“Guess what ‘HMU’ stands for,” a friend in my cell group at church quizzes us.
She leads a younger group in our church and this online acronym had appeared on their group text. They’re part of the planet’s youngest generational cohort, Generation Z.
“I’ve no idea. ‘Hurry Make Up… Your Mind?” I venture, completely aware that there’s no way “U” could represent two additional alphabets.
“It’s ‘hit me up’, meaning “contact me”,” she replies with slight exasperation.
Some of us groan; others shake their heads (“SMH”, if you’re from the younger set). We’re none the wiser; we’re not even acquainted with “HMU”’s longhand.
It’s hard not to feel a little old and fuddy-duddy next to Gen Z.
Thinking differently about Gen Z
Commentators differ in their opinions of Gen Z’s age range; with oldest members being in the ballpark of 22 to 24 years old.
I’m not much older and yet even as a millennial campus staff, I find myself beginning to lose some grip over how I should be ministering to the Gen Z tribe.
Gen Z is characterised as being technologically savvy and globally connected.
This feeling isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It keeps me on my toes spiritually. God, in His grace, uses it to keep me dependent on Him.
During January’s Intentional Discipleship Conference (IDC) in Manila, renowned apologist Sean McDowell said to a 12,000-strong crowd,
“How you view this generation will shape the way you minister to them, preach to them, mentor them, counsel them and build relationships with them… It’s human nature, the older we get, the more negative we describe [the current] generation.”
He further explains, “You and I have far more in common with [Gen Z] than we do differences. Our human nature, being made in God’s image, gives us more in common – a desire to be loved, for purpose, for relationships, knowing that truth matters.”
How to disciple/mentor Gen Z
Connecting with Gen Z is less about signing up for a Snapchat account and more about the solid discipleship that is needed to understand issues of purpose, relationship, truth, for themselves.
Jacquelle Crowe, a Gen Z author at The Gospel Coalition writes,
“We don’t need modern music, hipster clothing, or hilarious preachers. Those things aren’t necessarily bad (though they might be), but they don’t have the power to tap into Generation Z’s heart and effect permanent change.”
Transformation through discipleship and community.
1. Helping Gen Z believers think critically—and biblically
In a world that provides an endless stream of information and opinions one click away, it’s even more pressing that we help Gen Z develop the reflexes to turn to Scripture to discover truth.
McDowell pointed out that it is no longer sufficient to tell Gen Z what to believe in, but why and how, they can discover truth.
In a Cru discipleship group I was leading a few years ago, I recall how my girls earnestly desired to grow in their faith and asked excellent questions each week like,
“Does God permit us to ______?”
or “What’s so bad about ________ when culture is evolving?”
Even while responding, I encouraged them to test everything that I said against God’s Word, just like the Bereans did with Paul in Acts 17.
Returning to the Word of God as the plumbline in life.
What I found helpful was to ask questions such as,
“Why do you think so?”
“So do you agree with what the author says in that book you read?”
“It says that in Scripture? Where do we see that?”
It is important for us that our mentees see Scripture as the plumbline for how they should live, and for them to know, love and walk in the truth.
Being able to understand and explain their faith is increasingly important as Gen Z faces a world that constantly redefines “truth”. In that same conference, McDowell articulated it well,
“Christianity is not just a faith we believe Wednesday night at Bible study and Sunday at church. It is a worldview that shapes how we think about everything. I think one of the reasons why the church has lost its power is we live a compartmentalised faith.
"Many young people leave the church [because] they don’t understand the power of the gospel and how to live it out in a secular world.”
2. Adopting a learner’s posture
We have an extremely powerful and enduring message to give the next generation—the gospel. Whether they embrace the gospel or not will have huge implications for every part of their lives.
For that to happen, earning Gen Z’s trust and the privilege to speak into their lives is vital.
The Gen Z within the church needs us to disciple with grace and truth, cradled by mutual trust, before the world does.
Discipleship through taking time to build relationships.
I spoke to Mr Cheng Tee Hiang, an educator from the baby boomer generation who accepted Jesus three years ago. His humble posture as a “learner” is striking:
“I need to know their character traits, speak their language, understand their concerns, and know their likes and dislikes in order to ‘contextualise’ the gospel.
Through interacting with them (Gen Z believers), I began to feel their zeal for God – more so compared with older believers [who] were once full of passion for God.”
Loving Gen Z well
Are we willing to really know Gen Z personally and ask, “I want to understand you. What’s your story? What do you love? I want to know you for who you are.”
It takes courage and sincere love—not knowledge of what's trending—to bridge the generational gap that we have with Gen Z.
Being available and a willing listener is sometimes all that's needed.
Gen Z-ers in Church need (and even want) loving mentors who can listen well, guide them with biblical wisdom and yet also provide the space that they need to develop their own convictions.
Will we respond to this generation's desire for truthful love and a safe space in our Christian communities?
Ashley has been on staff with Cru Singapore for the past eight years. When she first joined the NTU Cru ministry as a freshman, she had hardly any notion of what the Great Commission was about. A lot has changed since then – helping people discover Jesus and grow as His disciples is now the thing that makes Ashley tick. She also loves reading, dogs and beautiful typography.
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