Last weekend, after coming home from a four-day summer camp, we had an emotional roller coaster experience. One of our boys in foster care found out that he would be leaving the house that he was with and going into a different home; they use the word “displaced,” which in itself is just depressing. Watching God move in this ridiculously-moving-only-God-sort-of-way displayed something amazing in the lives of the teenagers and made me really think about this idea of family in the life of Gen-Z.
At that moment, when (let’s call him Jonathan) found out he wouldn’t be going back to his home, he was wrecked, but also at that moment, Jonathan saw that a family surrounded him. He was surrounded by a group of people with whom he had just spent the last four days and had built something remarkable. I think the changing point was when multiple kids rushed back to the church to say goodbye to him and surround him with love, some driving across town to do so.
Family (or Fam), with Gen-Z, gets somewhat of a bad rap. It’s almost taken on a meme culture of its own when we say “what up, fam” or anything along those lines. Like we’re trying to fit in because, for some reason, they are infatuated with this word family. But it really struck home with me this last week. We say home is where the heart is, but there are many broken hearts and broken homes out there. What if Gen-Z really needs to know that regardless of how they feel about their family or lack thereof, they can find family in their brothers and sisters in Christ? What if, as Paul says, we “are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28b), is something that Gen-Z needs to hear more of and understand more of? To know that whatever the word family means to them, in Christ and his Church, it means consistency, it means reliability, it means forgiveness, it means restoration, it means change, it means to hope.
Jonathan has hope now. While he was displaced and is no longer in a stable “home” and his life is somewhat subject to change, he has hope. He has found that hope in the family of Jesus, in his relationships with other believers. As we live to influence Gen-Z, how do we continue to speak of the value of family? Not as some trite phrase we toss around, but in the full expression of God’s love oozing out of us and uniting us in the one who never changes.
Cody is a youth pastor at Alive Church in Tucson, AZ.