The P Generation


Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2

They are in their senior year. They looked forward to graduation ceremonies, parties, or even a senior prom.  Then the world hit P(ause) and no one got to celebrate.

They are Gen Z, and they are missing out on their rite of passage for their achievement. That would have been normal, until the Pandemic.   One of my grandkids, Allie, is in this group, missing all the things her sister enjoyed just two years earlier for her senior year.

Every one of them, when asked, call it “sad”. They have all experienced being:

  • Postponed
  • Panicked
  • Pushed Aside
  • Penalized
  • Put on Hold
  • Put on the back burner
  • Paused
  • Put in Parenthesis

Those all start with a “P” and in a way, it is a description of the P(aused) Generation. That’s what they are feeling.

They face the worst job market since the Great Depression in the 1930’s. Those that are going to college are rethinking their choices and considering a gap year.  Many colleges are considering virtual classes as a component to teaching on campus. They face conflicting views on whether they should even go back to campus, or if they do go, what campus life will be like.

Tim Elmore quotes one senior (among others):  “People say you never realized the value of something until it’s gone.  That’s how I feel [missing my senior year]….It’s also sad that we might not see a lot of people ever again.”

They have lost a life experience that won’t return.  How should leaders, parents and mentors respond?  Tim Elmore suggests several steps which I believe are practical and beneficial:

  1. Empathize with them in their loss. Don’t let it be an elephant in the room that goes undiscussed or acknowledged. Telling them it’s “no big deal” is not a good idea and may make it worse.
  2. Come up with a Plan B for their rite of passage. Do a safe graduation party, even if it is on Zoom or other media. This affirms the student and what they have been preparing for the past 12 years. Their education accomplishment needs recognition in some tangible way.
  3. Get them to think outward (a frequent theme of mine). Get them to think about supporting others who need help in Community. Self-focus gets to a “woe is me” attitude. Thinking on how to help others, on the other hand, provides them with a healthy outlook on life.
  4. Become a story-teller of family or friends who went through difficult times. My own father suffered through the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Food lines were commonplace and unemployment rampant. In World War II, he survived a Kamikaze plane that took out his battle station on a destroyer in the Pacific. He had been called to another station on the ship, so he survived. He was part of the Silent Generation. As an example, my father never told me of his war experiences, I learned them from my son who interviewed him for a school project.  Storytelling reinforces the idea that they are not the only ones who have faced difficult times.
  5. Help them with their own “story” so that they can see their life in a greater context. I touched on this in my post titled Henry. My story is mostly written, but theirs is just beginning. It will help with their internal narrative and can have a significant influence on how they face reality.

The same can be said of the millennials who were already in the workforce.  Most were just getting on their feet after the 2008 recession. Jobs have been terminated, and many employers who have closed may not open again.  Some estimate that 40% of the jobs may never return post Covid-19.

They are facing a job market that has a lot of competition from the recently unemployed. They are, in a word, facing a lot of anxiety, when they were already highly anxious. A recent headline described millennials the “Unluckiest Generation in U.S. history” although I would submit that millennials around world are in the same boat.

The challenge is that they need a steady hand to help guide them through these difficult times. It’s time for parents, leaders and mentors to step up and help them by coming alongside. Be that person in their life that encourages them when the world seems hopeless.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Your mentee may be one whose life was Paused. You can be a valuable influence on how well they navigate through this time. Your story of tough times may be just what they need to hear.

FURTHER READING:   The Disruption of CollegesNY Mag

Jobs Have Dried Up  WSJ

Long Term Effects of Closing High SchoolsWired

Is it a Good Time to Take a Gap Year?  NBC News

A Silver Lining for New Graduates?  WSJ

How to Find and Practice Courage  – Harvard Business Review

Careers After Covid-19   Forbes

How to Help a Student Who Just Lost a Senior Year – Tim Elmore

Millennials are the Unluckiest Generation Washington Post

WORSHIP:  Beneath the Waters (I will Rise)  Hillsong

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Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of Gods grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

An image of something horizontal is someone lying down. That’s not the picture God had in mind when He instructs us to live together in community. There is no “lying down” instruction in the Bible.

The first four books of the New Testament have a vertical emphasis – one that makes us spiritually aware of God through His Son.

The rest of the New Testament has a horizontal focus.  It is about how our faith plays out on earth with family, friends and community.  In other words, how we are to interact with each other.

