What Are the Unique Worldview Challenges of Generation Z? Interview with Dr. Jeff Myers.
As a high school student, I went to a two-week worldview experience in the mountains of Colorado Springs called Summit Ministries. I had no idea what I was getting myself in to. Looking back now, over two decades later, I realize that it was one of the most formative faith experiences of my life.
Although there were probably a couple dozen speakers at Summit (who addressed all sorts of worldview issues related to theology, economics, apologetics, science, and more), my favorite was Dr. Jeff Myers. He has since become a good friend of mine, and he is now the president of Summit Ministries, a vital worldview experience for students. Dr. Myers is a popular speaker, the author of many books (including one of my favorites, Handoff), and is one of the most important contemporary voices in the church.
Dr. Myers was kind enough to answer some of my questions. I hope you enjoy the interview, but most importantly, if you are ages 16-25, please consider attending Summit this upcoming summer. It is a "game-changer" for many students, and I believe it could be for you (or your students) too.
SEAN MCDOWELL: Jeff, what would you say are some unique worldview distinctives of Generation Z?
JEFF MYERS: Recently I asked my three teenage children to add some songs to my playlist for when I go running. They included all kinds of things—the good, the bad, and the ugly. When I was growing up, most songs were “coded” messages about having sex. There are still a lot of songs about sex, but there are even more about living with stress, wanting to feel empowered, and feeling regret. This is a searching generation—wondering whether anyone really loves them and whether anyone would even miss them if they disappeared.
MCDOWELL: What is the most common misunderstanding people often have about this younger generation?
MYERS: The most common misunderstanding is that young adults don’t care about anything besides themselves. I think they do care. Look at the difference of how today’s young adults engage the culture. It’s different from when I was growing up. In my day, popular culture was an escape from reality. A lot of it now is about finding expression—finding songs and movies that help them explain their thoughts and feelings to the world.
MCDOWELL: I have often heard people say that apologetics and worldview training is not critical today? Your thoughts?
MYERS: I think it’s a huge, huge mistake when people say that. Apologetics and worldview training are more important than ever—and students seem to engage with them more than ever. It is different, though. They need to know how their thoughts and feelings fit with how God created reality. They won’t engage unless it affects them personally. They won’t engage unless they can imagine how they can be credible talking with their friends. They won’t engage unless they feel safe—that the adults in their lives really care and won’t be scared off when they hear about what they’re really dealing with. They won’t engage unless they have a chance to talk and ask questions as well as process new information.
MCDOWELL: What are some effective means of teaching worldview?
MYERS: There are two critical factors. At Summit, we imagine these as two strands of a DNA double helix. One strand is truth. The other strand is relationship. Today’s young adults can only embrace truth in the context of relationship. Truth without relationship leads to arrogance. Relationship without truth leads to apathy. The best resources are those that constantly put rungs in the ladder between truth and relationship.
MCDOWELL: What are the most important resources for parents, youth workers, and teachers to help the next generation?
MYERS: Parents, youth workers and teachers are the best resources. Their engagement with one another and with young adults makes the difference. But organizations like Summit are a “Vitamin B12” shot because they give young adults the best chance to meet world-class experts, get answers to their tough questions, and work together with other young adults to knock down the barriers that would stop them from living wholeheartedly for Jesus. We’re seeing amazing, long-lasting results. It’s an investment but it is changing families, churches, and schools.
To register your student for a Summit conference, click here.
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.