What if the next sustained culture-shifting move of God or nation-spreading revival wasn’t birthed in a conference or a stadium? What if it came through screens to millions in Generation Z? You don’t have to love social media, but perhaps you should have an appreciation for it.
Lately, I’ve been reflecting on Matthew 9. After a series of miracles and preaching the good news throughout Israel, Jesus sees the crowds and has compassion for the un-shepherded. He then turns to His disciples and says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few…” (Matthew 9:37, ESV).
What if the next revival wasn’t birthed in a conference or a stadium?
Today’s “next” generation has easy access to one of the most effective evangelism tools today: a smartphone. However, are they missing out on the greatest discipleship opportunity available—your leadership?
You may be wondering if social media is a necessary evil and whether it will compromise your integrity and boundaries. I share your concerns about online dangers, such as the effects on mental health, deceptive content, and divisive agendas. I also know as a leader, you have many facets to consider, so what about the next gen in your church?
98% of Gen Z owns a smartphone and spends more than four hours online daily.
The Global Web Index shows that 98% of Gen Z owns a smartphone and spends more than four hours online daily. Since practically the cradle, they have been connected, and most won’t disconnect anytime soon. There are many perspectives and opinions on the ethics and use of social media with an audience this large. Like many things in our culture, social media is a nuanced subject for a Christ-follower. However, if you remember anything here today, let it be this: you do not have to fear social media.
Whether you’re an active social media user or not, I want to affirm that there are tremendous opportunities to disciple the next generation on or off social platforms. You have a significant role and already have the necessary tools. Here are a few practical reminders to help.
1. Social media is not to be conquered or controlled (but it can be carefully curated and cultivated for redemption).
Big tech never had the Christian Church in mind. Brilliant data scientists design social media platforms to keep consumers continually on their platform and serve them as many ads as possible. The content that keeps people the longest is typically shocking, disturbing, polarizing, or depressing. It’s rarely good news, and it would be very difficult to conquer that content volume. However, before you ditch social media, please know that the Good News is preached every day online, testimonies are abounding, and people’s lives are transformed.
2. The best content creators for the Church are in your church.
As I’ve spent more and more time alongside Gen Z, I’ve quickly admired how entrepreneurial and business-savvy they are. They are researchers, investors, risk-takers, innovators, multi-talented, and brilliantly innovative. They have the heart to see their local communities transformed as well as across the globe. No challenge is too big for them because they can crowdfund, crowdsource, rally, and assemble. Doesn’t this sound similar to the early Church?
Older generations may feel uneasy with Gen Z and internet efforts. Instead of responding with fear, what if we institute the proper discipleship pathways for these passionate digital evangelists, mentor them, and commission them with our support? What if we invite this next generation to the table and empower them with opportunities to leverage (not prostitute) their God-given passions and gifts? I don’t think a single pastor or leader out there would reject an opportunity for healthy, whole, and holy people to tell more people about Jesus. So why would we inhibit this next generation’s ability to use a tool like social media to do that very thing?
3. You don’t have to be an “influencer” to disciple one.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to accustom yourself to the subculture of fancy sneakers, designer clothes, and brand deals just because they do. Gen Z can see inauthenticity miles away. As they pursue growing an online audience, seek to be a consistent, safe place for them to turn to when they receive hate comments, make mistakes, and when the pressures become too much. What this generation yearns for is reliability over relatability.
4. Be confident that your life experience will not be irrelevant.
There’s a reason why Gen Z departed from clean filtered feeds and has adopted the photo dump (sharing a series of unedited, raw, authentic parts of their day). They want to be immersed in the present. Therefore, you have much to offer that might not fit the typical trends of social media.
You have the wisdom and experience. While the young go fast and hard, teach them low and slow. Teach them about dating and marriage, experiencing loss, and facing failure; about the importance of biblical understanding, generosity, rest, purity, and having integrity. When the world demands to stay logged in, you can help them put down their screens and enjoy the art of human connection. The values they learn under your mentorship will slowly translate into the content they create online, which can impact millions more than we can even imagine.
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
Even though everyone is not assigned to the same harvest, your partnership with the next generation is pivotal to seeing the social media landscape transformed across the world in Jesus’ name. So, let’s step up, link arms, and watch God do amazing work.