Last year a survey was done about loneliness. Over 20,000 people were asked how often they feel lonely or left out.
Gen Z young adults and their Millennial parents rated themselves the highest on feeling lonely.
How could this be true of Gen Z? They are more "connected" than any previous generation.
With technology, they are constantly making connections through text messages, Instagram posts, Facebook friends, Snapchat pictures, etc.
While technology is amazing and brings great benefits with it, I believe this report solidifies the fact that nothing can take the place of in person, face-to-face relationships. The truth is you can have thousands of "friends" online and still feel lonely.
Why? Because we are wired to have relationships. Especially as believers. We weren't meant to walk the Christian journey alone. We need people around us that can hold us accountable, encourage us, pray with us, share our burdens and grow in faith together.
I believe this is why every Gen Z child and student must establish personal relationships with those who are also on a faith journey.
Small groups matter. In fact, I would go as far as saying, you, I and Gen Z must be in community if we are going to have a strong faith.
This why the Bible tells us in Hebrews not to "forsake the assembly of yourselves together." Isolation leads to loneliness. Isolation leads to discouragement. Isolation leads to not having anyone to hold us accountable. Isolation hinders our spiritual growth.
One of the most important things we can do as leaders, is help the next generation get connected. I believe more than ever that small groups are a must if we want to see Gen Z connected. When they come to church, they should know that there is a small group of people that cares about them, knows them personally and helps them walk with Jesus.
Of course, we know as believers we are never really alone. Jesus said He will never leave us or forsake us. And we can spend time with Him each day. But I believe Jesus also works through other believers to help us on our spiritual journey.
Every child or student who walks in the doors of your church should have someone speak their name, look them in the eyes and encourage them on their journey. Every time they are at church they should have the opportunity to share prayer needs. And every time they are at church they should have someone who prays with them.
I am thankful for online church services. It is used by God each week to minister to countless of people who otherwise wouldn't be able to participate in a worship service. That being said, I believe online church shouldn't become a substitute for being at church in person. There's nothing like being in the house of God or at a Bible study that's in person.
We live in a time of virtual relationships. And there's nothing wrong with that. Just this week through Facebook, I was able to connect with a friend whom I hadn't had contact with in 30 years. The person was able to find me through Facebook and now we are catching up on old times through online messaging.
But what is cooler than that is this weekend my wife and I are flying to Orlando to spend time with the family in person. The connection we will re-establish through face-to-face interaction will be much more effective than chatting online.
Each week Gen Z kids, students and young adults walk into the doors of our churches. Some of them will slip into the worship service and as soon as it is over, bolt for the exit door. Attending a worship service alone is okay, but attending and getting connected to a smaller group of people is how they will grow spiritually.
I want to encourage you this weekend to be on the lookout for kids, students and young adults who appear to be lonely. You know, the kid that sits in the back row by himself or herself. The person who is playing with their cell phone because no one is connecting with him or her. Be intentional about sitting down with that person. Ask them about their life. Find out what he or she likes to do for fun. Invite them to be part of your small group or Bible study.
Kids that grow up lonely in church are much more likely to drop out as soon as they can. But kids who are personally connected with other kids and caring leaders, will grow in their faith and stick with it.
Perhaps even as you are reading this, you feel lonely. Isolated. No one you can share your prayer requests with. No one that is encouraging you. No one who knows when you are absent and checks up on you. Take the initiative and find a small group of people you can get involved with. Yes, Jesus is with you and a big way He is going to manifest that is through people He brings into your life. People you are connected with at a deeper level.
And then there's the leader factor. You've heard the saying "It's lonely at the top." When you are leading a ministry, it can be more difficult to make connections. But it is important to establish close friendships. It may even be with someone in another city that you talk to on the phone each week. Whoever and however, get connected and stay connected. You need that as a leader.
You don't have to be lonely. The kids you minister to don't have to be lonely. The people you serve with don't have to be lonely.
Have you seen loneliness in any of the kids you minister to? Or the leaders you serve with?
What are some things you do to establish and maintain close relationships? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.
p.s. I have a volunteer training called "Connections." It gives leaders the tools they need to connect with kids and each other. It's available at this link.