Podcast 011 “Foundational Truths You Need to Know About Gen Z and Millennials (from a “we” perspective)
POST SCRIPT: We experienced technical difficulties during the recording of this podcast. Thanks for your patience when things are noticeably re-recorded and overlaid; and, thanks for understanding that this whole disciplemaking thing really is about doing “real life” with people… even when mics mess up!
Welcome to the Apprentice Approach Podcast Episode 011, where the ripples far exceed the splash… this is your host Jack McQueeney.
Many Christians struggle with making disciples; they feel busy, overwhelmed, and not qualified. We understand this struggle, which is why we’ve created a Bible-based framework so any believer can master the art of disciplemaking.
Today, we have the privilege of talking with Abby Anderson! Abby has been a part of the Eagle Lake family here with The Navigators for many years and is currently the Sustained Giving Supervisor. Abby was also the Crew Director at our Overnight property at Eagle Lake for multiple summers, where she got to pour into the lives of Crew counselors as well as our Crew campers. She has a real heart for those that are in high school and college, and desires to walk alongside them as they learn how to pursue the Lord wholeheartedly.
We’ve had a lot of questions about reaching Millennials and the generation after that, Gen Z. So, we’re excited to talk to Abby – who’s living The Apprentice Approach out every day with these two generations! Abby is a Millennial herself, who has been discipled and has experienced discipling other Millennials, as well as many in Generation Z and she offers foundational truths about Millennials and Gen Z and also shares some great insight for how to truly engage these generations for Jesus!
It is a pleasure to have Abby with us today for part one of this two-part series. Let’s dive in!
Jack: So, Abby, as a Millennial, how do we respond to Gen Z? How do we respond to the generation that follows us? You’re a Millennial, you’ve learned some things, why don’t you talk to us today about that?
Abby: Well, Jack, I am so excited to talk about this topic, because there is probably nothing that gets me more excited than discipling the next generation. And while Millennials and Gen Z may get a bad rap, I totally understand, let me tell you, they are hungry to know Jesus! And, we have such an incredible opportunity to really raise up the next generation of Christ-followers. So, there’s a couple things, um I’ve been, obviously, a Millennial my whole life and also discipling Gen Z’ers for the past, really, six years um intentionally. And, there’s just been a few things that I’ve learned and observed from my time with them – so excited to share with you.
Jack: Yeah, yeah that’s great! Jump right in!
Abby: Yeah, well I think this is something people talk about a lot, but really one of the things that I’ve noticed is um Millennials and especially Gen Z, they genuinely don’t know what God’s Word says. Um, I think they um and even myself really, we grew up in a generation where mega Church and pastors were very present. We had a lot of access to Biblical teaching through the boom of the internet, through social media, um even through bloggers. And so, as a generation, we know what people say about God’s Word, but rarely has anyone taught us to read God’s Word.
Jack: Well that’s interesting Abby, then how do we help Gen Z’s understand?
Abby: Yeah, that’s a great question! I think from being a Millennial and spending time with Gen Z, first off, understand that this is where they’re coming from and don’t berate them for it. I think a lot of times we do get a bad rep and yet a lot of times the reason this is the way it is, is because no one ever took the time to teach us. And so, first off, don’t hate on their generation, but meet them where they’re at. One of the things that I’m so intentional with in my discipleship is to read God’s Word with my girls. A lot of them, again, they’re going to church with their families or their friends or the people that are investing in them, but they’re not necessarily seeing these mentors get up and spend time in God’s Word. They’re not seeing these mentors and how they read God’s Word. And so, one of the things that I love doing is just bringing a girl alongside me, bringing them with me when I’m studying the Bible. So, I’ve been leading a Bible Study with high school girls for the past four years and so whenever I prepare for Bible Study, a lot of times I’ll text the group and say, “Hey, I’m gonna go to a coffee shop and work on my Bible Study, does anyone want to join me?” And so, how can we model this? How can we model spending time in God’s Word and bring them along with us as we ourselves are reading God’s Word?
Jack: Yeah, that’s good. So, Abby, how is it that you not only teach the importance of the Word, but then get into the obedience aspect, obeying it, in light of all the things that they have heard? So, the social media aspects, all those pieces. How do you do that practically?
