Back in 1967, Louis Armstrong recorded a single that most of us will be familiar with. He sang that babies would learn more than he ever would ever know, but some of us might not be so sure about his idea that the world is "wonderful." It seems like we are living at a time of ever increasing struggle and pain.
Our youngest daughter attends a Christian university and is a Gen Z (1995 and 2012). She regularly shares stories of the struggles that are all too common amongst her fellow students – stories of struggle, anxiety, self-harm and thoughts of suicide. So many stories. When speaking with her, I asked her “why so many?” Why did she think so many of her friends were struggling? Her answer was, “Mom, look at the world we are growing up in.”
She had a good point. Never have so many things been so wrong. Kids today are exposed to the constant media coverage of every shocking or immoral event. War, politics, worldwide pandemics, shootings. Devastation at every turn. Add the dissolution of the nuclear family, marriage and now gender, and the issues of self-harm, suicide, abortion, sex trafficking, fentanyl overdoses, and then surround that with the indoctrination of secular humanism, accusations of racism, relativism and the list goes on. The world is going mad. And our kids have access and exposure to it all in their back pockets. It’s no wonder they are confused and struggling.
Have We Become Irrelevant?
Issues never faced by past generations are now front and center for our children while any semblance of stability around them deteriorates. Generation Alpha is growing up in the center of it all, too young to know how to critically assess the issues or to deal with the fallout. With these cultural challenges at the forefront of their world, we must address the issues and prepare our kids for the onslaught of pressures they will inevitably face. If we don’t, who will?
Unfortunately, most churches live in a bubble of niceties, smiling and shaking hands, while teaching wonderful Bible stories but neither addressing the hurt nor discussing the solutions. Now don’t get me wrong – the Bible “stories” are great, and we obviously need good Bible teaching, but we must also address the issues outside the walls. We are losing kids and their families at an alarming rate. We must ask ourselves why. Why are they leaving?
Their answer is that church has become “irrelevant.” Irrelevant! It’s defined as having no importance or relation to what is being considered. Being inapplicable or not pertinent; not connected with. Our entire culture is aggressively indoctrinating our children with their secular world and our churches are perceived to be “irrelevant.” We are failing to connect to the real world. We are failing to address the issues that are facing. We are failing to provide solutions for their felt needs. No wonder we are losing them.
To add to the “wonderful world” in which we live, along comes a worldwide pandemic. Experts tell us that the age at which we’re exposed to a traumatic event determines how embedded it will be in our psyche. In other words, children and teens are more likely to be impacted and feel anxious, frustrated, overwhelmed, confused and unprepared than any other generation. Gen Z likely felt the impact when their significant life events were canceled, schools and universities closed, remote education became the norm, school formals and graduations were cancelled, gap years delayed, sport stopped, and their social lives almost ceased to exist during the various lockdowns. Mental health issues sky rocketed with complaints of boredom, loneliness and anxiety. As a result, Gen Z became known as the most anxious generation.
Experts agree that Covid will also have a significantly impact and be a “defining moment” for Generation Alpha, our youngest kids. Parents and teachers might be frustrated with their seeming addiction to their devices, yet when the pandemic forced schools to close and most workers to operate remotely, the solution was technology. For Alpha kids, screen time skyrocketed, with the screens themselves becoming their classrooms and substitute childcare. Families were confined to their homes, kids were unable to visit friends, play in the park, or visit their grandparents. It may be years before we fully grasp the extent to which this major global event will impact this generation.
The Most Anxious Generation
Our kids are now known as the most anxious generation ever, suffering from more mental health problems than any other generation of kids in American history. We are now raising the most medicated generation of children in modern history. Diagnosis for anxiety disorders, ADHD, panic attacks, OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorders, eating disorders, psychoses, allergies, and other phobias are now commonplace among the American population.
We must ask the difficult questions. How is the church addressing these issues? How should the church speak to these issues? With the rapid hemorrhaging of our families leaving for more “relevant” activities, we must do something. Parents tell us that they want the church’s help. They are fearful and overwhelmed, not knowing what to do. We must step in and do something!
We know the answer! Jesus Christ is the answer! He’s the answer to all of life’s issues. We must ask ourselves the difficult questions and find a way to share Him in a language that our kids will understand. Let’s begin to address the struggles our kids and their parents are facing. Let’s do our part to make this a wonderful world for our children. Let’s become RELEVANT again.