to communicate at a deeper level.

Secondly, every failure I have experienced is part of my faith journey. With few exceptions, I have found scriptural verses or biblical stories that I have found which have shown me how God has used my failure to grow me to be the person He wanted me to be.  I am always quick to share the spiritual side of my journey to my mentees.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:   Don’t hesitate to share failure stories. It’s actually part of your faith story.  No one ever succeeded without setbacks along the way. If you don’t share your rough spots, your mentee won’t either, and your mentoring will suffer.

WORSHIP: Listen to Amy Grant sing “Better than a Hallelujah” which reminds us that God is with us through our successes and failures. One line is “Beautiful the Mess We Are”:  Better Than A Hallelujah – Amy Grant – Vevo

 COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.  SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transitions

community

 Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:18

I had coffee with Stacy Rinehart today. He’s one of two men that I have met with weekly over the past 25 years. He is facing retirement from his ministry next year and spending a lot of time thinking about the upcoming transition.

He commented that he thought the most difficult trials of life involves coping with transitions. I reminded him that the Holmes-Rahe stress test gives points for events of life in order to determine how much stress you have.

Most of the events in the Holmes-Rahe test involve a transition of some sort – moving, change of job, change of marital circumstances, etc.  Retirement is one of the highest with 45 points on a 100 point scale.

Reflecting on our conversation, I have to say I agree with him. Transitions, by their nature, means going from your comfort zone to the unknown. I have always thought that our biggest fears in life are dealing with the unknown.

Christianity, in a way, is also facing a transition as it addresses reaching the next generation. As someone once said, the Church, throughout the ages, has always been a generation away from extinction. Yet it has survived for over two millennia.

When it comes to reaching the next generation (the millennials and Generation Z), the church has some creative thinking to do.  The next generation is different from prior generations, primarily due to changes in technology which has been a game changer as to how they communicate.

One commentator went so far as to predict the demise of the American Christian church on one single cultural issue:  sexuality. He may be on to something because the changes in public opinion over same-sex marriage has occurred at breathtaking speed.

I believe the millennials are responsible for this rapid change in opinion.  Most of them are unmoored from biblical principles and their attitudes towards same-sex relationships have occurred by observation, and to them, they seem to be OK.

Generation Z will take this even farther. As described by James Henry White in his recent book Meet Generation Z, “Generation Z are relationally and sexually amorphous.”

Kristen Stewart, an actress, recently was quoted as saying: “In three or four years, there are going to be a whole lot more people who don’t think it’s necessary to figure out if you are gay or straight. It’s like, do your own thing.”

 Another pop star said: “[I don’t] relate to being a boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl.”  Those attitudes are not unique according to a recent U.K. study which found that nearly half of the young people don’t think they are exclusively heterosexual.

“The YouGov study in the U.K. revealed that 49% of the people between 18 and 24 identified as being something other than 100% heterosexual.” That is despite consistent studies show that only 4% of the population is homosexual.

These comments are stunning to older generations. The reason for this new attitude?  Well, it’s “because the greatest value for this generation is nothing less than individual freedom.” James Emery White goes on to identify 12 categories of sexuality other than homosexual and heterosexual. The list is daunting and includes terms I had never heard before including Digisexual and Pansexual.

How does the church reconcile its biblical stance on the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman with these trends?  I think the short answer is that you don’t, but you do have a responsibility to interact with those that do. It’s something I had to learn on my own some 30 years ago when I became part of the management of an international law firm.

Our San Francisco office had non-lawyer staff which was approximately 80% male, and a large percentage of them were homosexual.  Intuitively, I knew that taking a strong stance against their sexuality would be detrimental and counterproductive.

So, I learned to forge relationships with them – love them where they were, if you will – yet not sacrificing my values, nor change who I was. Being right was less important than doing right. It involves treating people in everyday life with kindness and compassion.

Churches that learn to do this will learn to transition and embrace the millennials. Two illustrations of churches making these transitions recently came to my attention, and both were in Kansas City.  One was a black church, and the other a predominantly white church, and both have differences on the transition as it affected their traditions.

