Just like its predecessors, the young generation is reevaluating the beliefs of those who came before it and trying to redefine themselves. A study by Reboot (a Jewish group that is examining generational issues) “OMG! How Generation Y is Redefining Faith in the iPod Era,” was released recently in a press conference at the Brookings Institution. The study is based on a survey last year of 1,385 persons ages 18 to 25. See a summary of the results and info on the Brookings Institute event.
The Washington Times had a good article on the survey. The Reboot study found that 23 percent of Generation Y, like Generation X, do not identify with a religious denomination or don’t believe in God. This is more than twice the number of nonbelievers among baby boomers, or those born between 1946 and 1965. (Generation Y was born between 1980 and 2000; Generation X between 1966 and 1979.)
It should be really no surprise that this is happening – the endless barrage of the mass media and the competition between widely varying worldviews provides too much distraction from Biblical truth. But that does not mean that the Gen Y/Xer’s aren’t interested in spritual things – they just want relevance to their lives and don’t find it at church.
The Apostle Paul warns that this will happen in ALL generations. In 1 Timothy 4:3-4 he writes: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
What is the a solution? Again, the Apostle Paul says the key is to communicate God’s truth in a relevant manner. First, he says to keep communicating “in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourageâ€“with great patience and careful instruction.” (1 Tim. 4:2). Second, he says to do in a way relevant to the cultural context: “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Cor. 9:19-22)
If we can keep these two things in mind then I believe that it is possible to communicate biblical truth to Generation X, Y, or Z. The problem we have is not with youth – it is that older Christians find it difficult to be open to change. Only if we are willing to give up the things that make us comfortable will we be able to bridge the generations to communicate God’s timeless truth.
Roger Bennett, co-founder of Reboot, says that this generation is “bringing [media] industries to their knees” by embracing IPod, TiVo and other technologies that allow unprecedented consumer choice. Choice is the key – we can’t expect young people raised on computer games to sit still and accept what they hear in a sermon when they are used to interaction. Small groups that allow discussion, welcome honest questions, and exhibit genuine care may be better than a “mega-chuch” worship service.