Listen to Them First

As a father, I observed and studied my children to learn how they hear, so I might understand how they are wired and know how to communicate with them best. I observe my own grandchildren in a similar way, which is joyous, and informs me how to fulfil my role with them.

After Baby Boomers came along, the GenXers, Millennials, and Generation Z followed. I was present as they came on the scene, watched them grow up as technology changed rapidly. Many of us, caring for them, ask similar questions: “how do they hear, and how are they wired?” Understanding these may help us to know how to interact with, to impart what we can, and to serve as they rise, take their places and we depart. We also must ask: what has changed, and how do we adapt to these changes?

Gabriel McCurtis, holding doctorates in education and strategic leadership, was a fountain of information for my questions. He observed this era is not modern, this is post-modern. They are skeptical and reject the absolute truths and certainties of their predecessors. They like to experience things, are non-traditional, see themselves as non-judgmental and freely question the status-quo. Why is it I can’t get high and study the Bible? Why? Can I mix Islam with Buddhism with Jesus…and get high? Can I bring my lesbian girlfriend to Bible study? It is not that they don’t come to truth, they just get there another way. GenXers, Millennials and Zs, they want to know you care. They want the basic respect of being heard before they will listen. Perhaps relationship will follow.

“We are feeding them a diet they don’t want,” Dr. McCurtis said. “We must reassess, because we need a new paradigm. Past methods no longer apply. Creating an environment where these may receive from God is a challenge that guides the paradigm.” He referenced Chuck Smith, who founded Calvary Chapel and was early at the heart of the Jesus Movement. By letting hippies and anyone else come, whatever state they were in, an environment was created in which light could enter.

As to resources, Brandon Johnson, Youth Pastor of Agape Worship Center in Rahway, NJ, suggests these publications: Engaging Generation Z, Gen Z Explained, and GenZ Volumes 1 and 2. He says these “are beneficial to developing strategies that speak their language and guide them into deep rooted relationship with God. However, Gen Z doesn’t want your strategy—they want to be able to count on you. Things will always evolve. What’s current today will be obsolete in three months. The strongest method any leader can possess during rapid tech change and short attention span is consistency. Find what you are great at and do that to the best of your ability, consistently. (Connect Groups, Book Clubs, Social Media, Video Games, etc.)”

Consistency keeps popping up. It can’t be wrong when they do it, but OK when we do it. And they’re watching. We must consistently use the same measure, the same rule. Care keeps popping up. We must care for them; and care enough to step out of our comfort zones to learn new things. People feel safer when they know you love them.

In a way, this is like the rockets we’ve sent into space to accomplish various missions. The first stage blasts off and soon falls away as booster rockets kick in and eventually also give way as they get the capsule or shuttle or equipment on to its mission. GenXers, Millennials and Zs are already taking their places. We must not fall away until our part of the mission is done.

Catching nothing all day, frustrated fishermen should look over at the nearby boat that’s doing well. “How ya doing? What fish are biting? What bait are you using? What line?” Go try that. Listen to them first. Don’t be the fisherman who quit too early.

By Frank Robinson

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