8 Things to Remember When Engaging NextGen on Mental…

by Shane Pruitt

Executive Director, NextGen Evangelism, NAMB

According to a recent Barna study,[1] half of 18-year-olds in the U.S. report feeling anxiety and fear of failure and about 40% said they often felt sad or depressed, while slightly fewer young people said they felt lonely and isolated from others (34%).[2]

The church in America is undoubtedly doing better engaging the ever growing anxiety of younger generations, but we still have a long way to go. We used to largely ignore it or spiritualize it away — meaning the only response to mental and emotional health was to read the Bible and pray more (among other disciplines). This isn’t wrong — our spiritual disciplines play a very important role in mental and emotional health — but some have clinical struggles that need additional attention.

Don’t underestimate the power of open, honest and vulnerable dialogue with the youth in your church about their worries, anxieties and fears.

Here are eight things to remember as churches start these

1. Develop proper biblical teaching on the role of emotions and thoughts in our walk with Jesus.

2. Cultivate an atmosphere in our churches that makes it safe for people to share their struggles.

3. Leaders, be transparent about your own struggles in this area. This gives permission for others to do the same. They won’t do what their leaders aren’t willing to do.

4. Make emotional and mental health a part of your discipleship process and leadership pipeline.

5. Teach about God’s common grace of doctors, counselors, medicine, etc. God can still get the glory, as these means of healing are provided through His common grace.

6. Keep trusted resources, books and articles as ready references for your people.

7. If possible, have a trusted counselor or counseling center to which you can refer people. If you jump into this conversation, people will likely ask you where they can go to get help from a counselor.

8. Preach the power of the gospel. There is popular statement with young adults – “it’s okay to not be okay”. This is a good starting place because it encourages transparency and honesty. But we must realize this statement is just a starting place. The gospel goes further than that. The gospel teaches: it’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to stay that way when there is another way. Jesus is The Way. He loves us so much He wants us “just how we are,” but He also loves us so much that He won’t leave us that way. Now, is the time to get help, and to begin to move forward!

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at namb.net.

Check out Shane’s new book, 9 Common Lies Christians Believe: And Why God’s Truth is Infinitely Better.

[2] www.barna.com/research/global-connection-isolation/

Shane serves as the National Next Gen Evangelism Director for the North American Mission Board (NAMB). He and his wife, Kasi, reside in Rockwall, TX with their five children – Raygen, Harper, Titus, Elliot, & Glory. He has been in ministry for over 18 years as a denominational worker, church planter, lead pastor, and student pastor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies, a Master’s Degree in History and a PhD in Clinical Christian Counseling.


7 Ways for Next Gen Ministries to Approach This…

by Shane Pruitt

Executive Director, Next Gen Evangelism, NAMB

We’re in the middle of the summer months for next generation ministries, but it’s a summer that looks and feels completely different than any other. In fact, I’ve heard many refer to this summer as an “eventless summer,” meaning that many churches have canceled summer camps, Vacation Bible Schools and collegiate/student mission trips.

I want to encourage us, however, to look at this summer with optimism, because I believe we have an awesome opportunity to rethink the summer strategy and not simply focus on how different our summer schedules are. How we navigate these three calendar months can provide an opportunity to shape our ministries for years if not decades to come.

Here are seven ways for next generation ministries to continue to approach this unique season in a way that could make this the most effective summer your ministry has ever experienced.

Keep the mission at the forefront. So much in our world has changed, and if we’re not careful, we’ll feel the pressure to focus solely on the need to radically change everything about our ministries. When we’re restless, we want to tinker with things. We turn inward, and it’s usually the mission that suffers the most. A lot has changed in our world, but not our calling. The coronavirus did not push pause on the Great Commission. The mission always has to be our main focus.

Have healthy expectations. We really don’t know what to expect. However, one thing we do know is that you can’t take previous summers and lay them on top of this one and expect the same results. It’s completely different, so don’t beat yourself up or set your team up for let-downs by comparing to previous summers. This is a different reality. So, take this time as an opportunity to do some educating through celebrating.

