In this episode of TGC Q&A, Derek Rishmawy and Cameron Cole address the question, “How do I evangelize Generation Z?” They discuss:
- Understanding Generation Z (0:28)
- Technology and instant gratification (2:08)
- Evangelism by Generation Z (5:07)
Explore more from TGC on this topic:
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Heather Calvillo: Welcome back to TGC Q&A, a podcast from the Gospel Coalition where each week you will hear conversations between members of our council and friends who provide their unique perspective on your most pressing spiritual questions. On today’s episode, Derek Rishmawy and Cameron Cole discussed the question how do I evangelize generation Z? Let’s listen in.
Cameron Cole: What does evangelism to generation Z students look like and then what does evangelism by generation Z students look like today? And so, start out what exactly are we talking about when we talk about generation Z?
Derek Rishmawy: Right. Right. I mean, as far as I get it I’m a millennial and so everybody’s been talking about us for 10 years or something and I’m glad the next generations here to start offloading all the intention and blame. They’re so weird. No, generation Z is actually just the generation right after the millennials. I think that it’s something right now, 22 year olds or so and under to about people still being born or maybe 10 year gap.
But right now, the way I think of generation Z is a lot of college kids, all of high school and junior high. I think the defining marker that a lot of people have said for them is these are the kids who grew up and never knew a time without a cell phone, without an iPhone. Whereas I grew up and I remember the first Nokia phone that I could play Snake on in high school. And so millennials, one of the defining features has been yes their are immersion in tech in a way that is unprecedented. And this generation is just light years beyond that because we don’t know the impact that that will have. But yeah, so that’s how I understand or have been given to understand that.
Cameron Cole: You’re right and I think that the aspect of their life that they have lived in a time that is where technology is so advanced is a major factor in a number ways as we consider evangelism because they are an instant gratification culture. I can remember, to age myself I can remember a time when to get a movie you have to ask your mom and dad to take you down to the Blockbuster and to go drive to the Blockbuster, get a VCR cassette or a VHS, drive home, watch it, and then take it back.
Derek Rishmawy: After you stick it in the rewind machine.
Cameron Cole: You’ve got to make sure you rewind it. Yeah you’ve got to make sure you rewind it. You don’t want to get the 25 cent fine. But so there was this you had to wait back in my day. You had to wait on things. If you wanted to use the phone well you had to wait your turn. These kids they have grown up in an age where they don’t have to wait to go to the Blockbuster to see a movie. They can watch it on their phone via Netflix right here and right now. And so, one of the ways that that’s affected kids spiritually is that kids they do not have a paradigm for things that are deferred. They do not have a paradigm for things that are way off in the future.
And so historically, one of the ways that we’ve talked about the gospel with teenagers is we have talked about it in eschatological terms. We’ve talked about it in terms of if you were to die tonight would you go to heaven? And som the gospel benefit that was primarily offered to kids was that Jesus died on the cross and if you put your faith in him then when you die you will not go to hell but instead you will have eternal life in heaven with Jesus. That just does not resonate with a kid who everything they want they just get immediately. They are thinking about how… Number one because of technology they have this instant gratification mindset but they also very much are influenced philosophically by pragmatism. So the way that they filter thought is through, “How does this help me now? How does this help me now?”
And so, I think in evangelism and talking about the gospel we really have to talk about the present benefits of having life in Christ here and now. And so, I think that that’s one of the things I would say in terms of how we share the gospel with generation Z is you must emphasize the present benefits, the joy, the hope, the peace, the purpose that comes with living in relationship with Jesus here and now. And I’m not saying at all that we shouldn’t talk about the eternal ramifications because they need their paradigm expanded. We do need to talk about heaven and hell and eternal consequence and life is fragile and so that needs to be there. But if that is your only angle in which you’re talking about the gospel it is going to have very little relevance or resonance with generation Z.
Derek Rishmawy: Yeah that resonates well. I mean, that resonates well even with millennials there’s that delay in terms of their perception of pay off, pragmatism, how that’s working for me. The thing I’m curious for you part of the question we’re asking is also evangelism by them. What does it look like for the high schooler to be reaching out to her friends in our current state? And I think in so far as I’ve seen it no default church is assumed, no default Christianity is assumed, no default belief in God is assumed. They live in often the beliefs and spiritual world mediated by Reddit or the cornucopia of possible options that may or may not resemble video games they’ve played and internet theories. And that to me, how does a kid take his friend to church in that context? That’s interesting for me. I’m wondering how that has looked in your ministry as you’ve seen.
Cameron Cole: Yeah. One thing I would say is trying to instill a desire and a conviction for evangelism amongst students is really important. And one of the reasons I say that is I’ve been a youth pastor for 14 years and when I first started I had total access to schools. Now, granted I live in Birmingham, Alabama. It’s one of the most churched cities in the United States. But still, it was pretty much a norm in youth ministry that going through the proper channels you could go to the school and have lunch with kids. You could go and hang out in school, meet kids, so on and so forth, those days are long gone. Between school shootings and the culture, the attitude towards Christianity in general you get very, very little access to kids.
And so, we really our primary means of sharing the gospel is to equip kids to be the ones to share the gospel. And so, given the complex environment we live in from a standpoint of just this unbelievably diverse slew of ideas that are floating around and a presupposition list culture that the kids are raised in we really do have to catechize our kids well. So that they are able to articulate their faith effectively and they are able to take on arguments with some level of sophistication.
Heather Calvillo: Thanks for listening to today’s episode of TGC Q&A. To submit a question that you would like to hear answered on this podcast send us an email at askattgc.org. And remember to subscribe to our show on Apple podcasts, Google, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks again for listening to today’s episode of TGC Q and A.