The pandemic has caused our social interaction to be turned upside down due to social distancing, quarantines and lockdowns.  Many are searching for how they can continue to minister to others.

The next generation are frightened and fearful of their circumstances. Some are turning to spiritual things like prayer. In a WSJ article on prayer, a 26 year old woman said: “there is so much uncertainty right now and so little in my power.”

Dear Lord,” she began, “Help me to stay grounded and grateful in stressful times. Show me how I can be of most service to you and others.”

That’s a prayer every Christian should be praying right now.  It is powerful and humble.

There is a lot of biblical instruction on ways we can be of service to God and others.  The list below came from the margins of my bible where I wrote “o/a” (short for “One Another”) in the margin of a passage:

  • Love one another.  John 13:34-35, Galatians 5:14
  • Wash one another’s feet.  John 13:14
  • Encourage one another.  Hebrews 3:13, 10:24-25, 1 Thess. 5:11 and 4:18
  • Pray for one another. James 5:16
  • Honor one another. Romans 12:10
  • Be devoted to one another.  Romans 12:10.
  • Build up one another.  Romans 14:19, 1 Thess. 5:11; Ephesians 4:29
  • Serve one another.  Galatians 5:13
  • Teach and admonish one another.  Colossians 3:16
  • Be concerned for one another.  1 Corinthians 12:25
  • Confess your sins to one another.  James 5:16
  • Don’t judge one another.  Romans 14:13
  • Carry one another’s burdens.  Galatians 5:13
  • Submit to one another.  Ephesians 5:21
  • Forgive one another.  Colossians 4:13
  • Comfort one another.  2 Corinthians 6:12
  • Do not provoke one another. Galatians 5:26
  • Be kind to one another.  1 Thessalonians 5:15; 2 Corinthians 6:12
  • Do not cause another to stumble. 1 Corinthians 10:32
  • Live in harmony with one another.  Romans 12:16
  • Accept one another. Romans 15:7
  • Be kind and compassionate with one another. Ephesians 4:32
  • Bear with and forgive one another. Colossians 3:13
  • Spur one another on to love and good deeds.  Hebrews 10:24
  • Do not slander one another. James 4:11
  • Do not grumble against one another. James 5:9
  • Offer hospitality to one another. 1 Peter 4:9
  • Clothe yourself with humility to one another. 1 Peter 5:5
  • Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and songs of the Spirit. Ephesians 5:16
  • Be generous to others. Luke 11:41

From the Old Testament:

  • Sharpen one another.  Proverbs 27:17
  • Do not deceive one another.  Leviticus 19:11
  • Do not envy one another.  Ecclesiastes 4:4
  • Show mercy and compassion to one another.  Zechariah 7:9
  • Be faithful to one another (marriage).  Malachi 2:10

These are timeless instructions that can be adapted to any new technology, even during a pandemic.  My friend, Ada Babajide, started a trauma ministry using WhatsApp because she felt there was a need to help those who have experienced trauma in their lives, marriages or from abuse.

She had to start a second session when 300 people signed up and she can only handle 125 at a time. Her trauma ministry “checks” many of the “One Another” boxes above. She authors a well written daily devotional as part of her ministry.

Another friend, Samsunder Singh, lives in Chennai, India. His Christian school has been closed. I recently sent him a small amount of money to support him during the lockdown.  He used the bulk of it to provide food for twelve pastors and their families as well as some of his students who didn’t have enough money to eat.

Sam is a prime example of generosity in a time of need, even though his own personal needs have gone unmet.  Thinking of others first is what Sam does every day.

Yesterday, I got a phone call from someone I know, but not very well. He said that he wanted to help others in need but couldn’t find a way to do that.

A friend told him to call me. He had no idea of who I was helping.  I met with him and he gave me a check, admitting that he really wasn’t sure why he was doing this. He just wanted to help others.

He did it anonymously, and didn’t want his name revealed. His gift will be well stewarded to those who need it. I was blown away.

Of course,  mentoring is a means of serving others, particularly the next generation who are struggling.  Tony Evans said it this way:  “Mentoring is not an option; it is a necessity.”

Serving others has a lot of variables.  The role of a mentor is to help a mentee find his purpose in life – what God intended for that individual.  It is truly iron sharpening iron.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Helping the next generation serve is a matter of matching them to what God intended for them. A mentor’s role is to encourage them to be the best they can be in service to others.