Abby: Yeah, one of my favorite things to do, there was a girl, Carmelle, I was discipling. Who we would, it was when she was in high school, I would wake up, go pick her up in the morning before school and we would just do our quiet times together at a coffeeshop before I dropped her off. And so, I would ask her, “Hey, Carmelle, what do you want to read today? Like what, is there any passages, you know, you feel the Lord’s putting on your heart? What do we want to go through today?” And, I would have her pick the passage. We would spend time reading the Word on our own; and then, we would talk about observations – things that stuck out to us – what do we see about God’s character in this? And then, at the end of our time, and I think this is so important and we cannot miss this, I would ask her what’s one thing you want to obey out of this Scripture today? And we would pray for an opportunity to obey that piece of Scripture.And, it was so cool to see how God would give us opportunities – specific to what we had read that morning – to either choose obedience or disobedience. And so, that was again one thing of trying to help her understand this isn’t just you know a spiritual or sacred time where we’re reading God’s Word and then we go on with the rest of our life; but, how does God’s Word impact every moment of our day, and how can we walk in obedience – you know, when we’re in math class or when we’re eating dinner with our family?
Jack: Yeah, how do you do that without stifling their excitement for walking with Christ?
Abby: That is a great question! We are a generation that loves excitement, I will tell you that. If you talk to any Millennial or Gen Z’er, I’m sure what you’ll hear is, “I wanna do big things for God!” And you know, I love their heart behind that. And, I think we’ve got to be careful not to write them off in that but really hear that they have a heart that wants to serve God and step out in faith. But, here’s a generation that grew up applauded. We are a generation that there was no winners or losers, everyone got a participation award, but even more than that, we are a generation where social media first took root. And so, everything we did people “liked” it, people commented on it, people mentioned us in it. And so, we’re used to having fanfare at all times.
Jack: So, if you didn’t get the 86 Likes, are you disappointed?
Abby: Oh totally! I think again, what we have to remember, is how do we meet this generation in that place? And so, one of the things that I’m sure, if you’ve spent any time walking with Jesus, you realize that sometimes walking with Jesus is a long obedience. There’s nothing that – people aren’t applauding you for it. No one’s, like, throwing a party because you did hard things. A lot of times, God asks us to be obedient in really quiet places, where people aren’t watching, and that’s really hard for our generation, to be honest with you. And so, as disciplers, I think first thing we need to do is acknowledge that – we need to acknowledge that this is a generation that wants fanfare, and yet, how do we teach them to be obedient in really quiet places. And so, one of the things that I have been intentional to really think through is: what are the girls that I’m discipling, what are they seeing in my life? Because, if we’re not intentional, what they see is me leading Bible Study, me discipling girls, me being able to teach a bunch of women about Jesus. And, what they’re seeing are all these really amazing spiritual things that I’m doing that a lot of people are watching and are really exciting. What they don’t see is when I make dinner for my family, or I show up faithfully to work everyday and work really hard unto the Lord, or when I’m grocery shopping, and so, I think we need to realize that, unintentionally, we can curate our lives for our disciplees to only see a certain aspect of what we do. And so, when they grow up and they have to make dinner for their family they might think, “Well, Abby was doing all these amazing things, why am I just making dinner for my kids?” And we need to be intentional to invite them into those quiet places where we are faithfully loving and serving Jesus – when no one’s watching.
Jack: That’s great, Abby. You know, you mentioned what it is to see life in the mundane but then also in the spiritual realm. How do you tie those things together? What are you doing as disciplemaker to communicate some of those truths that, you know, life is not lived on either side?
Abby: Yeah, oh this is my favorite thing to talk about, Jack. Um, I think a lot of times, really the thing I hear the most from my girls is that, “I do all these spiritual things and then I go on with the rest of my life.” And no one taught them, no one taught them, how to walk with Jesus in the mundane! And so, they think being spiritual – walking with Jesus – is reading their Bible, praying, sharing the Gospel. And, if they’re not doing one of those things in that moment, they’re part of just their normal, secular life. And so, because we have not taught this generation how to commune with Christ in the everyday, they have these two separate lives and they don’t know how to merge them. And I truly, truly, believe they desire to, but they don’t understand how they can go to their tennis match and play while communing with Jesus; they don’t know how, even my generation, doesn’t know how to go grocery shopping for Jesus and honor Him in that. And while that sounds so silly, don’t we have the Holy Spirit in us? Isn’t that what Christ came to do – to invade every aspect of our life? And so, we get to worship him, not just by singing praises, but also while we work, while we get to participate in our everyday, mundane, unexciting lives. And so, I think that’s the biggest thing we can teach this generation.
