In a recent blog, Dr. Tim Elmore discussed some of the challenges faced by Generation Z (Gen Z). As you shepherd your children and as we lead our students, we need to be cognizant of these challenges and know how to respond.
Dr. Elmore reports that “According to a study from the Barna Group, over half the members of Generation Z (56 percent) say they “tend to expect the worst to happen.” Wow! I suppose when I reflect on what the last two years brought the world, I can see why they might be a bit negative, even cynical. The pandemic stole our health, our jobs, our certainty about tomorrow, and our peace of mind. It also postponed all future plans”. But imagine if Gen Z were to maintain this state of mind (I expect the worst to happen).
In his book Marching Off the Map, Dr. Elmore introduces some of the mindsets that Gen Z brings to your home and our school. He makes a case for how Gen Z needs us to encourage them, help them trust others, nudge them to take risks, and to offer some hope. Note some challenging mindsets of Gen Z.
I expect the worst to happen. I am a victim of people and events around me (I’m bullied, I’m not good enough for school, athletics, friends…) I am cautious about my future. I am pragmatic. I prefer working alone. I am hacking my education. I feel savvy. I want my posts to vanish.
This doesn’t mean your child or our students will automatically think this way. But the mindset does reflect our culture today. It’s the soundtrack playing behind the story of Gen Z’s life right now. And we must combat it. When young people endure a disruption, as we’ve experienced over the last two years, they need caring parents, teachers, coaches, and leaders to step up and offer some guidance they likely do not possess. There are three recommendations for what to do to lead young people. What can we give to Gen Z?
Context These students have no context for these strange times. For that matter, many of us don’t either. They need their leaders to offer some perspective. Let’s remind them this was the fourth major pandemic our world had faced over the last 100 years. Let’s share what each generation did to make it through and grow stronger. Talk about the grit, resilience, and persistence they need to embrace to grow stronger from this season in their lives. Teen minds can flood easily when they feel overwhelmed and have to face a world they are not prepared for. We need to help them through this time as best we can.
Applications Students who are anxious or overwhelmed can become emotionally stuck. In fact, they can feel paralyzed. Parents, teachers, coaches, and leaders can offer the gift of clear action steps for them to take.
1. Anchor their value and identity on how God sees them. a. Created in His image (Gen. 1:27) b. Loved unconditionally (John 3:16) 2. Focus on their place in God’s plan. a. He is their rock, fortress, and help in time of need. (Psalm 18:2) b. God placed them on this earth at this time in history to Make Him Known. (Phil. 2:4) 3. Determine to be a contributor in the community to which they belong and not just a consumer. (Phil. 2:4) Even though we can’t predict what they’ll need to do a year from now, we can clarify what they should do right now.
Belief This final gift we must furnish Gen Z members with is how to look at their futures. We must give their minds context. We must give their hands and feet applications. But we must give their hearts belief first in who God is (Matt. 16:13-17) and then in how God can strengthen them for the challenge (Isaiah 40:29-31). I have said over the past two years that teens need us to communicate that we believe they’ll make it through this tough time and be stronger for it. No doubt, we must be honest and genuine in our communication, but they need us to sincerely express our belief in them and their potential after graduation. This refuels them emotionally.
I wish you could have been with my wife and I when we went to a family reunion in June. We got to hear my grandniece share in her church about a program she was launching at her high school. She is effusive with energy, vision, and faith and is not afraid to challenge stereotypes and help teens girls who usually feel like victims of their circumstances (i.e. I’ve been bullied. I’m overweight. I’m not beautiful. I’m not smart.) to be victors, not victims. I believe that with appropriate guidance from parents, teachers, coaches, and leaders, Gen Z may enter adulthood with more grit and resilience than previous generations because of this challenging time. Let’s work toward that outcome, mainly because right now, they tend to expect the worst to happen.