There is another generation coming behind us. If we don't want to see the next generation drop the faith baton, then we must make sure we are handing it off properly.
Do you like watching the relay races during the Olympics? One of the keys to winning the race is the baton hand off. The runners have a short window of time to pass the baton to the next runner.
The next generation has had several labels placed upon them, but the most popular is Gen Z. There are over 73 million Gen Z kids in America and over 2 billion world-wide. The age range varies from study to study, but the most common age range has Gen Z as people born between 1996-2010.
The generation that will follow Gen Z has been named the Alpha Generation. The Alpha Generation is comprised of children born from 2010 and counting. Since it’s very early on for the Alpha Generation, let's talk exclusively about Gen Z today.
WE MUST LEAD WELL BY HELPING GEN Z KNOW JESUS.
Last weekend, I was consulting with a church and after the service, we went to a pizza place, where you make your own pizza. Everyone went down the “assembly line” and picked out the items they wanted on their pizza. Different kinds of sauces. Meat or no meat? What kind of meat? Different kinds of cheese. Lots of other choices when it came to toppings. The end result? Everyone had their own personal, unique pizza that they had formed from their own tastes.
It’s a great idea when you’re making a pizza, but it’s not a great idea when it comes to a person’s view of God.
A recent report from Pew Research found that 80% of Americans say they believe in God. But...for many in that group...it’s a “god” they have formed using their own preferences. The “god’ they believe in is not the God of the Bible. According to the report, only 56% believe in God as described in the Bible.
As the next generation grows up, there is a danger that they are being led down a path that says “God is whoever you want Him to be for you.” You also see this in more and more people choosing which parts of the Bible they want to believe and not believe. For many, if their lifestyle does not line up with God’s Word, rather than changing their lifestyle, they ignore or explain away that part of God’s Word.
The end result is we are teaching the next generation, by example, that they can go down the “God assembly line” and choose whatever they want His attributes and commandments to be. In other words, they can “build their own God.”
Down the assembly line they go. Don’t want God to bring judgment? Fine. Just leave that off. Want there to be many ways to heaven? Fine. Add that to your view of God. Don’t want God telling you to be part of a local church? No problem. Just leave that off. Only want a God of 6 commandments? That’s okay if it works for you. You get the point.
More than ever, we must teach kids a Biblical view of God. In a “make your own version of God culture,” we must help them see that our morality must come from God rather than making a god, based on our own morals and lifestyle choices.
We must help the next generation understand that our view of God must be grounded in the Scriptures and the scriptures alone. The next generation is under tremendous pressure to forsake the God of the Bible and embrace a false god of their own making. It’s a replay of the children of Israel forming their own god out of a golden calf. Which God wasn’t very happy about, by the way.
May we take kids back to the true nature and attributes of God. When they see who God really is, they will have to make a choice. Surrender and worship Him with their lives or turn to a false god of their own making.
Rather than just helping kids know about God, we must help them know God. There’s a big difference.
I can say I know about Lebron James. But I don’t know Lebron James personally. See the difference? So, how can we help children move beyond just knowing about God to really knowing God? The first step is to help kids understand what it means to become a follower of Jesus. They must understand what sin is and that they have sinned. They must understand next that there is a penalty for sin. If we do not accept Jesus into our lives, we will be separated from God when we die.
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23
Next, kids must understand that Jesus came to the earth, lived a perfect life, died on the cross in our place, was buried and three days later rose from the dead.
“But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
Then kids must understand that beginning a relationship with Jesus is like a free gift. You can’t work for it or earn it. You receive it by calling on Jesus in prayer and asking Him to be three things in your life.
“Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
The first thing is asking Him to be their FORGIVER. This means you are sorry for your sins and you ask Jesus to forgive you. You trust Him and Him alone as your way to heaven.
“He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.” Ephesians 1:7
Secondly, we must ask Jesus to be our LEADER. This means you ask Jesus to be your “Lord.” You are asking Jesus to be in charge of your life. He is your “boss” or “coach.” This doesn’t mean you will be perfect, but it does mean you will do your best to follow Him and when you blow it, you ask for His forgiveness.
“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9
Thirdly, we must ask Jesus to be our FRIEND. This means you are entering a relationship with Him. You spend time talking with Him each day. You read his “text message” (the Bible) each day. Before you make a decision, you talk with Him about it.
“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24
We must get there quickly. We only have a short window of time to reach children before they grow up. And we know once a child is grown up, the likelihood that they will come to Jesus is very slim. I am reminded of this each time I see wet cement. The statement that comes to my mind is, “Children are like wet cement.” Think about it -when wet cement is first poured, it is flexible and can be written on, molded and crafted. But soon it becomes concrete, doesn’t it? It gets hard. It gets set. And you know how hard it is to write on or shape concrete. See the difference?
A recent study was released that says 13% of Gen Z are atheists. This means there are twice as many children who are atheists compared to adult atheists (6%). The window of time is short. We must reach the next generation with the Gospel. We must get there before their hearts turn to concrete. I am reminded of this quote by George Barna.
“In the race to a child’s heart, the first one there wins.”
If we can get there first and share the Gospel with them, we can reach them. Let’s get there with God’s way of forgiveness, His wisdom and His Word. We must reach the next generation while we can. The clock is ticking. Can you hear it?
This is an excerpt from my new book "Lead Well in Children's Ministry." It is available for purchase at this link.