Why do 13% of Gen Z kids say they are atheists?
Why do 37% of Gen Z kids say you can't know for sure if God is real?
Why do 58% of Gen Z kids say there is more than one way to God?
Why did 78% of nones (those who claim no religion) grow up in church?
Why do so many kids get to college and walk away from the faith?
All of this points to one burning question that they church must face.
Why does the next generation not know that Christianity is true?
Which leads to the answer that the church must face.
The next generation doesn't know Christianity is true, because we haven't been showing them that Christianity is true.
Gen Z may not always know how to verbalize it or even have the courage to say it. But internally, they desperately want you to show them evidence that what you are telling them about Christianity is true.
46% of Gen Z kids say they need factual evidence to support their beliefs.
49% of Gen Z kids say the church seems to reject much of what science tells us about the world.
27% of Gen Z kids say the church is not a safe place to express doubts.
24% of Gen Z kids say the teaching they are exposed to is shallow.
If the church wants to reach the next generation...if the church wants to stop the exodus of kids walking away from the faith...if the church wants to see kids have a faith that can withstand the reasoning of agnostics and atheists...then we must show them the factual foundation that the faith is built upon.
The Bible is very clear about this.
But in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.
-I Peter 3:15
We cannot leave kids spiritually defenseless and then just hope they will grow up to follow Jesus.
Teaching kids to be "kind to each other" is a good thing, but it won't equip kids to know why they believe Jesus is the Son of God.
Teaching kids to "be responsible" is a good thing, but it won't equip kids to be able to articulate the proof of Jesus' resurrection.
Teaching kids to "be fair with others" is a noble undertaking, but it won't equip them to answer questions like "How can a fair God allow innocent children to starve?"
Helping kids memorize the books of the Bible is great, but it won't equip them to defend why they believe those books are true.
Showing kids the 10 commandments is important, but it won't equip them to defend why they believe there is a God who gave us the 10 commandments.
I'm afraid, in many cases, we are spending the little time we have on Sundays, teaching kids general character traits that they already hear at school and other places like the boy scouts. Character traits that are not going to sustain their faith when it is attacked. "Treating your neighbor right" is not going to sustain a child's faith one day when he or she is hearing a professor say that it's ludicrous to believe God created the world based on scientific evidence.
Yes, it's important to teach kids things like the fruits of the Spirit. But we must also help them put on the "whole armor" of God, so they can withstand the attacks of the enemy. If we don't give them the shield of faith...a solid, grounded, doctrine infused faith...how will they withstand the attacks?
Couple shallow teaching and the church attendance patterns of today's families and the result is Gen Z having a very weak faith that tumbles when questioned at a deeper level.
I hear something blowing in the wind. It's the words "It's the parent's job to teach their children these things." Yes...that is true. But it is also the church's job to teach children how to be able to do I Peter 3:15. In fact, it's the church's job to teach parents how to teach their children to be able to live out 1 Peter 3:15.
Whether it's teaching children or it's teaching parents how to teach their children, it's the church's responsibility to disciple and equip believers.
I'm afraid, we've gotten so caught up with "family ministry" that at times, we've lost sight of the role of the church in teaching and equipping. You see, parents can't teach their children how to defend their faith, if they don't first know how to defend the faith themselves.
Many of the young, Millennial parents we are asking to lead their children spiritually, were raised on the shallow teaching that we fed them and so they don't have the knowledge to equip their own children about what we believe. If we are really serious about family ministry, then I believe it's time we start equipping parents to be able to defend their faith, so they in return, can teach their children how to defend their faith.
There is something else blowing in the wind. The tune is "It's all about relationships." This tune says if a child has someone at church who knows their name and cares about them, they will grow up to follow Jesus for a lifetime.
That's true...but not completely true. A child can have great relationships growing up in church, but those relationships will probably not be there when they are sitting in a college classroom one day, hearing about why the Bible is not true and evolution is. Those relationships will not be there one day, when they are in a dorm room, being asked the hard questions. Those relationships will not be there one day, when they decide to watch a YouTube video from an intellectually smooth atheist.
