Pastor Tianen (pseudonym), who is from southern China, shared his thoughts on shepherding Gen Z based on his many years of experience.
Christian Times: Many pastors are overwhelmed by shepherding Gen Z. How do you think about it, and what's the possible reason?
Pastor Tianen: Parents sent their children to schools and entrust the education work to schools. While schools expect parents to supervise their children in completing their homework. In Christian families, parents need to restore the mode of family life in accordance with Christian culture.
Paul told Timothy: “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love in faith, and in purity.” The parental generation must set an example for their children, and their words and deeds should convey the principles of faith. Then the children can follow in all aspects of life.
During the pandemic, many kids attend online courses at home, so parents have more time to be with them. They consequently don’t learn the bad examples from school. In our time, parents and pastors may use various means to influence young people, such as music and videos. The churches should pass the words of faith in the form of new media, which can be used by parents to influence Gen Z. For Gen Z, parents with mature faith may have a greater influence on them than society.
Christian Times: How do you reach Gen Z? What kind of changes should pastors make?
Pastor Tianen: I think churches should adopt the model of family groups. In family groups, Gen Z could start to know the meaning of faith and how their parents worship. During the pandemic, we have met as family groups, which is close to daily life. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, it's difficult for young people to receive the truth told directly by pastors. They like interactive learning and communication.
If Christian families can live the gospel out, their good family relationships can be a testimony to their neighbors.
Christian Times: Gen Z is very much attracted by online games and entertainment, which may influence their pursuit of faith greatly. How can churches win in the attention battle?
Pastor Tianen: Churches are very religious and rigid. We emphasize preaching instead of relationships. We emphasize reasoning in lieu of living testimony. Churches need to attach great importance to new media platforms, for example, using music to draw young people's attention. There are game apps related to faith in other countries, engaging people of different ages. As society progresses, churches need to listen and advance accordingly.
Christian Times: Should pastors act like parents or friends, or both?
Pastor Tianen: Parents may mean authority, while friends only give advice. But in the Jewish culture, parents are responsible for creating a safe environment and being there for their children as they grow up. Children are property and need to be managed carefully, passing on from generation to generation.
The friend approach means that pastors don't make any decisions for them but advise and guide them so that they are not afraid of making mistakes. Parents can use the friend approach, guiding and protecting their children.
Gen Z may feel discouraged easily. They would leave quietly or close themselves off. But if we befriend and encourage them, they can be very brave and stand up again.
In short, the church needs to restore the faith of the parents of Gen Z. Churches should value the Christian family and restore the spiritual influence of family. It can be more useful than learning some theories in the church since the home is a place to practice faith. Fathers should stand firm in faith and take the role of the priest in the family. If the father does not pray together with his children before meals, or he does not love his wife, then it will be very difficult to pass the faith to children and give testimony to neighbors.
- Translated by Nicolas Cao