Today is the final week of my Generation Z class. I am not going to lie, the study and preparation for this class has been one of the most formative endeavors I have done in over five years. I am blown away at how quickly culture is changing and it is impossible to keep up. I am not talking about understanding Tik Tok or the millions of different Youtubers out there speaking into our kids’ lives. I am talking about the core of the culture that is unseen, but moving us all whether we are aware of it or not.
(You can take a look at my notes and bibliography here if you want to know what has helped shaped me this last month.) What is incredible is that this is just the tip of the iceberg and we must dive deeply in so we can help navigate our churches and families well in this moment. And even more, have no fear, but be filled with hope because the gospel is good news in every situation, in every culture, in every part of the world, in every time, and that is especially true for us!
With that being said, I wanted to share with you my last piece from this class, some pro tips for parents in helping their kids and their soul navigate these tumultuous waters. Without further ado . . .
THE TOP 10 PRO-TIPS FOR PARENTS WHO ARE RAISING GENERATION Z:
1) Regarding Technology: Its time to turn off the phone, manage your router, leverage apps like “Disney’s Circle” or iOS “Screentime.” You must continue to help them like you did when they were toddlers. All of their life is in the cloud. You will never see it. So, now, more than ever, you must pay attention to their heart and demeanor, not just their grades.
2) Regarding Sexuality: Sexuality is a core part of all of our identities. Our students are just now developing this major part of their life. Do not freak out. It helps to separate out the identity formation part of their sexuality from their actual putting it into practice. ;) All of us must work with all of our might for our kids to not objectify one another or be fine with being objectified.
3) Regarding Spirituality: All of our kids, including our church kids, have a spiritual world view that is very far from orthodoxy. The truth is we work really hard to cram our values down our kids’ throats. We do it with sports, education, recycling. We must do it with our faith. Plus, we have to celebrate that it is our faith that actually gives us the right framework to talk about and tackle all of the issues that matter most to them; environmentalism, sexuality, racism, #metoo, immigration, justice, art, music, and human dignity!
4) Its time to work out your own garbage: You have made plenty of big mistakes throughout your life. Just because you were in idiot in your teens and 20’s doesn’t mean that you can’t call them on their mistakes. Also, you don’t have to share them with your kids. In fact, you shouldn’t. When they grow up and are worthy of your deepest darkest, then you can share with them. And if you are compelled to do so, then do it in a way that frames it through your transformation in Christ. All that’s to say, you are allowed to have convictions and rules around sexual activity, drugs, drinking, and whatever else was part of your past that you would be horrified for them to find out about.
5) We can’t protect kids from mistakes: In fact, we stunt their development if we protect them too much. Kids need to try out their freedom as well as experience the full ramifications of their choices, both good and bad. Failing freshman math is awesome for their development. Try it out. It will actually save them in the long run!
6) Don't forget your own development: Just like this class, it has been a long time since I have taken a fresh look into a new topic and have been willing to grow and change. We must always have a posture of learning and development. This has to be true for our skills as parents, but must be even more true in our posture towards God. We must be life long learners about the most important parts of our lives, our kids and our faith!
7) Parent in such a way that you can have influence in their lives from age 25-50: So many parents, and, if I’m honest, us church professionals, parent like age 18 is the end. 18 is halfway through adolescence these days. Don’t burn bridges or fire bomb everything in order to protect them from something you can’t protect them from anyway. Play the long game. Parent in a way that you can be connected with them and influence them for the long haul. (Not just these few years of total chaos )
8) Be fascinated with the unique people your kids are becoming, not the behaviors you are trying to train: Your kids are incredible human beings. They are not you, they have agency, unique gifts, perspectives, and temperaments. Quit trying to make them like you. Use your wisdom and perspective to develop and draw out the best of who God made them to be!
9) Relax, your kids will end up just like you: At the end of the day, your kids' will 90% mirror your values in adulthood. So what are your true values? Not your stated ones? Fear, shame, performance, education, right behaviors? Or, life long learning and pursuing of Jesus, humility, service, worship, etc.
10) You have all the power so leverage it to always work to be in a relationship with your kids: One of my heroes, Reggie Joiner wrote about this in his book, Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. I high recommend the entire book. But this one idea has shaped my parenting for years now. It is funny how we always feel like the other person has power. And it is true, our kids have so much power. But we have the most and must use it well.
Ok, that is it. That is the sum total of all I have to offer. Good luck parenting, good luck youth ministering, good luck in all things! May God truly bless you and your family as we seek to love our kids (in the broadest sense of the word) love them right into the Kingdom of God!