The first one, Parkway Baptist Church, started its transition with a young 21-year-old pastor who started by telling the elders at their first meeting that “the entire dynamic is going to change.” His first decision: “Stop wearing suits on Sunday.” That was just the beginning. Services would be shorter and start later (accommodating late sleeping millennials).

The early result of the change was an immediate drop-off of attendance from 300 to 85. The church changed its name to the City of Truth, and now has 1,000 in attendance with a high concentration of a younger audience who were “freaked out by the rules and rituals of traditional religion.”

As another pastor noted: “When you talk about the ministry and trying to resonate with younger folks, you’ve got to meet them where they are.”

As I read this story to the City of Truth, I could mentally place myself in the shoes of the leadership of the church, particularly as they watched 2/3rds of their attendance disappear. This was a major transition for this black church. They even shortened their service to one and half hours, which, by most black churches, is quite short. Again, a tribute to the short attention span of the millennials.

Another church plant, The Cause, was started in 2009 by a pastor and his wife who felt a call to start a church for younger people. Today, it has an audience of 1,400, mostly millennials. They attend one of 5 one hour services and gather for church, coffee and community.

At The Cause, Kyle Turner, the pastor, says the emphasis is not on a judgmental exposition on why God may be angry about you, but rather a focus on a relationship with God. A relationship with Jesus is first and foremost. “For people to change [their behavior], they need to see that God is good, not a tyrant.”

We have to authentically care about people. I’m not worried about your sexuality right now. I’m not worried about what you did Saturday night. I’m worried about what do you know about Jesus and how can I tell you more about him. Not let me tell you why God is upset at you.”

City of Truth replaced the weekly “droning” Church announcement with a 5-minute crisp video which is entertaining affable with shop talk and takes about 20 hours of staff time to prepare each week. Again, a method of reaching millennials where they are through technology.

The amenities might seem to be the draw (music that features Hillsongs, etc.), but what brings millennials back again and again is the genuine connections. “Free coffee isn’t the answer to people’s problems, but it does invite community.

As for difficult topics, these churches address them directly.  According Lady J, the pastor’s wife in City of Truth, the church really blew up “when we started teaching on love, sex and relationships and did a sermon series when we spoke on those topics candidly.”

“Millennials want to address these issues; they’re seeking answers to the tough questions and wanting to have the tough conversations. They are inquisitive and want to know answers to certain questions” continued Lady J.

“We have gay and lesbian couples who aren’t always on the same page as us. And they tell us that,” Lady J says. “They’ll tell us, ‘We don’t all the way agree, but I can tell you’re coming from a place of love, and we love that.”

They discovered that the best way to address sex, orientation and other controversial topics is “head-on” in a “respectful and gracious” manner.  Good stuff, and a model that should be followed elsewhere.

Takeaways are plentiful:

  • Millennials are inquisitive and want answers to difficult questions including sexuality
  • Churches that adapt to using new technologies (i.e. the short entertaining video replacing announcements) will have more appeal to a younger audience that grew up on YouTube
  • Shortening the services is essential. Professional sports are trying to speed up games to keep millennials in the stands.
  • Creating a genuine community is important. Coffee (or tacos) becomes a social lubricant for discussion
  • There is a flip here – the traditional church looks for attendance and then engagement; the new model seeks engagement and then attendance
  • Embracing all who come regardless of their situations is important.
  • Behavioral change is up to God and the individual; the key is engaging them to be connected to God first
  • Millennials crave authenticity and transparency

The challenge here is for churches to creatively adapt to the seismic cultural change that is going on in America. At every stage of the church’s existence, it has found a way to be relevant in its culture. As Carey Neuhoff says: “The church at its best has always equipped people to live out their faith in the world. But you have to be in the world to influence the world.”

Christianity in the next century may be simpler, and attendance at church may seem less important than developing spiritually through other means, according to Carey Neuhoff. Authentic relationships – especially mentoring – are always be available, and are effective means of connection and community.

Not every church has to make radical change, but they do have to pay attention to these cultural trends and adopt models that work with the next generation. The churches that fail to embrace the next generation are, unfortunately, doomed to do out of existence.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Millennials are seeking authentic relationships, and mentoring is an easy ministry to develop in the church. It requires no space and few resources.

