Preaching to Generation Z (those born from 1999 on) means you can’t preach your Grandpa’s sermon anymore. Pastor Trygve Johnson has some tips for how to connect to Gen Z from the pulpit (“Next-Gen Preaching,” CT Pastors Special Issue, Spring 2019, 35-36).
I get inside my sermon. Preachers should not be afraid to share their stories from their own lives. They should not be afraid to laugh at themselves. Generation Z seeks a preacher that is relational, that tells it like it is, that it is personal.
I offer a sense of history and place. Preachers should put sermons in context both Scripturally and in terms of the space where they are worshiping. In this digital age, Gen Zers are not as fully aware of some of the stories of the Bible as perhaps generations before have been and they may not be as connected to the meaning and history behind the surroundings in their worship space and the community that formed there. These community stories need to be told as well.
I treat people like insiders. Preachers need to help those who are listening that they are loved, cared for, valued and accepted. Gen Zers are eager to be a part of something and learn new terms and new insights. Preachers should not shy away from sharing those new and perhaps more challenging concepts.
I preach for Gen Z, not at them. Preachers should not try to make their messages trendy, hip, or all about pop culture to impress Gen Z. Preaching for Gen Z means making God the subject of the sermon, and the salvation found in Christ alone. Keeping God at the center of all that is said in sermons is what will be of most value to Gen Z. The Word of God is what they came to hear.
In many ways these principles are actually what can make preaching better for all generations.
In the book Discipling in a Multicultural World, author Ajith Fernando introduces the idea of one type of discipling being like spiritual parenting. He defines spiritual parenting as “a long-term and highly relational ministry in which disciplers assume indefinite responsibility for their disciplees’ spiritual growth” (“Discipleship That Travels,” Christianity Today, 68). He cites such examples from the Bible as Paul and Timothy and Peter and Mark.
This model encourages a more one-on-one approach and highlights meeting people where they are at in their spiritual journey without overwhelming them with knowledge-based rhetoric. Spiritual parenting involves loving and caring and guiding and not so much preaching and teaching and telling. “Like earthly parents, spiritual parents take primary responsibility for their children’s growth, but they realize that their growth requires relationships and insights beyond what they alone can offer” (“Discipleship That Travels,” Christianity Today, 68). The ultimate goal is to reach spiritual growth and maturity through the power of the Holy Spirit. The role of the spiritual parent then is get the ball rolling, so to speak, to help to “present everyone fully mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28-29). Consider today someone you can be a spiritual parent to. Perhaps you can establish a weekly or monthly time to meet or talk on the phone. It is certain you will grow in the your spiritual life in the process as well.
In the story of creation, we read: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Many have wondered what exactly “the image of God” means. There are several schools of thought. One group thinks that it refers to our ability to reason. Another philosophy is that it means that God is reflected in us in our bodies: our physical characteristics and the way we walk and talk. Still others say it is about our relational nature and the relationships we have with God and creation.
I tend to lean toward the last description. He gave human beings a special place in the world, and he desires a close, personal bond with us. His love for us is on a much deeper and different level than it is with plants and animals, for instance. And God selected humans to rule over every living creature (Genesis 1:28).