It takes providing kids with meaningful relationships and rationale if they are going to follow Jesus for a lifetime. It's like an airplane. Takes both wings to fly. I'm afraid at times, we've gotten so focused on the relational aspect that we've neglected to show them why it's rational to believe you can have a relationship with Jesus.
Can you hear this blowing in the wind as well? The thought pattern that says we live by faith, so there's no need to examine the evidence. Or that faith is necessary to fill the gaps when there is lack of tangible evidence.
Hebrews 11:1 is often used to justify this way of thinking. It says "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
But if you look closer, the word "substance" means "a substructure or foundation." The word "evidence" means "a proof or by which a thing is proved or tested." Our faith should not be a blind faith, but a faith that is based on a tested foundation.
The Hebrews 11 passage is very relevant in this discussion. It is in the context of the origin of the universe. Verse 3 says, "through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."
A solid Biblical foundation emerges from observation and working through all available evidence and facts. Gen Z is growing up in a post-Christian culture. We cannot assume they will believe the Bible just because we tell them to. We must take them back to the basics and show them why those basics are trustworthy.
And here's the good news. If we take time to help kids weigh the evidence, it will point them to the fact that there is a Creator.
The complex design of our universe, the intricacies of the human body, the position of the earth to the sun and a vast array of other evidence points to the fact that God is real and the Bible is true. Instead of having kids just take our word for it, we have to be more strategic in letting kids examine the evidence for themselves.
We've been on a downward faith slide for decades in our country. With each new generation, we are seeing more and more people say they have no religion. With each new generation, we are seeing more kids grow up and walk away from their faith. What we're doing is simply not working. It's time for a wake up call.
This is not about HOW we teach. This is not about methods or styles of ministry. Read my articles and you'll quickly see I'm all about kids having fun at church, kids having deep relational connections and parents leading their children spiritually.
This is about WHAT we are teaching kids. This is about WHAT we are equipping parents to teach their children.
Our job as Christian leaders and parents is to give kids the tools they need to build a faith that will last. What tools are we placing in their spiritual tool boxes? They need those tools now and believe me...even more later in life, as their faith is tested.
We only have a short window of time to help kids get a solid faith foundation. We only have a short window of time to give parents the tools they need to provide their children with a faith that can withstand attack.
What will you do with this window of time? How about...
Helping kids see for themselves the evidence for why we believe God created the earth.
Helping kids grapple with the evidence of Jesus' resurrection.
Letting kids walk through the historical evidence for the Bible being God's Word.
Equipping parents to show their children why Jesus' claim to be the only way to God is true.
Allowing kids to face the hard questions and work through them now, so they can get faith-sustaining answers.
Think about it.
Change what you are teaching if needed.
Evaluate what you are placing in the hands of parents to equip their children.
Jude 1:3 says this.
"Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to His holy people."
Gen Z can't defend the faith if they don't know the doctrines and tenets of the faith. Gen Z can't defend the faith if they don't know why those doctrines and tenets are true.
And you will notice that it says "the" faith. Gen Z is immersed in a culture that elevates tolerance to a level that says "all faiths lead to the same place and if you say otherwise, you are an intolerant bigot."
The faith we are called to teach Gen Z says there is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ. We must equip Gen Z to be able to defend this faith. For many churches, this is only going to happen if they change the scope and sequence of what they are teaching Gen Z and their parents.
If Gen Z and the generations to follow are going to know and believe that Christianity is true, it will be because you and I shared with them WHY it is true.
If you are looking for resources to help teach Gen Z why we can know the Bible is true, then the Prankster series is just what you need. It takes kids on a deep dive into why the Bible is the Word of God and why you can trust it. You can see more at this link.
If you are looking for a resource to help kids examine the evidence of Jesus' resurrection, then the CSI (Christ Scene Investigation) lesson is a great tool. You can get more info. at this link.