Jack: How do you do that, Abby? You know, as you try to help not just other women in their walk with Christ, but to catch that spirit to the third and fourth generation?
Abby: Yeah, that’s a great question. There’s probably, like, two specific things that I intentionally do. So, the first is, I would say, as a discipler, my girls often see me as the “spiritual side” of their life because we’re talking about spiritual things; but, we’re meeting, we’re reading the Bible. And so, one of the most powerful things I can do is be involved in the “real” parts of their life – so that means picking them up from high school; that means talking about what they’re doing in math class, how they bombed a math test and it was really hard; it means talking about just like things that are fun that don’t necessarily immediately relate back to the Bible. It means showing up for their tennis matches; it means having a sleepover and watching like a silly movie. So, how can I, as almost a spiritual side of their life, enter into the very real, secular sides of their life as well? So, I think that’s the first thing – if we’re only showing up in a spiritual context, we’re affirming that there is a spiritual side of their life and there is a secular side; and so, we need to break that barrier down with our presence and with our involvement. But, I think the second thing is inviting them into the mundane places of my life as well; and talking about what does it look like to honor God in this area? One of the things I really like to do is, again when I’m showing up to these like very normal, everyday things, talking about, “Well what do you think Jesus has to say about that?” So, I remember a couple weeks ago there was, one of my girls had something really disappointing happen; it wasn’t a big deal, it wasn’t anything super spiritual, it was just a small thing that had happened that was really disappointing. And, as we talked about it, instead of quoting Scripture and saying, “Hey this is how you should think about it; this is how you should feel about it.” What I asked her is, “Well, what do you think Jesus has to say about that? Do you think He has anything that He wants to tell you in the midst of thisdisappointment?” And, I didn’t know what Jesus wanted to say to her, so we just stopped and were driving in the car, so we are at a stoplight – don’t worry I prayed with my eyes open – but we’re at a stoplight and I just prayed, “Lord, do you have anything you want to say to her about this?” And then, we were just quiet. And, I can’t say it was like this magical, amazing, moment where like the Holy Spirit spoke to her so clearly, but how can we ask those questions in the midst of really mundane things? So, how do we bring this idea of Jesus is interacting with us right now in this mundane stuff. I think the second thing too is: how do I, I need to dialogue with them, how I’m navigating honoring God with every aspect of my life? So, I’m pretty open about my life to my girls; so, one of the things I’ll talk about is like I’m trying to figure out like what does it look like to honor God with my money? And dialogue – do you guys have any thoughts on that, I’m really trying to navigate this as well? So, inviting them into the places that my faith and myknowing of the Gospel is transforming my everyday life.
Jack: Boy that’s good. You know, Abby, there’s – we touched on this earlier – but there’s a kind of constant performance level that, especially the social media brings up, where the appearance of happiness is more important than actually being happy. And, we know this generation, there’s shame, there’s struggle in the midst of that. What are some of the things that you’ve intentionally done to step into these areas to help young women deal with this?
Abby: Yeah, well I think there is so much shame in this generation, but I think the first thing – as we think about how to step into these really deep, hard places – is how do we make these girls feel known? And so, I just, I just think it’s such a joy and honor to be able to be a witness to what God is doing in their life. And, I want to make sure that they know that I care about them. And so, one of the things that I’m really intentional about, again, is just showing up holistically in their life; not just in a piece of it. I want them to be known not just who they are at Bible Study, but who they are, you know, at lunch in high school, who they are on the tennis court, who they are on the basketball court, who they are with their family. And so, how can I holistically know them and just acknowledge those pieces of them?
I think the second thing is just being able to acknowledge that they have something to offer;because, if we’re gonna talk about shame, if we’re gonna talk about those deep places where they are fearful of sharing, there has to be trust. And so, I can build trust by showing up, but then also showing that I trust them. This generation wants to have something to contribute and they want to be trusted. If you are just showing up to teach them, they’re gonna have a very hard time sharing with you because they want to know that they have value in your life too. And so, one of the things that I’m very intentional to do is invite them into what I’m struggling with, what I’m navigating, what I’m thinking through, and give them an input. And so, for example, um, a couple months ago I was leading a devotional for a group of leaders and I wanted to practice it before I got up in front of everyone and shared. And so, I actually grabbed one of my high school girls, took her out to coffee and was like, “Hey, can I just practice my devo with you? And can you give me feedback on it?” And so, I sat down, went through my whole devo with her, and then she gave me pointers. And, I think that is such a sweet place where we, as disciplers, get to humble ourselves and like get to actually live inside of community and not in this – I don’t know – like leadership moment where, “I’m investing in you, and I have so much to offer you; but, you don’t have anything to offer me.” Because, at the foot of the cross, we’re all equal; and so, how do I engage with the girls I’m discipling in a way, acknowledging that I do have things to offer them, but they also have things to offer me, and the Holy Spirit can use them to minister to me as well.