You may not be able to do a lot of celebrating of grandiose numbers, but you can celebrate stories of students obediently sharing the Gospel, testimonies of salvation and examples of on-mission living. I learned this as a pastor: whatever I celebrated the most was what I was intentionally or unintentionally discipling our people to believe was most important. If we say the mission is most important, then we should celebrate the mission the most.

Kill the cows. What “sacred cows” can you barbecue? That is, what are some ineffective or unhelpful things you’ve wanted to get rid of for a while now, but were unable to in normal seasons? Think about it. You’ve been given a unique opportunity in these abnormal times to do what you could not do in normal times. Nothing else has been immune to the coronavirus, so don’t let unnecessary sacred cows be either.

Equip parents and legal guardians. Often, I am asked what I’d do differently if I could go back to my student pastor days. Without a doubt, I’d spend time, energy and resources on equipping the parents and legal guardians to be the evangelists and disciple-makers that God has called them to be for their kids. Parents have just experienced the longest spring break of their lives. They’re looking for help.

Generation Z is largely being parented by older Millennials and Young Xers who were never discipled themselves. As leaders, we’re great at preaching to the parents, “You need to disciple your kids! You’re their primary pastors.” And they are replying back, “Yes! I agree. I want to, but I don’t know how. Help me.”

Focus on cultivating your ministry to reflect the community. Honest evaluation — do our ministries look like our communities? If not, then we have to figure out what bridges we can build and what barriers we can remove. According to Pew Research Center, 48 percent of Generation Z is non-white. They are by far the most diverse generation alive. If we’re going to be intentional to reach the next generation with the Gospel, we will become diverse ministries.

Seek solitude. Most likely, your summer won’t be as full as a typical summer, so allow yourself and your team the margin to seek solitude. Solitude is different from isolation. Isolation is unintentional time by yourself. Solitude is intentional time with the Lord in Scripture reading and prayer, where we grow spiritually. It’s also typically where fresh vision, innovation and anointing comes. We’re always going to be at our best when we minister, lead, serve and share Jesus from the overflow of our own worship of Him.

Don’t rush back to normal. Personally, I’ve found myself saying over and over again in recent months, “I can’t wait to get back to normal.” Then, one night it hit me like a ton of bricks. What if the last thing the Lord wants is for us to go back to normal? At the end of the day, we don’t need normal. We desperately need revival and renewal.

“Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at namb.net.

Shane Pruitt is the National Next Gen Evangelism Director for the North American Mission Board (NAMB), and is also the author of the book – 9 Common Lies Christians Believe. He and his wife, Kasi, have five children and reside outside of Dallas, TX.


6 Common Traits of Gen Z: In Their Own…

by Shane Pruitt

Next Gen Evangelism Director, North American Mission Board (NAMB)

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Baptist Press.

Often when you hear an “expert” speak or write about reaching a particular generation, it will inevitably be someone from an older generation. For example, you’ll have a baby boomer or Generation X-er talking about how to connect with millennials or Gen Z.

In no way am I saying this is an ineffective approach. In fact, there is a plethora of resources out there done in this particular way that are extremely helpful. However I wanted to take a different approach.

Over the last year, while speaking at student camps, DiscipleNow weekends, conferences and young adult worship services among other events, I took the opportunity to sit down and ask these young people some probing questions. One of the things I love the most about young people is if you want to know what they’re thinking, all you have to do is ask them.

Sometimes, you don’t even have to ask! Instead of adults telling other adults how to reach students, I decided to ask students, “What do adults need to know about your generation, known as Gen Z?” It was an incredible journey. I became a student so that I could hear ideas from this generation about reaching their generation.

