When it comes to youth trends, we can become overwhelmed trying to keep up or get ahead of what’s coming. So what can we do when trends seem to be nothing more than moving targets? Some of us keep trying to hit the target and miss miserably. Others stop trying to hit the mark all together assuming that we can never help the next generation because we can’t relate. Here are eight trends that, if practiced, will help us hit future targets more often.
- Students are craving simplicity. Simplicity in their everyday life that transfers to their faith and church engagement. Short, simple bite-size experiences will be essential. Crusades and large gatherings will be obsolete. They might happen organically, but if they are over-programmed or have a hard agenda attached to them, they will not work.
- Personal > Performance. Worship is more engaging (in person or on video) when it’s real and personal. Overly emotional responses to worship are looked at as fabricated. It doesn’t matter if the transitions are smooth or even if the band sounds good; if there is a personal genuineness, no matter the visuals, it will trump any feelings they might experience. Artistic expression is important, but it should not be the main course, it’s the garnish.
- Youth want a real look behind the “curtain.” They want adults to talk to them like real human beings, inviting them into the mess of adulthood. They want a seat at the table knowing they aren’t ready to eat the food yet.
- Youth don’t want answers. They want questions. Many adults don’t trust that youth can make educated decisions so we give answers rather than asking good questions. Questions give students room to intentionally wonder knowing that they can eventually find the answer. The art of asking questions will be key in leading the next generation.
- Justice is a top priority. Students see adults as self serving more than community serving and they desire to see that change. Students have the energy and the tools to upset the status quo. They are ready to push back in a big way if it means real true change can happen. The problem is that they want to care for the world but don’t know how to care for the person in front of them.
- Empathetic inclusion must be a norm. This will cause us to rethink our approach to how we communicate the love and truth of Jesus. Jesus himself loved people well and at the same time led them with truth. We must learn how to love first and lead second but always do both.
- Current Church buildings are looked at like a school. There is information there that can be helpful, but students still don’t necessarily want to go there. Many students learn more while gathering with friends at their local In & Out. Could the local church go to the local In & Out? Can we practically facilitate spiritual conversations that create momentum amongst a group of youth and their friends on their turf, at the local In & Out or another community hotspot? After all, the church is not a building that you come and sit in, it’s a movement that you choose to be a part of.
- Jesus and life skills. Does Jesus just help me be a good person or can Jesus change the way I live my life? Can we help the next generation see that Jesus cares about all areas of their life, not just the “big” ones. Bridge groups will be a golden nugget for students.
Bridge groups are specialized groups that teach us life skills around faith based discussions. What does the Bible say about money, politics, careers, sex, addiction, and homework. They want practical life skills and they desire to do it in a morally acceptable way. If we can connect the dots of Jesus and life skills it will make faith attractive and real.
These trends can help us as parents, teachers, and youth workers better hit the “target” for the next generation.
Ronnie Bunton is a Youth Pastor at Sun Valley Community Church in Arizona.