This week I did a webinar for Ozark Christian College titled “raising iGen.” As the father of two, young iGen’ers and as a professor who teaches at a school now filled not with Millennials (ew…old people), but with iGen’ers, I’ve become very interested in understanding how to best communicate with and minister to this new generation.
I should state up front, that I’m still in the process of learning myself. I would never claim to be an expert, but I’m learning some things that I thought would be useful to pass along. There has been a lot written already about this generation. Several resources have shaped my early understanding of iGen. I reference them in the video below, but I’ll also list them here:
iGen by Jean Twenge
The Coddling of the American Mind by Lukianoff and Haidt
Gen Z: The Culture, Beliefs, and Motivations Shaping the Next Generation by Barna Research
Meet Generation Z by James Emery White
I also want to say two things that didn’t necessarily come through very well in the webinar. First, I love iGen. I never really liked the cheap shots that older people took at Millennials. Yes, some of the jokes were funny and many of the stereotypes were true, but there is a tendency for older generations to focus only on the negatives of the younger generation without being willing to see the positives. (Believe me, as a GenXer we heard all about our grungy cynicism from the Boomers whom I’m sure were also chastised by their parents for never winning a World War.) The truth is that there are both positive and negative characteristics of each generation. We can choose to either whine about the negatives, or we can get about the business of figuring out what we can do to help this generation flourish. There is also the tendency among those who are older to forget that children don’t get to choose their culture or the way they were raised. Older generations should acknowledge that at least a part of the reason why “kids these days” are the way they are is because we raised them to be that way.
Second, I got some really good questions in the webinar which I tried my best to answer. Many of the questions where of a specific, practical nature. Questions like “What specific things can youth ministers be doing to reach this generation?” “How can churches decide how to use technology in appropriate ways?” I appreciated these questions, but I fell short on the answers mostly because I’m still in the process of trying to figure these things out myself. I also think that we should avoid the tendency to think we can solve issues like these simply by implementing a 5-step program. There are undoubtedly principles that we should be implementing, but raising iGen (or any generation) requires wisdom. And wisdom can’t always be programmed. Among other things, wisdom requires patience, discernment, listening, and a good amount of trial and error. The important starting point, however, is thoughtfulness – to think carefully about what we’re doing and why. The power of culture is in what it normalizes so that we no longer even think about it. As we are raising, ministering to, and partnering with this generation, we must work against this trend (especially when it comes to technology) and begin thinking more seriously about the unique struggles and opportunities of this generation.
Here is the link to the webinar: https://vimeo.com/307358926
If you just want to see the PowerPoint, here is a link to that: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-4wuwbniGkzylQdIglFR2WFi7Sywpr28/view?usp=sharing
Lastly, I’m really proud of what Ozark is doing with our Next Level program. We have produced a ton of great video content on various topics in addition to hosting these webinars. Check out all of our Next Level videos for FREE here: https://occ.edu/series/