Jack: Boy, that’s good. You know that’s something I’ve been thinking about, and I’ve actually shared this in a number of talks that I’ve given recently, but Ephesians 2:10, where it says, “For we are God’s masterpieces. He’s created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he’s planned for us long ago.” I think about, especially if I think there’s a word picture for young women in this day-and-age, is God’s masterpieces. I think that God dotes over them, as we would sometimes dote over a special piece of art or something that is very unique and precious to us. But, as you think about young women and some of the folks that you’ve actually been ministering to, what is it that you do to actually engage with them around, I think, not just allowing the Holy Spirit entering in, but helping them to refute the lies of the world?
Abby: Oh yeah, oh yeah. If there is anything that we need to talk about with this next generation, it’s the core lies that they believe. I think they have been, yeah, just very much whispered to by Satan about the lack of their worth, the lack of their ability to trust God, and so we have an opportunity as disciplers to not only share how the Gospel changes our relationship with God, but how the Holy Spirit transforms our identity. One of the things I’ve really noticed over the past couple years is just this huge struggle with shame, that’s something that I personally have experienced, I know Millennials have experienced, the girls I’ve discipled experience. And, I think it’s, it’s not simple; and, there’s a couple reasons why this is such a stronghold that Satan has in this generation. I think the first is they don’t know the difference between conviction – which would be Godly guilt – and shame. So, when I do something that displeases God, when I sin against someone, I do feel guilt; and that is good; that calls me to repentance. But, what shame does – guilt is always specific; it’s always specific. When the Holy Spirit is convicting me, He’s convicting me of the words I said; I can remember the exact sentence I said. Whereas shame says, “You are a mess-up; you are wrong; no one will ever like you; you’re a terrible friend.” So, the difference between conviction and shame is that conviction is specific and something specific we can repent about; shame says who we are is wrong and broken and we will never be redeemed. And no one – I feel like no one is teaching that distinction – they don’t know that. And so, they interpret guilt and conviction as shame, and then they don’t know how to repent; and, when we don’t live in repentance, of course we don’t feel the peace of Christ. And so, I feel like my girls, they know that God is Just and that Jesus died to atone for God’s wrath and wipe their sin clean, but they don’t understand fully that because, even though we are saved, we still sin, but we have this throne of grace that we can approach and repent and be at peace with Christ. Because they’ve lived in this world of just ultra-grace, what they’ve been told is, you know, “God forgives you; God forgives you; God forgives you,” and that’s so true, and yet, no one taught them the process of repentance. And so, they just keep hearing, “God forgives you; God forgives you,” but they feel guilt and shame and they don’t know what to do about it. And so, their reaction is basically if I feel this way, God must not be real cause Jesus’s grace is supposed to cover everything and I still feel guilty and ashamed. But, it’s because they haven’t repented. And so, what I have, like one of the sweetest things we’ve gotten to practice is just teaching them what to do with our guilt and how do we bring that before God; ask for repentance and experience the transforming grace of Christ.
Jack: Well, how has this ultra-grace concept been damaging in your mind to these Gen Z teens?
Abby: Yeah, I think, um, I think there’s so many ways, first, it’s that no one taught them repentance, and no one taught them what to do with conviction. And so, what they do is they push it aside completely. When they have conviction from the Holy Spirit, no one taught them how to come before God and repent, and so they just feel complete worthlessness when they do something wrong. This generation they want to do right. What I love, love, love about them is they know when they’ve messed up and they’re mortified by it; and yet, no one’s taught them what to do with that. Um, I think also – with ultra-grace – because they’ve been taught, “Jesus forgives; Jesus forgives; Jesus forgives,” no one’s teaching them about how to strive for holiness. And so – holiness is not perfection, and yet it’s the fruit that happens when the Spirit renews us – and so, what they hear, they have to choose, it feels like, between ultra-grace and perfection. And, when they can’t reach perfection, they choose ultra-grace – where my actions don’t matter, my sin doesn’t matter – because they’ve already tried being perfect and it doesn’t work.
