I Am Not One of Them


A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied.  Luke 22:58

Ask any member of Gen Z who was born after 1998, and they are quick to tell you that they are not like the millennials.  Seriously. And they are adamant about it. I often ask myself why they want to distance themselves because in some ways, they are very similar.

They have grown up with a smartphone in their hands. They are “digital natives” and accustomed to using social media. They have short attention spans like the millennials.  But they maintain their differences, and that may be something to cheer about.

This is the generation that doesn’t remember 9/11. The oldest are entering college this fall (in fact, my eldest granddaughter is on her way to her first day at college as I write this). Humans have always lived in space, not just traveled. Thumbprints have always been used for security purposes.

By and large, they don’t act entitled. They don’t trust anyone who is over 21. They are quick to condemn the millennials and don’t want to be grouped with that demographic. They are more “realistic” than idealistic. If you want a more complete profile, go to the Mindset List which profiles the members of the entering college class who will graduate in 2022.

They are savers, not spenders, and more cautious about college debt.  I attribute that attitude to the fact that they have lived through the recession of 2008-2011, and just like their forbearers who lived through the Great Depression in the 1930’s, they realize that bad financial circumstances due to college debt can diminish their opportunities to achieve goals in the future.

A recent study shows they are more entrepreneurial than the millennials, and 72% of high schoolers indicate a desire to start a business. Nearly a third of those between 16 to 19 have volunteered their time.

According to an entering college freshman, “Millennials embrace retail brands, reject religion and live longer with their parents than any previous generation.” What separates them, though, is their passion to make a difference and work for causes, but not in the kind of political protest that quickly burns out.

I find this refreshing, although I have to admit that these are generalities and it’s hard not to stereotype generations. Yet the see the dangers that being addicted to their smartphones poses.  As Nicole Ault notes, “we have the choice, now, to use our technological platforms in moderation to do good, or to become self-absorbed [like millennials]”.

As an aside, Gen Z is not the only group poking fun at the millennials tendency for selfie-absorption in order to gain what I have called “Selfie-Esteem”.  A recent video of several girls at a professional baseball game received the attention of the announcers who made fun of them for taking non-stop selfies.

One of the announcers watched one fan snap several selfies and dryly commented: “I’ll bet that’s the best selfie she has made of the 300 today!”

Returning to Gen Z, it is widely known that most people’s religious views are formed early in life according to studies by Robert Putnam and David Campbell in American Grace.They go on to note that American youth are dropping out of religion at a rate that is 5 to 6 times faster than previous generations.

The concerning issue for me is what happens to Gen Z when they get to college where they will be beset upon by a faculty that increasingly is more about indoctrination than historical fact. According to one study in 2011,  for each year of college, “there is a 15% increase that the student will believe there’s ‘truth in more than one religion’ and believe in a ‘higher power’ rather than a personal God.”

That is disheartening, and as White notes in his book A Mind for God,  his own daughter who had a firm faith had trouble defending her spiritual side at a major U.S. University. If it can happen to the daughter of a minister, it can happen to any child.

The challenge is to reach Gen Z before they get to college and provide them with a strong foundation for their faith.  One of the ministries that I have supported for years is Young Life, and I consider it to be on the front lines of reaching the next generation in middle and high school. It may be the only thing that can reach youth in an increasingly secular world where parents are often not Christian.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Encourage your Gen Z mentee to stay involved with faith-based organizations, even through college. Even better, let them know you pray for them.

RESOURCES:    7 Things Every Adult Should Know about Gen Z.

The Beloit College Mindset List,  which lists the reality of life as seen through the eyes of incoming freshmen at college.

American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.

MUSIC:  One of my favorites by Mat Redman – Let My Words Be Few.

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.

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Faith Conversations


Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations. Matthew 28:

While on vacation, I had a chance to interact with people who are not friends. With friends, you often know what topics are either verboten or are safe to discuss. We have some friends who are a solar system away from us when it comes to politics, so we generally avoid that topic. It caused me to consider how we discuss our faith life with others, often strangers.