FURTHER STUDY:

The Holmes Rahe test is an older model which associates stress with events in life. It is instructive as to how transitions affect us. https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTCS_82.htm

A review of Meet Generation Z by a millennial: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/meet-generation-z/

The article in the Kansas City Star entitled “Bucking the Trend – these two churches figured out how to bring millennials back to worship” http://www.kansascity.com/living/religion/article188544194.html

Read James Henry White’s article on the Rise of the Digisexual: http://www.churchandculture.org/blog.asp?id=12035

An article by Carey Neuhoff on 10 Predictions about the Future Church: https://careynieuwhof.com/10-predictions-about-the-future-church-and-shifting-attendance-patterns/

Another Carey Neuhoff article on Why Church Attendance is Diminishing: https://careynieuwhof.com/10-reasons-even-committed-church-attenders-attending-less-often/

RESOURCES:  James Emory White’s book is a good read for any church serious about reaching the next generation:  Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World

 Another excellent resource is Tim Eller’s book entitled “Marching off the Map” available at Amazon or his website at https://growingleaders.com/store/marching-off-map-inspire-students-navigate-brand-new-world/#sthash.qSHyskg9.dpbs

WORSHIP:  Hillsong’s rendition of The Power of Your Love reminds us that God’s love can overcome everything.  Power of Your Love – Hillsong – YouTube

 COMMENTI would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

Connection

Connection.j

They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. Colossians 2:19

This is part two of this weeks’ post, the first one exploring the spirituality of the next generations, both the millennials and Gen z (those who are just now entering college as freshman).

It’s one thing to gauge the spirituality of the next generation, something entirely different to engage them. This post will explore some of the trends and things that work, or might work, and is intended to be a starting point for the body of Christ to creatively engage the next generation.

By its nature, I can only go through some of the ways that Christianity can connect with the next generation. The major game changer from prior generations is technology, which has advanced since 2000.  Not only has it changed methods of communication, it has resulted in changes to their values and habits.

One example to me is the recent growth of the mega-church which has tried to be a one-stop place to congregate, have coffee or even have exercise classes.  They are having to rethink their approach to a generation that won’t darken the door of a church. It was fine for the latter part of the 20th century where going to church was the norm. Now, the church is seen as a bastion of rules, dogma and the bible is viewed with distrust by 27% of millennials.

As Tim Keller of Redeemer Church in Manhattan famously quoted: “We have enough churches in America; what we need now is more Starbucks.” His point?  We have to come out of our fortress mentality and reach millennials where they are, not where we want them to be.

Dean Engebretson, a pastor in my home church in Pinehurst, has spent this year experimenting with ways to interact with millennials. He has a group of close to 30 millennials come to his house a couple of times a month for a meal. Each participant brings some ingredient, and they cook tacos together. Having a meal together is important – food opens up social avenues and relational connections.

Dean has learned that he gets better interaction if he breaks them down into small groups where they can openly discuss a topic. Afterward, they meet as a whole to discuss their conclusions. He has learned to be a facilitator, and the choice of topics are open to suggestions from the individuals in the group.

This is actually the flipped classroom model which colleges are now starting to embrace, for many of the same reasons (of course, without the food).  Lecturers are now facilitators, and they guide their students through a collaborative discussion. Students learn to hear different views and they learn from each other, not just the facilitator.

This is quite a departure from the Sunday School model of yesteryear where a teacher sits in a class and gives a didactic bible lesson to students. As Dean acknowledges, a lecture is the least effective method of communication with millennials. Also, he has found the change of his role from communicator to facilitator has been a learning one.  He can help shape the discussion but not lead it or really control it.

A facilitator in a millennial group context is similar to the role of a mentor. A mentor can guide a discussion in one-on-one meetings, but often the agenda gets dictated by the needs or agenda of the mentee. Both the facilitator and the mentor can insert biblical truths into the discussion as needed, but they can’t really control its overall direction in many instances.

Dean was quick to note that most in his group grew up in an Evangelical church, and they actually have a fairly deep understanding of Christianity. Sadly, they are becoming the exceptions, but they are the leaders of the next generation and they need to be equipped.

