If you work with teens, young adults, or want to have a large impact in any way on this age range, you are entering into a world that can be scary and intimidating. The world we find ourselves in is vastly different than it was even 5 or 10 years ago. Thanks to the explosion of the internet over the last decade, the world is constantly changing. Some sociologists have even though of getting rid of naming generations because it is constantly evolving. As a Millennial, I am lumped into a category with people born between 1981-1996 (give or take). Generation X included those born between 1965 and 1979 (give or take). That gives 15 or so years in generations where there are small differences, but more in common than not. However, today the world is changing so fast that many who study culture believe that generations are changing every 2-3 years and not just every 1 or 2 decades. Maybe you have seen that commercial that says people today have more information at their fingertips than previous generations had all together. That is terrifying. So how can we expect to successfully reach and impact this next generation, especially within the church, in a positive way? I have identified 5 key tools I think anyone can prioritize to make an impact on teens and young adults today.
The Bible and Prayer
I know this may seem like a no-brainer or a cop-out, but I really believe that the Bible and prayer are the 2 best tools to utilize to reach anybody. As Solomon so wisely said, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl 1:9, NRSV). Things may change in appearance, but ultimately it is another face for the same issues. Having the Word of God in your heart and a life built on prayer brings one to live out their life as God calls us to. This tool is the most important for any leader to have to reach people of any age range, young or old.
You will not reach the younger generations without love. Loving the next generations includes being patient with them and showing them grace. You tell them the stove is hot and they still want to touch it and often times will. Be patient and show them grace. Chances are they will come back to the stove again and think that it may be different and will possibly try again. It can be frustrating, but remember we are called to be marked by the way we love as Christ loves us. Christ shows us love through his death for us on the cross. He shows us patience and grace as we continue to fall short though he is calling us deeper. Showing teens and young adults love, patience, and grace is so important if you are going to effectively reach them.
This generation craves authenticity and transparency. They often can sniff out an act before we can. Be genuine in your love, patience, and grace. This can only come through a life rooted in the source of love, God. You cannot fully love the next generation without being rooted in the source of love. This means that we must be rooted in God and active in our study of his Word and prayer.
Now we will turn from 2 important and more general tools for effectively reaching the next generations and turn to 3 specific tools we can utilize.
You probably had a feeling this would be here. If you did not expect it, you were likely wishing it was not at least. I know, teens and young adults seem to be glued to their smart phones constantly. A recent study done however shows that adults actually average 10.5 hours on their phones while teens average 9.5, but that is not the point. Social media is a great avenue to utilize both to reach out to teens, but also to see what is going on in the world. Like it or not, many teens get their news and fact from social media. If you are up to date and studied in culture, you will likely be more readily equipped to reach them by knowing where they are coming from. This also makes you more relatable to teens and young adults. This does not mean that you must be every last social media out there, but having a presence on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter suffice to give a rounded worldview of social media from a teenage perspective.
Did you know that YouTube is the most used social media platform by teens? This coupled with the fact that YouTube is a completely different media service makes it in its own class. There are actually YouTube and Twitch (a video game streaming service) streamers who make over a million dollars a year just off their online content. Teens watch everything on YouTube from shows, to gamers, to music, to how-to videos. Keeping up-to-date with some popular YouTube streamers helps understand the world and culture of teens and young adults.
“What’s Trending” Sections and Outlets
There are sites that are dedicated to current pop culture. Sites such as Buzz Feed are filled with current pop trends which can we read and utilized for what is going on in teenagers. Many other websites have sections labeled “what’s trending” which have current pop news. What is going on in the life of celebrities is often central to many teens. Many trends and fashions start here and ripple out to regular society.
Here is a brief overview of 5 keys tools which anyone can use. They are all free as well and the benefits which can come from an hour or total a day in these 5 areas can be massive. Many can also be done multi-tasking such as listening to the Bible app audibly while in the car or praying on your commutes. Love does not take time out of your day, but rather is done through your interactions most practically. Utilize these 5 tools and watch your zone of impact multiply.