Teenagers are living in a rapidly shifting morality landscape, fueled by a “your truth is yours and my truth is mine” mentality. Meanwhile, anxiety and depression are epidemic among these over-scheduled, hyper-busy kids—whose addiction to social media has made vulnerability their greatest fear. The “antidote” to both of these challenges is a deeper knowing of Jesus—they need His truth, and that will happen when they gravitate to reading His Word. So…
1. Create experiences that connect them to the Word—I work part-time in youth ministry while I serve as the director of education for a marine science center. I combine both worlds when I take youth groups into the ocean to learn what lives there, and the science behind the life teeming below the surface. I’ve discovered that as I introduce teenagers to the life of the ocean they develop a broader biblical worldview. That’s because I purposefully connect what they’re discovering in the ocean to discoveries they can make in the Bible. We talk about the miracle of creation, but also about what it would’ve been like for Peter to walk on waves, or that God knows how many grains of sand are on the shore. Use where you and what you have to get kids thinking in fresh experiential ways. Jesus taught using interactive experiences more than any other method. So, when we connect the truths of His Word to something a teenager is already immersed in, those truths get all the way down into their hearts.
2. Find connections to biblical truths in everyday situations—Show your teenagers how the Word of God shapes and molds their everyday life. I don’t mean that you quote chapter-and-verse like a creepy automaton. I mean something like this: “Look at that rock over there—the Bible tells us to build our life on the rock, so what exactly might that mean?” As we naturally loop in the truths we see in Bible, teenagers will start to make their own connections in the midst of their everyday life.
3. Talk about hard things in a relaxed, “this is normal” way—The Bible tells us in James to have joy WHEN we face trials of many kinds. Too often our youth come to us with hard things and we boil our response down to a sad smile and a nod. “God won’t give us any more than we can handle” and “God works all things out for good” are misrepresentations of what the Word actually says. The first, based on 1 Corinthians 10:13, is really about temptation, not trials. And the second, from Romans 8:28, sets the context for “those who love the Lord.” Teenagers need to know that the Bible never shies away from hard realities—the only way they’ll know that is if we focus more on the “hard stories” of the Bible. For them to really trust Jesus, they’ll need to experience hard truths about Him.
[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Here is what I know—this generation hungers and thirsts for truth. The only place they can feed that hunger or satiate that thirst is the Word of God…[/tweet_box]
4. Teach in a way that connects with Gen Z—I’ve been studying Gen Z, I’ve learned that they feel compelled to hide their true selves. It can feel like pulling teeth to just get them to share their opinions. I hear “I don’t know” and “I can’t figure it out” more than any other point in my 25-year ministry. Why? I think they’re petrified to get answers wrong. The only way to lift this heavy burden is to help them learn what Jesus really thinks of them, and why it’s so important to look away from other mirrors to stare only at Him.
Here is what I know—this generation hungers and thirsts for truth. The only place they can feed that hunger or satiate that thirst is the Word of God, pointing them to the Word made flesh.
Photo Courtesy of: Aaron Burden