FURTHER READING:  The Science of Prayer – WSJ

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Lifeby Bob Goff

WORSHIP:  God, You’re So Good  – Passion

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O. Henry


See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.  Isaiah 43:19

O. Henry was the pen name of William Sidney Porter, a short story writer who wrote a century ago. Porter wrote around 600 short stories which were characterized by wit, twisting and unexpected plot changes, and surprise endings.

O. Henry is well known to older generations but probably not to the next generation who eschew reading anything. They rely on social media, not books, for their information. One of his most famous essays is the Gift of the Magi, which has an unexpected ending in the two characters’ quest to get each other a Christmas present.

How the pandemic plays out going forward looks like a twisting O. Henry plot – you’re never quite sure when it will abruptly change or how it will end. Covid-19 will leave an indelible mark on our lives as we know them for the foreseeable future.

It’s a little like watching a line of dominos fall in sequence which is called the domino effect. Leaders around the world are grappling with what life is going to look like in the future.

On a macro level, the virus has disrupted our core institutions like business, government, religion and education. On a micro level, it has changed our daily routines and lives. I will cover some of these below.

Higher education will be disrupted as colleges adapt to using technology which doesn’t require on-campus presence. That will shake the university world up.  According to experts, it will probably result in the demise of many second and third tier colleges.

The geopolitical scene may change, particularly as to the world’s relationship with China going forward. This will be fascinating.   The developing world turned to China to finance large infrastructure projects like ports, etc., which may go into default. Evidence is pretty clear that China hid the pandemic, causing millions of deaths and untold economic devastation in the world.

The economic downturn will cause a number of health issues to surface including mental health. As long as economies stay shut down, medical health for other issues is taking a back seat.  An estimated 80,000 cancers have not been detected in the U.S. alone because hospitals and medical facilities have been prevented from doing the screening.

That’s a big deal.  Over 600,000 people a year die from cancer in the U.S. and the estimate for 2020 is 606,520.  About 1.8 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year in the U.S. alone.  Mind you, cancer is but one health issue that has been suppressed.

In the spiritual realm, the pandemic has been described as a “shaking” by my ministry colleagues around the world.  It has taken away centuries old forms of ministry which involve meeting in churches together to worship and listen to a sermon.

A pastor from Nigeria put it this way: “God is shaking off all irrelevant activities that keep us busy and allows us to focus on eternal issues.”

Church services may be shorter going forward, and there will be an increased reliance on the virtual church, particularly by those who are at-risk – either the elderly or those with compromised immune systems. If the WHO is correct, coronavirus is here to stay, just as the flu comes back every year.

Christians will be forced to emphasize leadership development and individual discipleship.  We will have to be strategic in finding new ways to provide authentic community, particularly to those who are at high risk.

The next generation is shaken up, too. Their world looks like it is collapsing before their eyes. They have poor job prospects. They are the most affected by economic downturns.  Gen Z (which might have to be relabeled “Gen C”) are just now exiting college into the workforce.  It was a different picture just 5 months ago. Their levels of fear and anxiety are out the roof.

God is doing something here, although it may be a while before we can see what it is.  He has used events over time for His purposes. The persecution of Christians in Jerusalem caused them to flee which resulted in the spread of Christianity around the world. Similarly, we are being kept out of church buildings.  It forces us to find new ways to minister to others.

The challenge here is to get accustomed to changes – some can be anticipated, and others, like an O. Henry short story, will be a surprise. More than ever before, we need to reach out to the next generation and walk beside them as best we can.  That’s what we have been taught to do:  to One Another One Another, perhaps in new and creative ways.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The next generation is facing an extreme amount of anxiety from this pandemic. More than ever before, they need a steady hand walking alongside them.

FURTHER READING:   The future disruption of colleges due to Covid-19Scott Galloway

Cancer Stat Facts   NIH National Cancer Institute

Why Covid-19 Economy is Devastating to Millennials

The Economic Lockdown Catastrophe WSJ

Virus Could Lead to 75,000 Deaths of Despair Forbes

The Suicide Crisis – Post Covid-19

Post Covid 19 Disease SurgeWSJ

Mental Health from Covid 19 Forbes

WORSHIP: The Lord ReignsGateway

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The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”  Genesis 2:18

There is a contagion occurring – everyone is feeling some of it right now.  And it is not Covid-19.  Instead, it is a sense of loneliness which is exacerbated by social distancing, isolation and staying at home. God recognized that humans were social beings in Genesis 2:18. We need each other.