Another way to engage millennials was in a recent Wall Street Journal article.  It had a story titled “YouTube Star Shows One Way to Reach Gen Z”. The subtitle is that teens are looking for authenticity online. Thirty four percent of Gen Z watch YouTube.

The generation [Z – those born after 1995] favors irreverent, DIY [Do It Yourself] stars seen as “authentic,” who produce bite-size content, sometimes daily, tailored to social-media and other outlets.”  Note the emphasis on authentic. That’s what the next generation is looking for – both millennials and Gen Z.

Ms. Koshy, the YouTube “Star” featured in the WSJ article, has 17.5 million YouTube subscribers. Her Twitter feed has 1.4 million followers and another 14.5 million track her on Instagram. Those numbers show an incredible audience by someone who just started doing snarky videos with offbeat humor, often poking fun at consumer culture and trends.

As a footnote, advertisers took note of her success, and she is now making some $10,000 to $15,000 a month from her YouTube account alone.

Another approach is offered by one of my close friends, Ralph Ennis, who I have described as a “Christian rocket scientist”. Ralph has spent his life studying cultures and different generations for the Navigators. He’s been instrumental in my sensitivity to generational changes over the past 25 years.  His current focus is on a non-traditional approach to the next generation: using visual images to interact and cause spiritual transformation.

The last three generations – Gen X, Gen Y, and now Gen Z are much more attuned to images. Studies show that the brain process images 60,000 times faster than text. No, that’s not a misprint, according to Thermopylae Sciences and Technology in 2014.

According to Tammie Ploufe in Harvard Business Review, after 3 days, we retain 60% of what we see versus only 10% of what we hear. She notes: “Retention of decisions and “aha moments” is critical when it comes to achieving real change in behavior and alignment of action across perspectives.”

Ralph is now involved in the Visual Faith Project which aims to connect to the next generations through images. As Ploufe notes in HBR: “I’ve found that photos can create connections between people faster – and more profoundly – than any other icebreaker or team building activity I’ve ever used.”  Good stuff, and worthy of trying her suggestions in a Christian context, with believers and non-believers.

As I mentioned in my last post, Casey Neistat has figured it out. Every day, he posts a short video online that documents his daily life as a creative entrepreneur in New York in an entertaining way. He now has some 7 million subscribers.

A typical church website has recordings of past sermons. That might appeal to an older generation, but not to the next generation.  The next generation gravitates to and are much more visual than older generations. “Snackable” or “popcorn” videos or podcasts have promise – this is the content that they will listen to and appeals to them.

Jake Gosslin, a 27-year-old in his article on How the Church can Reach Gen Z, says this: “I believe if churches want to effectively reach Generation Z, they must start creating engaging, informative, and creative content that answers spiritual questions with a voice of conviction.” Good stuff, and I agree with him.

My takeaways are multiple:

  • Millennials want to be engaged and collaborate with others as a learning model
  • Creativity and innovation in reaching them through new media are new frontiers
  • Content with short “Snackable” videos or “popcorn” podcasts may create new ways to communicate
  • Using non-traditional ways through images to connect with the next generation is a promising innovation
  • Group interaction is effective rather than traditional teaching models
  • Churches need to seek input from millennials and Gen Z as to what works best – they want the ability to participate and collaborate

Our challenge, just I posited in my post on podcasts entitled Podfaster, is that new media are being used by the next generation, and the church has to think outside the box. Putting sermons on-line is not enough and it won’t attract the younger audience. A 20+ minute sermon will lose the generation that can only absorb 5 to 10 minutes, and who think that a 2-minute movie scene is too long.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors are relevant regardless of new media. It’s an age-old process that still works. Face to face communication by someone who is transparent and willing to share his or her life with another can have a huge impact on a mentee.