Jack: How do you bring this message and this concept of repentance into the context of discipleship?
Abby: Yeah, I think you’ve gotta model it first. One of the things that I um had modeled to me within my own – the people I’ve worked for, the people that have discipled me, just leadership in general – they were so quick to repent in front of me. And so, when I am maybe pushed too hard, I’m known to do that when I’m pushed too hard in a situation. I might offend someone, or when I don’t show up to Bible Study prepared, what I’m intentional to do is not try and hide my sin, not try and hide the ways I messed up, but to intentionally say, “Hey guys, I really messed this up today and I just, I am sorry. Would you forgive me?” And, I’m really specific to tell them what I’m sorry for, “So, I’m sorry for saying this comment to you; I thought it was funny and it was unkind, would you please forgive me?” And so, when they see that I – because I’m confident in who Christ is – I don’t have anything to hide, I don’t have to worry about being perfect; I can come before them and ask for their forgiveness. Then, all of a sudden they know they don’t have to be perfect. So, I think that’s the first thing. I think you know two other ways that I really try to incorporate this is every – my poor girls – every time we meet, one of the things I always pray before we get started is, “Lord, if there is any way that we’ve sinned against you and we don’t know, would you bring that to mind and would we quickly repent?” And so, I just ask that the Holy Spirit would convict them, so that they have the opportunity to repent and experience the sweet grace of Jesus. And then, I think the third thing is, and I hear this all the time from our generation and Gen Z’ers, is they’ll tell me, “You know, I just feel so distant from God.” Um, and I think we’ve all gone through seasons of that; and yet, what I also know is when I’m living in unrepentance, when there’s sin that I’m unwilling to give up, I always feel distant from God. And so, gently, very gently, I will ask them, “Was there any sin you haven’t repented of?” And, nine times out of ten there is. And so, what we get to do then, is, I get to say, “Well hey, would you like to repent of that?” And, sometimes they’re ready to and, to be honest, sometimes they aren’t. And so, what I, if they are ready, I’ll just say, “I’m gonna open us up in prayer and then I would just love for you to repent to Jesus about this and experience His grace.” But, there’s times where you know I’ve had girls walking through a lot of bitterness um which I have had to walk a really long road with, and I’ve asked them, you know, are you ready to repent of this? And they’ll say, “No, I still love my sin.” And, I get that, because I’ve been there. And so, what I’m able to say to them is, “Well, I’m gonna pray that God would soften your heart and that you would see your sin as painful and life-destroying like it is, and God would give you a heart of repentance, so can I pray that over you right now?” And, I’ll pray that God would give them a heart of repentance, ‘cause it’s only through the Holy Spirit that we have the power to repent of sin and turn towards righteousness. And so, we have got to talk about the fact that there is sin in our lives, and we’ve got to acknowledge that we need to repent of it.
Jack: That is so good, Abby. And, to see you personally modeling with that, wrestling with it, and then being able to translate that and help them understand that for their own lives is so key and important to the next generation as we disciple other men and women. So, thank you so much for your time today.
Abby: Yeah, Jack, thank you for letting me be here and yeah, I am just so excited for this generation; they are a generation that wants to know Jesus and are hungry to be discipled!
Jack: Amen, they’re a blank slate.
Abby: Yes, yes they are!
Jack: We’ve learned today how important it is to understand the context and climate of the culture of those we’re discipling. Abby has shared foundational truths about both Gen Z and Millennials, showing us how we can model merging the sacred and secular, how we, as disciplemakers, get to share how the Gospel changes our relationship with God, and how the Holy Spirit transforms our identity. What a blessing to see how Abby models moving toward righteousness through repentance, honesty, and simply showing up in the lives of those we disciple!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode and learning community and feel encouraged and better equipped! If Millennials and Gen Z is a topic you’re enjoying learning more about, you’re in for a treat as we’ll be focusing on Millennials this month! (and if you haven’t listened to our Podcast 008: Leading the Next (and Now) Generation of Disciplers with Mark Heffentrager that’s another great resource on this topic!) For more on The Apprentice Approach, including the full transcript of this podcast, resources, our blog, and to sign up for emails, visit our website TheApprenticeApproach.org , and if you haven’t subscribed to The Apprentice Approach Podcast in iTunes, do it today!
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Until next time, this is your host, Jack McQueeney, believing God for generations of men and women like you!