According to studies, somewhere around 25% of American adults are lonely.  Cigna, a health insurer, said one-fifth of respondents said they rarely or never feel close to people.  This is true in other countries as well according to Vivek Murthy, M.D., a former Surgeon General of the U.S., in his book Together.

Written before Covid-19, Together has some answers for what may come in the area of mental and social health due to increased loneliness.  Murthy admitted he was unprepared for the profound need of companionship by his patients when he got out of medical school.

“Quite simply, human relationship is as essential to our well-being as food and water.”  Wow!

We all feel it, if you think about it. I miss being with my worship team at church, and Zoom with small groups or with close friends only takes you so far.  As one friend said:  “I need a hug now and then.”

There are three dimensions to loneliness, the first being intimacy, which is a longing for a close confidante or intimate partner that you can trust and share deeply. The second is relational, or social – the desire for quality friendships, social companionship and support.

The last is collective (or community), which is the hunger for a network of people “who share your sense of purpose and interests.”

The last two have taken the biggest hit with Covi-19.  Unlike the feeling of loneliness (which is subjective), isolation is the physical state of being alone and out of touch with other people.

According to Murthy, all three dimensions are important for one’s well-being. You can have intimacy with one person, yet lack relational or collective support and you can still feel lonely.

Murthy says that humans are wired for connection, and that kindness, like helping someone else, leaves people feeling less anxious, threatened and more secure. It lowers stress, which is our default state.  “We’re biologically primed not to just feel better together but to feel normal together.”

Some of these issues are cultural.  For example, in Africa, Asia and India, one finds a different model of community where everyone helps everyone else.   People are called “Auntie” or “Uncle” even if no familial relationship exists. In Africa, the phrase “it takes a village to bring up a child” is accurate.

As one Ethiopian noted: “You can leave your kids with your neighbor and go away for 4 or 5 days and they will be taken care of”.  That is definitely not true for most Western cultures.

Murthy notes that loneliness is associated with the risk of heart disease, depression, anxiety, dementia and even a shortened life span. While Murthy has a focus on the workplace, his book is spot on highlighting this topic during the pandemic.

I have touched on aspects of loneliness frequently, including Loneliness, Friends, Friendship, We are Better than Me, Hopelessness,  Gen Z Burnout and others. Each has highlighted the next generation as being the most lonely and isolated generations ever. Their digital “friends” rarely turn into social ones that are deep enough to matter when it counts.

Murthy says our state of mind and a thousand years of biology “tells us that human relationships are essential to our survival.”  I am bracing for the coming months when this contagion emerges post pandemic.

Unemployment has skyrocketed all over the globe, which means that people are staying home instead of working.  That’s more isolation, not less.

Murthy recently said that one of two results will occur due to Covid -19. The first is a deepening of loneliness leading to a “social recession as we plunge further into isolation”. That is a scary scenario.

The other, more hopeful result, is for this to be a time for reflection on the importance and power of our connections, not just with people we love, but with acquaintances and strangers in our community. It is a time to dedicate our lives and be intentional about relationships.

The pandemic can be an opportunity by highlighting how we rely on people we love, as well as the members of our community who we may not really know.

We also need to lead by example and reach out to others where we sense they are having difficulty during isolation.  Our actions with others speaks volumes to the next generation. My wife, sensing that a friend was lonely,  called her up and asked her to go on a walk together. Nuff said.

Jesus talked about being a servant to his Disciples. “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant.” (Mark 10:43).  His principle provides a key to getting out of this contagion the best way, and not have a social recession.

The challenge for the next generation is one that requires outside help from mentors, friends and parents. We need to be proactive in their lives to be sure that they realize that they are not alone in this. This is a “solidarity moment” and a reminder that we have been given a rare opportunity to help and serve other people who may be lonely.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Be on the watch for loneliness in your mentee. The next generation may be the most vulnerable during this pandemic. Walk alongside as needed.

