While every era is unique, the present day offers a bit of a generational anomaly. Life expectancies have increased, allowing a wide berth in terms of the population, all of whom grew up in vastly different worlds. Just consider the technology.
Baby Boomers can clearly recall the days before every home had a television set. Generation X’s soundtracks came courtesy of vinyl and eight tract tapes. The Xennials and (some Millennials) watched as the computer evolved from an archaic clunker into a sleek, pocket size device powered by the Internet.
Then, there are the youth of today, the Gen Z-ers. For these youngsters, iPhones and lightening fast communication has always been the norm.
It is difficult to comprehend the enormous variances in experience between the groups. That can make certainly make relating tough, which is particularly true in the realm of faith.
For previous generations, the church was a very real and grounding presence. While it remains so for countless individuals around the world regardless of age, recent statistics denote a clear shift, indicating that the youth of today are less interested in a biblical world view.
That is certainly something that has been on Sara Brown’s radar. The associate director of discipleship at The Gathering Place in Brunswick understands that Gen Z-ers are living in quite a different world than their parents and grandparents, a fact which has shaped their lives.
“It is not the way it was 10 or 15 years ago, when some of us were in youth group. It is truly a different world and even getting the kids to show up is difficult,” she said.
“Barna Research Group released a study on Gen Z, the group that follows the Millennials. The statistics were rather startling. Four percent of the generation profess to have a Christian world view,” she said.
“That is, the way they are looking at the world and answering questions like ‘who am I,’ ‘what is the purpose of my life,’ ‘how do I understand truth.’ They are not coming at it from a biblical perspective.”
Without being rooted in Christian faith, Brown and others in the ministry worry that these students will allow popular culture to answer these important questions.
“... Media, movies, actors, actresses, those kind of things, that what is informing their world view more so than the Bible,” she said.
Naturally, there are a number of barriers to leading a faith-based life in the face-paced world of 2019. Jimmy Gunderman, executive director of the Gathering Place for Glynn County, certainly feels that social media has redefined relationships for these students.
“This generation is the first generation that has never lived life without the iPhone. So that is a huge milestone in their lives that has shaped their world view. Along with that, you have Instagram and Snapchat ... it has defined what relationships are to them,” he said.
“If something happens at school, it can be recorded and shared with everybody so it has bullying implications as well.”
After hearing the statistics and thinking about the situation, the GP staff decided to offer a workshop to help. Originally designed as a in-house training for staff and 707 Club leaders, they wanted to open it up to all adults who interact with children.
Titled the Gen Z Event, the program will offer insight and guidance to teenage trends, with a no cost dinner, catered by Tramici’s, and speaker who can help adults better communicate with the young people in their lives. It will be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 31 at 1759 Demere Road, St. Simons Island. Registration must be made at www.thegp.org.
“We are bringing in Jonathan Morrow (author of “Welcome to College”) also part of a group Impact 360, based in Atlanta a lot of the programs are similar to what we do here like internships,” she said.
“He’s coming here to speak about some of these stats and trends that we are seeing in the students and how we can equip them to understand what they believe, why they believe it and why that’s important.”
Gunderson says the goal is to give adults the tools to reach Gen Z-ers and help deepen their faith.
“It is our goal, especially with this Gen Z Event, is to help students understand that their world is not ‘the world.’ There is something out there outside of culture that should be shaping how they think and how they interact with other people and their world view,” Gunderson said.
“We want to train leaders and parents to be able to effectively walk their child through this adolescence.”
Of course, The Gathering Place offers a number of programs with that aim all year. Their 707 Club, a county-wide Christian mentoring program, pairs adult leaders with a group of students that they help navigate through their teenage years. There are more than 600 local students currently in the program.
The 707 outreach coupled with other offerings like internships seek to keep students rooted in their faith, even in a challenging and ever-changing world.
And while the focus is primarily on the youth, there are also programs for adults. Like the Gen Z Event, the annual Main Event is geared at getting the grown-ups involved to support the cause.
This year, it will return at 6 p.m. March 7 at Gruber Aviation’s hangar on St. Simons Island. The fundraiser will feature a dinner and message from inspirational speaker, Duffy Robins.
“It will be an inspirational night where you can hear about all God is doing through the Gathering Place,” said. Lucas Ramirez, president and CEO of The Gathering Place.
“They will be invited to join the mission and to hear stories of lives that have been changed ... to see friends and enjoy a good meal.”