Recently a 17-year old student emailed me to share his insights about his generation (known as Generation Z). His name is Paul McGowan, and he is about to launch a podcast on iTunes, YouTube, and Sound Cloud called, "Christ Like on Overdrive" His email was so insightful, I asked him if I could interview him for my blog. And he agreed! Check it out:
SEAN MCDOWELL: What is unique about your generation?
PAUL MCGOWAN: We believe we are more "real" than other generations–more authentic. We don't like things watered down, babied, or too basic. We see ourselves as independent and if you try to be "fake" then we will stop listening to you. Fake means not being yourself. When that happens, we wonder how we can trust you and why we should even listen to you.
MCDOWELL: Why are you so motivated to reach your generation?
MCGOWAN: First, God has put a calling on my heart to reach my generation as one of them. Second, it breaks my heart to see many young people I grew up with walk away from the faith. Third, a student from my high school was killed in a gun fight. It was heartbreaking to see his empty chair in 5th period for so many days. I don't know if he was a Christian, but I did not want anyone else from my class (or generation) to die without knowing the Lord. Finally, I dated someone who was bullied by youth group students. Her experience was so negative in the church, she thought I was going to do the same thing to her. She broke up with me and a few weeks later announced that she is a Lesbian. I don't want Christians to hurt people and I try and pray that I can keep something like that from ever happening again.
MCDOWELL: In terms of faith, what are the biggest questions young people are asking today?
MCGOWAN: Here are the most common questions. But keep in mind, while my generation values being real, we often fear asking these questions because we may be shunned, laughed at, made fun of, or ridiculed by the church. Caring adults must approach students with honest, open, and loving arms.
- Who made God?
- If God is good, why is there so much evil in the world? (Keep in mind, most of us were born after 9/11 and we have grown up with the war on terror)
- How can I be sure I am a Christian?
- How do we know Christianity is true?
- If I don't feel my faith, am I not a Christian?
MCDOWELL: What is one thing you wished older generations understood about yours?
MCGOWAN: The main thing that I wish older generations would understand about mine is that we want our voices heard, understood, and welcomed. This is because we are very, very independent.
MCDOWELL: Is your generation open to faith issues? What have you found to be the best way to engage them?
MCGOWAN: My generation is open to faith issues but on our terms. Let me explain. When I want to have a conversion with a Christian peer, I break the ice with a genuinely curious question such as, "What do you think of that news story?" or "Why do you like that?" These kinds of questions get people talking and open the door for spiritual conversations.
For non-Christian young people, I recommend a few things. First, answer the question behind the question. Ravi Zacharias is amazing at this. Second, use language that is understandable and relatable to students. Third, use modern technology and means of communication, such as meme references (they add humor without distracting the main issues). Fourth, have face to face conversations.
If you care about helping young people develop a Christian worldview, then please check out my recent book (co-written with J. Warner Wallace), So the Next Generation Will Know. It is a practical guide for parents, youth leaders, Christian schoolteacher, and other caring adults who want to pass on their faith to the next generation.