FURTHER STUDY:  Jake Goslin writes an interesting and provocative article on three things the church should consider when approaching Gen Z: http://churchfront.com/blog-churchfront/2017/4/28/how-the-church-can-reach-generation-z-reflections-on-meet-generation-z-by-james-emery-white

Tammie Ploufe’s article on using photography to make connections has practical suggestions on the “how to” in using photography in a group: https://hbr.org/2017/10/to-build-connection-on-your-team-skip-icebreakers-and-talk-about-photography

For more on the Navigators Visual Faith Project: https://www.vibrantfaith.org/visualfaith/

Watch a video of Carey Neistat (caution R rated for language) entitled “Do What You Can’t” to get an idea of creative content: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtinbF-Q-fVthA0qrFQTgXQ

 RESOURCES:  James Emory White’s book is a good read for any church serious about reaching the next generation:  Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World.

WORSHIP:  A song for the next generation by Tommy Walker: Taste and See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBRYZc-yy6I

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.comSUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

Spirituality

spirituality 

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. Psalm 78:18

 This post will be in two parts. This first one will explore trends of spirituality of the next generation. The second one will dive into how, why and where to connect with them by examining new patterns of communication.

Most research on the millennials show that they have a high degree of spirituality and that they are seeking answers. But in a post-Christian era where they have not been exposed to the Bible, many are seeking answers in dark places.

By and large, millennials distrust all institutions – education, government, corporations, and even organized religion.  In many cases, they have been dealt a bad hand with a bad economy.  This is one of the factors leading to perceived changes in spirituality.

In the U.S., a high percentage of them have crushing college debt.  They were lured into the belief that any college degree is a ticket for prosperity and a job, and they were willing to sign on to easy credit of college loans to graduate.

Their bubble burst in 2008, and college degrees in Drama or the Arts or some “soft” degree program had little or no value when seeking a job. No one told them of the dangers of debt, and they didn’t think to ask a mentor or parent “Is this a good idea?”.

Some now are even being punished for their college debt. Some 20 states have laws on the books which permits them to suspend driver’s licenses. Another 19 can suspend professional licenses to delinquent student debt borrowers.

The result is that the few jobs that they might have to earn the money to pay back the loan are out of reach: they either can’t get to work, or don’t have the license to work. No wonder they are angry, and a high number of them now see socialism, not capitalism, as a desirable alternative.

Which brings us to the spiritual side.  Millennials are leaving the organized church in droves. Often, they can see that organized religion has its own problems, but they don’t see a Christian faith as being separate from getting tangled up in the organized church.

Many are turning to paganism: An article in Turning Point says this: “Today, pagan and witchcraft clubs have found a place in several major colleges across the country, most of which are officially recognized by their school’s religious student activities departments.”

More than half of American young adults believe that astrology is a science, compared to only 8% of Chinese.

A quote by the President of the Pagan Student Union at the University of Baltimore explains the new popularity: “I think one of the things that really helped solidify for me that Paganism was the path for me was the almost complete freedom I had.”

There is no one holy text we all must read, there is no organized church service which is mandatory to attend, there is no concept of original sin or any pressure to be perfect people. Paganism is exactly what you want it to be.”

According to ABS and Barna Group in 2016, 27% of millennials believe that the bible is a dangerous book of religious dogma used for centuries to oppress people. That’s over one in every 4. In essence, they are not connecting scripture to life and are skeptical of the bible.

Research by Pew shows that although the millennials may not appear “religious”, most have a spiritual curiosity.  Over half of them, for example, think about their purpose and the meaning of life at least once a week. Attendance at religious functions is much lower – only 27%, but that is consistent with their distrust of organizations of any kind.

But, when it comes to a more standard yardstick of spirituality – an afterlife – the millennials are not very different from their predecessors, and two-thirds of millennials say they believe in heaven, and slightly less (56%) believe in the existence of hell.

Almost one in four is now labeled a “None” meaning that they don’t identify with any religion.  That doesn’t mean they are unspiritual, just that they are not connected.  My friend, Jolene Erlacher, explored this in her book Millennials in Ministry.

Dr. Erlacher notes that millennials perceive Christianity with skepticism, seeing that doctrines are impersonal, intolerant and inflexible. They also are critical of the structure. One millennial put it this way: “Church to me is religion, a set of rules, a structure, a tradition.”

 The millennials place high value on transparency and authenticity, and most would welcome a mentor in their life.  Considering that the millennial population is 1/3rd larger than Gen X, that puts a premium on older generations to step up and fill the need for mentors.