RESOURCES: Work and the Loneliness Epidemic (2017 – Murthy, HBR)

Loneliness and Covid-19 – Vivek Murthy

Together- The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World Vivek Murthy

Bowling Alone – The Collapse and Revival of American Community  Putnam

Fighting Illness Alone – World

One Another – Practical biblical ways to help others during Covid-19.

WORSHIP:  Here for YouChris Tomlin

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See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

We recently did a Zoom small group study using John Piper’s book titled Coronavirus and Christ, which is short and available as a free download. My wife thought it would be a good starter to ask each participant to take a letter from the word “Coronavirus” and make a word that describes what we are going through.

One of our group went so far as to do that for every letter, and ended on the “S” which she said stood for “Sick”, as in “Sick and tired of being cooped up.”

I chose “N” for Novel which had 3 different applications, two of them as an adjective and one as a noun.   As an adjective, novel means something new or different, or something that has never been seen before.

My first use of the word novel was to describe the Coronavirus which has been described as a “novel virus”.  Then, the second use was to describe the change of our lives as being novel  and uncharted. These are novel and unprecedented times.

We are living with quarantines, lockdowns, closing of “non-essential” businesses, social distancing, masks and an unprecedented shut down of the world’s economies.

A novel (noun) is is a fictional book or narrative with “some degree of realism”.  I tend to think of one’s life story as a novel – not just a fictional one – but one in which you are the main character.  If your life story was being written, it took a sharp turn in early March when governments started responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

What has fascinated me is that almost everyone on the planet is in the same boat and feeling the same sense of isolation, closed businesses, limited social contacts, etc.  Some, as in India and Africa, are suffering for a lack of food, particularly in East Africa which has been hit by locusts on a scale not seen before, resulting in widespread destruction of food crops.

A ministry partner, Aila Tasse, traveled to northern Kenya recently. It is mostly nomadic and Muslim. It is where he came from. The average family size is 8 people. He reported that even if they could find the money, there is no food to eat. Nairobi was put in lockdown after he left so he has been unable to return to his home for now.

Ministry partners in Africa and India are suffering, too. Without the ability to hold worship services or church, their small incomes have stopped, and they are becoming desperate for enough money just to feed their families.  It is heartbreaking. Their story, as it were, has taken a very different path since the Coronavirus showed up.

Each of our stories have changed dramatically in the light of Covid-19, some in very negative ways.  At a minimum, we have all been inconvenienced. At the other end, some have lost their lives or their livelihoods. As of this morning,  30 million people are out of work in the U.S. alone.

The Coronavirus will soon be in our rear view mirror, but the collateral damage will be severe. Economies are being pushed to the brink by expensive government programs which, in the long run, will be paid back by the next generation.

We will be facing even more crises. The death toll from famine around the world is likely to exceed the number of deaths from the virus.  Some are concerned that we are also facing a level of pandemic anxiety (according to Psychology Today).

Millennial children of friends of mine have seen their children’s anxiety increase dramatically. Their anxiety was already part of their makeup – the same for Gen Z. Putting them in isolation leads to additional loneliness and increases the likelihood of depression.

We have been introduced the idea of “social distancing” although I prefer the term “physical distancing”, which is what we are actually doing when we are with other people. With schools out, kids will actually lose ground in school.

For the millennials, their story now includes two dramatic events, the first being the recession of 2008 and now Covid-19. Just as they were getting back on their economic feet, the rug has been pulled out from under them.

For Gen Z, many of whom are in college or graduating and going into a job situation that may be worse than 2008 because they are competing with 30 million others. One writer described their job situation as going into the “face of a hurricane”.  When their lives were just starting, the world collectively decided to stop.

They are in a free fall. Their lives are in “limbo” and there are often second guessing what the future will bring.

The challenge here is to reach out to the next generation who have so many questions and so few answers. Their traditional source of answers (social media) is not giving them any comfort or real answers. The pandemic will pass. Science will figure it out, but that is not very comforting to many in the next generation.

There is a great need for mentors and parents to come alongside to help provide a biblical perspective on what God is doing. Being a child of God is the greatest story of all.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Read Coronavirus and Christ for a useful and timely overview of what the Bible has to say about these novel times.

RESOURCES: The Virus has put Millennial and Gen Z Lives on Hold

Coronavirus and Christ  – John Piper

WORSHIP:  You Make Me Brave  -Bethel Music

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