With that in mind, here are six things we need to know about Gen Z in their own words:

— They want more out of church than potluck dinners. This generation wants to be a part of “doing” something. They’ll want more out of their church than sitting in a pew, listening to sermons and going to potluck dinners while waiting on the “Rapture Bus” to swoop down to pick them all up. They are not scared to die young; they are terrified, however, to die at a ripe old age while not having done anything significant with their lives in their own eyes. They are not typically impressed by a church’s size or budget. They’re interested both in being noticed relationally and in what the church is doing outside the walls of the building. Let’s mobilize a generation. They will make mistakes, but so do we. That’s why grace is so amazing.

— They are not ageist. People tend to think that students don’t want to have anything to do with the older generation. Gen Z is in desperate need for older generations to invest in them. This is largely a fatherless generation. They often seek out or are more open to discipleship or mentorship than we tend to think. But they won’t know how to ask for it. They may ask you to “hangout” by using some other word that sounds like gibberish to you. Nevertheless, if this generation wants to spend time with you, then they are giving you the most valuable thing they have to offer and that you have to give — time.

— They largely value the “why” over the “what.” Students are not typically open to doing something just because it’s the way it’s always been done or because it’s what their family has always known. They are not driven by heritage. For example, students are not going to be Southern Baptist just because their parents were. If we can’t answer their “why” questions or we get defensive over their questions, we’ll lose them. Be ready to answer their honest questions with love, patience and kindness. Their experience with something or someone will often dictate their views more than history will.

— They don’t want to be seen as the future of the church. Remember, the younger generation is not the future of the church; if they’ve been redeemed with the blood of Jesus, then they’re the church of right now. Let them have some ownership of the ministry, and be patient with them when they mess up … possibly a lot. A great way to keep students engaged in the ministry is by constantly communicating, illustrating and empowering participation in the vision and mission of the church. Sometimes, we’ll schedule an event to reach Gen Z using all older generations to plan it, then plead with students to bring their friends. Then we get upset, when they don’t show up. Want them to show up? Want them to invite their friends? Then let them have a voice in planning it.

— They want authenticity and transparency. Nearly all students grow weary of gimmicks and “sleek presentations” very quickly. The more transparent and vulnerable a communicator is the more students connect. There was a time when speakers/teachers were told not to use themselves in personal illustrations. This generation, on the other hand, wants to hear those personal stories. As adults, if we act as those who have it all figured out and are not in desperate daily need of God’s grace, we’ll lose students’ attention. They won’t believe that we’re “being real” and they’ll think our faith is unattainable for them.

— They know brokenness at an earlier age. They are exposed to more violence, graphic images and evil at an earlier age. Exposure to these things on the internet, in media coverage and through broken homes is unfortunately the norm for far too many. They don’t know a world without the fear of mass shootings and terrorism. This is also a pornography-saturated generation where the average age of first exposure is 11. The fastest growing demographic for internet pornography consumption is females age 15–30; 70 percent of guys admit to interaction with internet pornography, and 50 percent of girls. This generation is looking for solutions at a much earlier time in their lives. They know they’re broken. Thank God for the Gospel because it is mighty to save Gen Z. Share it with them. They’re starving for it, whether or not they know it.

I’m personally encouraged by this generation of students. Even as an adult, I resonate deeply with their views. According to a recent Wall Street Journal survey, 30 percent of Gen Z says, “religion is very important to them,” the lowest in U.S. history. But 78 percent say, “living a self-fulfilled life is very important to them.” This should be extremely eye-opening to us. That’s the threshold to cross in communicating to Gen Z. Help them see that a “fulfilled life” only comes from Someone outside of “self.”

Be sure to check out Shane’s new book
9 Common Lies Christians Believe<https://www.amazon.com/Common-Lies-Christians-Believe-Infinitely/dp/0735291578/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2M8OI57VSZM7P&keywords=9+common+lies+christians+believe&qid=1555301555&s=gateway&sprefix=9+common%2Caps%2C166&sr=8-1>

Shane Pruitt is the National Next Gen Evangelism Director for the NorthAmerican Mission Board (NAMB), and is also the author of the book – 9Common Lies Christians Believe. He and his wife, Kasi, have five childrenand reside outside of Dallas, TX.