In general, our world (in the US) has become polarized and I recently came across several articles and essays which provoked this issue in my own mind.  For starters, Christianity is increasingly being marginalized in North America. As I have noted, we are in a post-Christian era, and unfortunately the media leans left and tends to be very secular.

In addition, mobile and social devices have changed how we communicate about faith in a fundamental way. Part of it is because tweets are limited to 260 characters, but it also is a function of how people view religion in their lives in our current culture.

According to a recent Barna study, people avoid discussing religion for two primary reasons: avoidance and ambivalence. For some in our polarized culture, their avoidance is due to the fact that the discussion “often leads to tension or arguments.”  For others with no faith, 55% say that they are just not interested and don’t care about this topic.

The study is interesting and breaks down the responses by various age groups. For example, millennials and Gen Y are less likely than older generations to say they are not religious and not interested in discussing religion.

Recently, WikiHow had an article on 8 ways to avoid having a conversationabout religion. It is instructive, if not unexpected. The pointers included the following:

  • Redirect the topic to something else.
  • Resist the urge to argue, and just say something like “interesting”.
  • Resist the urge to argue.
  • Be straightforward and say I have a strict policy to not discuss religion.
  • Suggest a better time to discuss it which will allow you to control the environment and discussion better.

I would proffer that the guidelines might be useful for most people, including Christians. James Emery White took it one further in a recent blog entitled How NOT to Avoid Having Conversations About Religion. White’s blog offers some great suggestions which resonated with me.

  • Don’t argue. For me, this is key. I can’t recall anywhere in scripture or in life where someone was able to argue a person into the kingdom. You can contend, but don’t be argumentative.
  • Be able to provide an honest statement about the role of faith in your life. To me, it is as natural as eating and sleeping. Let others deal with the weight of it. It may be the thing in your life that intrigues others.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask why they reject faith in their life. Let them share and see where it leads.
  • Redirect conversation around trite and simplistic arguments, i.e., hypocrisy. Respond by saying the Jesus was against hypocrisy and that you also find it repugnant.
  • Suggest an alternative time to talk. Ask if they would have a coffee with you some time.
  • Excuse yourself from fringe inflammatory expressions of Christianity seen by pop-culture (snake handling, or Westboro Baptist’s signs “God Hates Fags” at funerals).
  • Invite someone with the gift of Evangelism to join in the conversation.
  • A straightforward approach might also work. If coming to faith means either going to heaven or hell, suggest “how much would I have to hate you not to share my faith with you.”

At the end of the day, it is all about Jesus, yet we get wrapped into our own insecurities when faith comes up. We often freeze in our shoes, afraid to take a step forward with a gentle conversation about what Jesus means to us.

As White notes, “The point is that conversations about Jesus lie at the heart of everything we are trying to do on this planet.” I agree.  Good stuff.  The Great Commission in Matthew 28 is a commandment to all Christians, not just a request.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  If you are mentoring a believer, you can help them with ways to have a winsome conversation about faith with their non-believing friends.

RESOURCES:   The Barna studyon difficulty of having faith conversations.

The article in WikiHow on How to Avoid Conversations on Religion.

Church and Culture’s Blogby James Emery White.

MUSIC:  Listen to Chris Tomlin sing Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone) reminding it is by grace we are saved, not by our own efforts.

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.










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 71:18

I am reminded of a famous line from the 1967 movie Cool Hand Lukewhere Luke, a stubborn prisoner played by Paul Newman, has an interaction with a captain of the guards who mistreated him.  In the scene, the captain gets angry and hits Newman and then says “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

It’s a quote I’ve used many times over the years, and it applies today in the context of communicating with the next generation who are digital natives. They have grown up with mobile or smart phones in their hands. It has been a game changer.

