Every generation has a set of questions that sets it apart from other generations. This past month, I repeatedly came face to face with a line of questioning which I had never experienced – at least not to this degree from such a diverse crowd. I was absolutely thrilled when Matt, our next generation pastor, asked me to take part in both vacation Bible school and kids camp this summer. I love spending time with children, having conversations with them and swapping fun stories. I love to learn; and when I am around kids, I learn a lot.
Every generation has had its philosophy-identifying questions. My parents’ generation asked, “What can we know?” and pursued diving deeper into the unexplored world of space, the oceans, molecular and atomic structure and archeology. My generation asked, “Who can be trusted?” and “What is truth?” The segment of individuals now in elementary school – a part of Generation Z – are asking me questions like, “Where did you get that information?” and “How can we know this information is true?”
This generation of children is growing up in the most saturated information quagmire the world has ever seen. Therefore, even at an early age, they are very aware that just because it is published, or just because a teacher says it, does not mean that it is true. They are skeptical and often suspicious. They are very well aware of “fake news.” They are much more inclined to not believe than to believe what they read, watch or hear.
So, what does this mean for the Church? Here is a short list for starters:
1) Pastor, when preaching, it has never been more important to cite references and sources for supplemental Scriptures quoted, statistics stated and theological positions held.
2) Statements like, “It has been said…” or “Some have said…” or “According to popular opinion…” are perceived by this generation to mean, “I really have no clue. I am just throwing this out here.” If you don’t have an identified source, it is best to not say it at all.
3) This generation is demanding to know where the Bible came from. They want (and need) to know the history and methodology behind the canonization of the Scriptures. The Church must teach this.
4) Pastors and Bible teachers must guard against feeling offended when asked, “How do you know that’s true?” or “Are you sure about that?” or “Can you really verify that information?” These questions should not be perceived as disrespectful, but rather, healthy and encouraging.
5) This generation wants to know the stories behind the songs we sing. Where did they come from? What was the motivation and life circumstance of the one writing the song?
6) Pastors and teachers, you must make sure you accurately communicate even the smallest of details. Remember, while you are talking, they are checking your information via Google.
Church leaders will not get by with sidestepping questions nor failing to be well-prepared. I am personally grateful for a rising generation that will help sharpen and deepen the Church as we journey further into the 21st century.
Eric W. Ramsey is associate pastor of First Baptist Church, Fort Smith.
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