How do we engage with young people? It is a question that churches often ask, yet struggle to answer. Why? Because youth today are drastically unlike any other generation before them.
Dubbed “Digital Integrators” and “Cotton Wool Kids”, today’s youth live in a remarkably different world to that of their parents and grandparents. Instead of Elvis, they listen to Ed Sheeran. Instead of learning in structured environments, they are used to student-centric formats. Instead of roller blading around the streets, they walk around shopping centres in skinny jeans.
Put simply, they are different. Therefore, we need to understand who the youth are in order to successfully engage them with Christ. The question we need to be asking is, “who are the youth of 2018?”
Here are three characteristics of youth that I believe will help us gain a betting understanding.
Belonging & Identity | Youth desire affirmation and acceptance. Researcher Philip Hughes notes, “Young people… want to be loved and accepted. Indeed, at the heart of a good life is the desire for friendship. This desire is one of the major social drivers for contemporary culture.” More than previous generations, youth are influenced by their peers. It is within these relationships that youth find their identity, self-worth and sense of belonging. However, at the same time, youth also have an ambition to standout. This desire to emerge (yet belong) and be understood is at the heart of this dynamic age group.
Technology & Connectedness | Researcher Mark McCrindle states that youth “are the most materially endowed, technological saturated, globally connected, formally educated generation our world has ever seen.” As a result, their short attention span (caused by technology) has meant they prefer to research information by watching programs as opposed to reading books. Not only that, but because of their multi-modelled learning style, grabbing their attention requires an engaging and immediately beneficial experience. Because of their technological upbringing (with the internet and social media at their fingertips) youth are more connected to the world than previous generations.
Education & Social Justice | Thanks to advances in technology, youth are being educated in new ways. A shift has occurred in schools from teacher-centred environments to interactive ones. However, there has also been a shift in the home, with parents prioritising excellence in academia and other extra-curricular activities over free time. As a result, youth have a greater sense of social justice and philanthropy, leading them to explore the problems of the world. This generation of digital integrators are not only highly educated, but open-minded, practical and enthusiastic to solve problems they see as important.
It is time for us to get to know our youth. Instead of asking, “how do we engage with them?” First, seek to discover who they are. What interests do they have? How do they think, process and operate? Connect with them, then ask, “in what ways can we engage them for Christ?” Remember, youth want to engage with you. They want to be involved and contribute! So, let’s make space for them and get to know them. Let’s bless them and allow this enthusiastic group to bless us too!