Over the years, I’ve watched the changes that technology has made to communication in business and law. When I first started practicing law, we had basic typewriters and a telephone. That changed when typewriters were able to record and had memory.

All of a sudden, secretaries didn’t need to entirely retype a letter or brief if a mistake was made. And carbon copies went out the window with the introduction of the copy machine (originally called Xerox, which was a company that was one of the first to sell the technology). Making a copy of the original was easier.

When I joined a large law firm in 1985, we were introduced to the fax. It was soon replaced by email. We were one of the first firms to put computers on the desk of every person, including our attorneys, some of whom had no idea how to turn it on or use it.

Smartphones were introduced 2007.  That’s really only a decade ago, yet it has been a disruptive technology, along with the advent of high-speed internet.  Just as the fax machine or computer before it, it has been a disruptive technology. It has changed how we communicate, particularly with the next generation.

Christianity has been scratching its collective head on how to reach the millennials and Gen Z in ways that appeal to them. They have often focused on “what” to say, but not “how” to say it. Adapting to the communication delivery systems used by the next generations has been slow.

The smartphone digital revolution has done more than just chang the method of communication.  It has unforeseen side effects, not all of which are good. Attention spans have dropped drastically, as has vocabulary.   Thevocabularyof middle schoolers has dropped from 25,000 words ten years ago to 10,000 today. Not a good trend.

Shortened attention span (8 seconds for millennials and 6 for Gen Z) has repercussions. Didactic teaching, where the teacher or lecturer stands in front of a class and delivers content is fast becoming an anomaly. Depending on the age of the class, the younger audience is lost and usually will be looking at their smartphones or texting one another rather than listening within the first few minutes.

For the church, it means that the long sermon may be in danger, too. Sermons might work on other generations who grew up with it, but for the younger generation, it is not producing much fruit. They want to participate. They want to collaborate. They want to ask questions.

The smartphone has made the millennials more reliant on the opinions of their peers for their values and outlooks. Sadly, their peers are equally clueless, so it’s a little like the blind leading the blind. The result is that millennials would rather collaborate – that’s their best mode of learning, and it’s one that educators and the church is finally realizing.

Witness the movement in colleges to embrace the “flipped classroom.” The lecturer steps down from the podium and becomes a facilitator instead. The students study the topic on their own and then the teacher guides the discussion but doesn’t control it, leaving the students to interact and respond to each other on a given topic. Studies show that learning and retention increases six times under this method and grades improved.

Podcasts are also gaining traction in education. Teachers can record content for their classes, and there are historical podcasts available such as Presidential which has 44 episodes on the life of every American president.  Podcasting is easy with today’s apps and software, much of which is free and online.

Here’s the kicker: the next generation will listen to a podcast or YouTube but not a sermon or lecture. It is a growing method of content delivery, particularly among the millennials and Gen Z.  Why not take that as a given, and use it?  I ask that kind of question to pastors all the time.

Instead of hoping for a millennial to listen to a sermon, I suggest that the pastor record a podcast of the salient points (no more than 5 minutes) and post it on the Church website or use it as a prelude to a millennial small group.

I could go on with other examples, but the message and challenge are clear:  changes in technology and communication will require the older generations to adapt.  If they can’t hear you or won’t listen to you, you are wasting your time trying to reach them using traditional methods. It’s time to get creative.

One thing that has never gone out of vogue is mentoring. The next generation is open to mentoring and this is still a tool that can advance the Kingdom.

 MENTORING TAKEAWAY:  You don’t have to hang out on social media to connect with the next generation. You can do it by just being open to meeting with them. Take time today to invest in someone else’s life by offering yourself as a mentor.

RESOURCES:  7 Things Every Adult ShouldKnow about Gen Z.

Podcasting made easy on PodBean

MUSIC:  Something different – this is secular music by one of my favorites, Bruce Hornsby, and the song is entitled “The Way it Is” reminding us of the reality that the new form of communication is just the way it is.

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.