We all want to help students see God in their everyday lives.
As ministry leaders, we always work to connect students to our Creator and the full life Jesus gives us.
For a long time in youth ministry, we’ve done this through experiences and events. But now, we are serving a generation that seems more trusting of “spirituality” than the institutions designed to help them build their faith.
Here’s what the data says on Gen Z & Alpha and spirituality.
In 2022, our friends at Springtide Research Conducted a survey of young people that found 77% of them claiming to be “spiritual.” However, those of us who are millennials or older might have a different view of “spiritual” than the young people in this survey.
Just a few minutes of scrolling through TikTok will introduce you to “spiritual practices” that have become mainstream:
- Connecting with the universe.
- Praying to the deity you worship.
- Using crystals to balance your Chakras.
- Exploring Tarot as a means of gaining insight.
- Sending positive vibes to impact the energy around us.
- Manifesting a different reality than the one you’re currently experiencing.
While these practices may make us nervous, the popularization of Spiritual practices in their various forms, functions, and religious affiliations seem to indicate that Generation Z and Alpha are longing for a connection with something (or Someone) beyond themselves.
This, my friends, should be good news to us all . . .
See, over the last 2000 years, spiritual practices have been a part of the Christian faith.
They may not have involved crystals or vibes, but it wasn’t until modernity that our experience and expressions of following Jesus somewhat neutralized the idea of connecting with God. These ways transcend weekly musical worship or sermon podcasts. Just a few examples:
- The Desert Fathers and Mothers expressed their faith by practicing solitude.
- Augustine encouraged contemplative prayer.
- Brother Lawrence laid out a way to practice experiencing God’s presence.
Silence, solitude, prayer, contemplation, fasting, Scripture reading, service, good meals with friends, generosity, etc. have been deeply spiritual practices throughout the history of our faith.
So what if these same kinds of practices (and more) could help fulfill the longing of a generation in a way we believe nothing or no one else can?
What if finding ways to help students practice their faith, in both modern and ancient ways, could unlock their ability to build an everyday, resilient faith in Jesus?
Perhaps the very practices we’ve somehow sterilized or made bland in our modern expressions of worship (including the ones I’ve led) are the key to re-engaging generations that seem to be rejecting the institution that is “church.”
What if we began rethinking the spiritual practices we introduce to our students?
Am I suggesting that we stop programming and instead start leading Sunday morning meditation sessions? No! Although, I’d probably visit a Christian one every once in a while.
What I am suggesting is that we do what the local church has always been incredible at.
Adapting to the needs of each generation to introduce them to new (and ancient) ways of connecting with and following Jesus.
For a season, loud music, great environments, and grandiose productions have engaged generations that were disconnected from the stuffy and legalistic versions of church.
But now we’re trying to influence a generation who seem to want church to be fun and care deeply about spiritual practices.
We can do both! We don’t have to throw everything out and start over.
But, we can’t expect to stay the course and somehow start seeing different results.
The next generation wants to party at your youth ministry’s awesome events. AND they also want to know how to connect with God in the quiet of their walk to school.
So what if we helped them do that?
Ways to Engage a Spiritual Generation in Ancient Christian Practices
Imagine what would happen if the practices that our students find interesting were in alignment with the precedents set by those who came before us, rather than the modern versions many ministries use.
I will not claim to know an all-encompassing solution for what we’re talking about, but I would love to invite you to be a part of the conversation about our way forward.
Here are a couple of ways you can begin to engage a spiritual generation in practicing their faith.
1) Help them see God in their daily lives.
As youth ministry leaders, we’re aware that God is always working. Yes, we experience mountaintops and valleys like every follower of Jesus. But we’re distinctly aware that the more we look for God in the world around us, the more we see God at work. What if we could help a generation see God more clearly in their day to day lives? By looking for the evidence of “fruit” of God’s Spirit at work, we can all see God in ways we may never have before. All year long in XP3 curriculum, we’ve been asking the question: Where did you see God today? What if we could help students make a habit of asking this question everyday?
Check out the How to See God 4-Week Devotional
I recently wrote my first book aimed at helping students look for God by becoming more aware of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, other people, and the world around them. How To See God is a 4-week devotional filled with actionable content, weekly activities, and daily prompts for reflecting on where readers are seeing God at work. I wrote it with the hope and prayer that each day would help students see God more clearly. Will 4-weeks of this content suddenly solve everything we’re talking about? No! But, it will help students build a foundation for the practice of looking for God everyday. You can purchase a copy or order in bulk (at a discounted price) at howtoseegodbook.com.
2) Join the conversation at OC23!
I want to talk about engaging a generation is spiritual practice with you at Orange Conference. This year, I’m hosting a workshop where we’ll dig into this topic called, “The Spiritual Life of Today’s Teenager.” During our time together, we’ll talk about some practical ways to help students build habits of connecting with and looking for God.
You and I will be in a room together with other youth ministry leaders who want to help the next generation practice their faith. I think our time together will not only help us practically, but will give us a chance to connect relationally with other leaders working to find new ways to engage a new generation of students. I hope you can join the workshop at OC23, so we can talk about this more! You can register for conference and my workshop at theorangeconference.com.
I think the future of our faith is bright! As Gen Z and Alpha long for something more and search in increasingly spiritual ways, we can be confident that we have the good news that guides them to full life. As we help them build the habit of practicing the way of Jesus, we might just help a generation known for fleeing the faith collectively build a more resilient and everyday faith than we’ve seen in centuries.
The future is bright. Especially when what you’re seeing is more of God!