 Generation Z is different from the millennials. Just ask them. This is the generation that is now entering as freshmen in college. They will be quick to point out they are different.

It is the first generation in the post-Christian era that have a spiritual blank slate. They are, for all intents and purposes, biblical illiterates, which may be both a positive and negative thing.

That being said, they are very interested in living a life that makes a difference. They play this out in high involvement in movements surrounding politics, environment and civil rights. They want to make a difference and find meaning and purpose to life.

Reaching Generation Z will be different from reaching the millennials.  A lot of the discussion to date has centered around a recent book by James Emory White,  Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World.

White characterizes Gen Z by five factors:

  • impacted by the recession and live in a post 9/11 world;
  • Wi-Fi enabled;
  • Multi-racial – it’s the most culturally diverse generation ever;
  • Sexually fluid, and
  • Post-Christian.

White’s research shows that 78% of Generation Z believe in the existence of God. That’s the good news.

White’s suggestions of action steps for the Church have been more controversial, particularly from those who are from that Generation.  Not that what he suggests is wrong, but that his suggestions fail to take into account how Gen Z communicates and what they absorb.

One millennial commentator on Meet Generation Z, Jake Gosslin, suggests some additional approaches which bear repeating. His first point: We must assume our audience (Gen Z) has zero knowledge of who Jesus was.

From that, Gosslin suggests that the church starts creating environments for Gen Z to ask questions about spirituality, and let those answers dictate the content the church will provide to engage non-believers.

His third point may be the most important, given what I have learned about how and what the next generation absorbs through media. He suggests providing “snackable” videos, similar to what Casey Neistat has done. Neistat does a 5-minute daily “vlog” on YouTube that documents his life as a creative entrepreneur in New York.  It’s done in an entertaining way, and some 7 million people watch it daily.

Gosslin’s ends his article by saying that innovation will be needed by the Christian community to reach Gen Z with “effective content to spiritual questions with a voice of conviction.”

My  takeaways on spirituality:

  • Spirituality in millennials and Gen Z is not dead, just dormant
  • They crave authenticity and transparency
  • Millennials and Gen Z both welcome mentors in their lives
  • The new frontier is for churches to tap into how and where the next generation communicates and gets input – it will take innovation and creativity

The bottom line is that the next generations are both attuned to spiritual things, but not necessarily Christian spirituality which gets compromised by their disdain for organized religion and structure of the church.

While organized religion may be an impediment, the role of a mentor in the next generation’s life can be a path towards helping them find their own purpose and even their spirituatlity. My sessions with the several men I meet with has one thing in common: I never hesitate to provide a biblical answer to any question posed.

Mentoring has never gone out of style. It doesn’t require creating snappy videos to be shown on YouTube. All it takes is a little encouragement for the older generation to realize the opportunity to mentor is greater than ever before.  The next generation is clamoring for someone authentic to speak into their lives. It’s time for the older generation to step up.

 MENTOR TAKEAWAY: You are one resource that hasn’t gone out of favor. You don’t need snappy videos or images to connect with the younger generation on a one-on-one basis and be authentic with them. Look around for members of the next generation that you see have promise and invest in them.

FURTHER STUDY:     Millennials turning to Paganism: https://www.turningpoint.news/witchcraft-millennials-paganism/

Why millennials are fleeing the church and turning to witchcraft who is profiting from this change:https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-millennials-are-ditching-religion-for-witchcraft-and-astrology-2017-10-20

A post on the rise of paganism in college: https://www.thecollegefix.com/post/38436/

Article on 20 states suspending drivers licenses of students who are delinquent in their college loans. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/18/business/student-loans-licenses.html

Spirituality research from Pew Research:  http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/23/millennials-are-less-religious-than-older-americans-but-just-as-spiritual/

James Emory White’s book Meet Generation Z is available at Amazon and Christian Books: https://www.christianbook.com/generation-understanding-reaching-post-christian-world/james-white/9780801017018/pd/017018?event=ESRCG

WORSHIP:  Listen to Tommy Walker sing I Have a Hope:Tommy Walker – I Have A Hope – YouTube

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