We are five weeks into our new series, What You’ve Been Searching For here on Christian Podcast Central, and for some reason, we have yet to talk about millennials. It’s one of the topics you want discussed, and we’re going to talk about it here on What You’ve Been Searching For. I’m Joel Fieri, stay tuned.
So the question is how do we reach millennials and Gen Z with the gospel? I’m going to do a two-part series on this. Today, I’m going to talk about why millennials and Gen Z are the way they are. Why do we have this issue? Why is the gospel such a challenge for them? And next week in part two, I’ll delve into what I think is the solution. How we actually do reach them with the gospel.
So for today, I want to talk a little bit about why we have this issue and really what it boils down to in my view is, that our issue with millennials and Gen Z is pretty much an echo of the way we, the baby boomers or the parents of millennials and Gen Zs. The way we were raised by our parents, the World War II generation. I’ll start with just a quick story about my parents, just to use them as an example. My dad is a World War II veteran who was born in Chicago in the 1920s and survived the depression, and then spent two years on a 10 Candice story of World War II, only to have it blown up out from under him and barely surviving.
After the war, he met my mom who grew up on a dirt farm in Ohio, very poor. They were huddling together for warmth in the winter and working themselves to death in the summer, so they wouldn’t starve to death in the winter as well as freezing to death. So it was a very, very hard life for both of them in the early parts of their life. So like many in their generation, after the war, after saving the world, they got married and started to raise families.
The main focus of their parenting, the main goal of their parenting for us, for my generation, was that our generation would not experience the same hardships and struggles that their generation did. And that’s totally understandable. No parent who had that kind of upbringing in their early life would want their children to experience the same thing. So they made sure that we didn’t.
If you listen to baby boomers these days, you would think our childhood was the most idyllic childhood in the history of the world, and it might’ve been. We were what’s called free range children. Our parents let us go. All you have to do is listen to us, we’ll tell you. We drank water out of dirty garden hoses. And we went on 50 mile bike rides across LA freeways without helmets or anything. And we played on the monkey bars and we fell off and we broke our arms and legs. And we showed off our casts and we had sunburns and we peeled all summer long because we were sunburn all summer long. That was our childhood. And it was pretty much my childhood. My childhood was that way because our parents let us go. They didn’t want to see us until the street lights came on.
And they did that because they wanted us to have carefree, adventurous childhood’s, free of the responsibilities and the pain that they had, and they wanted it to be adults. They wanted to enjoy their lives, that they felt that they had earned as adults. So they let us go. But there was a problem with that. Because our parents did that, because they raised us without any of the experiences they had as children in their formative years that formed their strength and their values, they couldn’t understand why we didn’t have the same strength and the same values they did. They couldn’t understand why we were growing our hair long and listening to that rock and roll music or doing drugs or burning American flags or all of the silly things that the baby boomers did..
Our parents didn’t understand why we were doing that. I remember having this conversation with my dad. I told him, you raised me with completely different experiences than you had when you were a child. And now you wonder why I’m a completely different person than you, okay? So that came to be the issue between the baby boomers and the World War II generation that caused a lot of friction.
Fast forward to us baby boomers as parents to millennials. We made the same mistakes that our parents made with us. We parented millennials with completely different values and completely different experiences that we had as kids. Instead of drinking out of dirty garden hoses, we had our children drink out of sanitary water bottles. Instead of playing on the monkey bars, we outlawed monkey bars. Instead of bike rides across town. If you went on a bike ride, if you were a millennial, you didn’t go past the end of the street and you better put your helmet on. And while you’re putting your helmet on, put on elbow pads, knee pads, and here, let me wrap you in bubble wrap so you don’t even skin your knee, okay?
And instead of sunburns, we slathered them with sunblock. So not even a ray of the sun could penetrate to their skin. We parented out of fear and out of safety first, and we did it. While our parents parented us differently so they could be adults, we parented our kids differently so we could remain childlike. So we can relive our childhood through our children. While our parents, our World War II generation parents, we can understand why they parented us differently because they had horrible experiences. We had idyllic childhoods, and yet we parented our children differently because we didn’t want to let go of that childhood, and we didn’t want our kids to experience any pain, any failure, any discomfort.
And most of all, the biggest mistake we made is we put their self esteem and their good feelings in front of developing their character. And again, we did it because we wanted to feel good about ourselves. That was a projection we put on to our children. An important thing distress here too, is that we were warned not to do this. There were plenty of people telling us do not cuddle your children. Don’t give them participation trophies just, for being there, just for showing up. Let them earn their success. Let them fail. Let them stumble and fall. Let them skin their knees. Let them get a sunburn. It’ll build their character, but we didn’t listen because we wanted to feel good about our parenting. So we made sure at all costs, our children did not experience any negative consequences to their actions or any experiences in life.
So now what we have after all that is a generation that doesn’t resonate with the gospel. We’ve raised them with no judgment, no failure, no sense of self feeling anything but great. Anything but having nothing but esteem for yourself. No need for salvation, no need for forgiveness from a wholly God. And really no respect for us telling them these things, because we’ve always told them just the opposite. We’ve always told them how wonderful they are and how they could do no wrong.
Well, that doesn’t resonate with a God who says you’re doing wrong and you need forgiveness for that, and you need salvation from that. So if that’s the case, if we have this generation we’ve created and the situation we’ve created with this generation of people who don’t resonate with the gospel, how do we reach them? Well, that’s what I’ll be talking about next week when I tackle the question of how to reach millennials and Gen Zs. So stay tuned. In the meantime, if you feel differently, if you think I’m wrong, please comment below. Share this with your friends on Facebook, on YouTube, like subscribe, all that stuff. Look us up on the podcast platforms, Apple, Spotify, whatever else you use. But most of all, check out our website, christianpodcastcentral.com, where there’s more good content like this. We’ll see you next week.