Gen Z is wired for good. They long for justice. They are cause-driven, and they have told us what causes they care about. No matter what you or I believe about these topics personally or even Biblically, we can’t escape that they are close to the heart (and ever-present on the screens) of the Gen Z students we minister to.
If the connection is not made between faith in Jesus and the causes they care about, your students may a) bow out of church or the faith, b) kill their desires for justice because they don’t think it matters to Jesus, or c) live a life of apathy towards both Jesus and the things that stir their heart.
As NextGen ministry leaders, we should join their passion for good and create opportunities and experiences that help them become who God has created them to be in the world.
It all starts with changing perspectives…
Perspectives matter. The lens through which a young person views a particular “cause” they care about is influenced by the images they see on social media, the conversations their friends are having, what they overhear from their parents, the community they live in, the sermons they hear, and on and on. Their perspective determines what they should or should not care about and what they should give their time and energy to.
Our role, then, is to help students change their perspective. Particularly, we want to help move students from seeing issues and toward seeing people. Topics like poverty, racial tensions, or immigration aren’t merely political or cultural issues; they are Imago Dei issues. It’s about people created in the image of God that are hurting, and Jesus cares for them…YOU can help them see that!
Perspectives are changed through listening and learning. Our students are not fully informed on the issues they may discuss. Let’s be honest…we aren’t either. It’s likely that they’re even misinformed, and so we need to help them listen and learn together. You’re not responsible for having all the answers, so take that pressure off yourself. But you are responsible for helping students get as close to the issue as possible and showing them the heart of Jesus so they can form a healthier understanding of a particular issue. Putting young people into contexts in which they can listen, learn, and serve will better help them connect their faith to the causes they care about the most.
PERSPECTIVE ALTERING EXPERIENCES
For over 30 years, YouthWorks has created weeklong mission trips for teenagers alongside our long-term community partners in dozens of communities across the country. These experiences are helpful for youth leaders looking for a turnkey mission trip with housing, service projects, staff, food, and curriculum included. However, we also see the need for new forms of mission and service to develop in the coming years to capture the heart of the next generation and give leaders new tools to minister amidst our current cultural landscape.
Some leaders desire more space for their own teaching or deeper dives into topics their students are particularly burdened for. For some groups, we’ve learned that a Spring Break trip, weekend experience, or multigenerational grouping may provide a better entry point to listening, learning, and serving.
We work with Border Perspective to create immersive and educational service-learning trips along the Texas/Mexico border. From volunteering at a local immigrant shelter to serving alongside immigrant pastors and their congregations, these opportunities give young people a first-hand look at ministry alongside immigrant communities.
BEYOND TRIPS (COMING SOON)
Generation Z cares deeply about the issues of racial justice but often isn’t offered many ways to engage beyond a keyboard. In July of 2024, we will be prototyping a 5-day service-learning trip for upper High School and college-aged students that explores the history of the civil rights movement and the work for racial justice by followers of Jesus today. This experience will pair service in under-resourced communities with educational opportunities like museum visits, listening to local pastors and leaders, screening documentaries, and intentional conversations.
Ultimately, connecting to Gen Z’s wiring for service will require you to support them beyond one-time experiences and help them pursue this area of passion at home. Are there local ministries, leaders, or advocates they can listen to and serve with? You don’t need to wait until your next mission trip or service project! God invites us to join him in the ways he is already building His Kingdom. That doesn’t just happen when you’re away serving, but that can happen every day, right where you are!
Learn more about YouthWorks at youthworks.com