Generations: Impacting by Abidan Shah, PhD

GENERATIONS – IMPACTING by Dr. Abidan Shah, Nicole Shah, Ryan and Elizabeth Hill, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: Since last weekend, we’ve heard from so many of you as to how much you are enjoying and learning from this series. In fact, several churches informed us that they are actually streaming and watching this series, which is amazing! So, without further due, I want to invite Nicole, Ryan, and Elizabeth to join me on the stage. Once again, the goal of this series: Not Entertain but Educate. Not list Caricatures but Come to Know. Not Poke Fun but Stoke the Faith of our Younger Generations. If we care about the eternal destinies of our children and grandchildren, then this is not optional.

John 15      13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.

Context: The reason I chose to use this reference to begin this message is because the need for True Relationships has never been more important than now. Generation Z, the archetype of this Crisis generation, is desperately in need of authentic relationships. To begin with, this generation has faced more crises than any other generation.



Gen Z is the Crisis Generation (following based on Tim Elmore):

  • In 2000, the bubble burst. As you know, in the 1990s, internet was a new thing, and it was growing by leaps and bounds. Then, the technology companies, the startups, ran through their cash with cheap money and easy capital, mixed with over confidence and just speculation. When they folded, billions, if not trillions, were lost. 
  • Then came 9/11. Who can forget the images of the World Trade Towers collapsing or the Pentagon burning. We all know the toll that took on all of us, especially children.
  • Right on the heels of that came the Enron Crisis. This led to a further lack of trust in big corporations.
  • Then began the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not only did many die in these wars, but we lived under constant threat of more attacks.
  • Starting in about 2005, something called social media was born. Initially with sites like Myspace, then with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and many others, our worlds were changed forever.
  • In 2007-2009, the Great Recession happened. Many lost their jobs, their homes, and their savings. Unemployment was a huge problem, as many of you may remember.
  • Mass Shootings terrorized schools, shopping malls, concerts, and other public places.
  • About this same time, our nation was divided, as never before, along racial, socio-economic, and political lines. Unfortunately, this division continues.
  • Smartphones became more and more common and indispensable. Although, they brought many benefits, they also brought a whole different set of problems.
  • Mental health has become a huge issue.
  • Then, in 2020, the whole world shutdown. We call it a pandemic. At the same time, our big cities saw racial unrest and destruction of property. All this has definitely taken a toll on all of us, especially the children.
  • During all these crises, parents and parenting has also changed.


Millennial vs. Gen Z (Ryan)

  • Private
    • More likely to share vanishing message like Snapchat
    • Likely to have several Instagram accounts because they are hidden from certain groups of people
  • Anxious
    • More mental health issues than any other generation
    • They live in a paradox. Life for them is both easier and much more difficult than previous generations.
    • School issues and bullying follows them home from school on social media
    • Not to mention all of the world crises delivered to the palm of their hands; what were you concerned about at 14? Probably not a terrorist attack in China. They are.
  • Restless
    • This comes from their sense of identity. For many of us millennials, it is family, faith, or values. For them, it is ever-changing because it is based on a shifting landscape of social media
  • Tech Savvy
    • This seems obvious, but what are the implications?
    • Millennials consume media; Gen Z creates it
    • Early development of skepticism and even cynicism
  • Nurtured
    • Prevalence of technology and information has led to over-nurturing by parents
    • We (millennials) had parents that hovered, while Gen Z has parents that protect them from anything negative and over-indulge sports and hobbies.
  • Entrepreneurial
    • While some will be blue collar workers and some white collar workers, many desire to be no collar workers, creating an alternative to traditional employment through things like being sponsored by brands as social media influence, monetized content creators, or freelance work. Remember that they have lived through two recessions since 2000.
    • They want to do their own thing, but their anxiety and fear of risk taking works against them.
  • Redemptive
    • Equality is a top tier issue for them.
    • “Keep in mind that in Gen Z’s lifetimes, the first African-American president was elected, gay marriage became legal, and the #MeToo movement was launched. They grow up believing they can change the world because they were born into a world that was already changing.” – Tim Elmore, Generation Z Unfiltered, 49.
  • Tim Elmore has done a wonderful job researching and clarifying the struggles and strengths of Gen Z by organizing them into different challenges.

The Challenges

  1. 1.    Access without Experience (Elizabeth & Ryan)
    1. Kids and teenagers today have access to all kinds of technology and information. It’s literally at their fingertips! At times, they don’t even have to lift a finger and can simply call out to Siri, Alexa, or Google and ask their virtual assistant for information or to complete a task for them. 
    1. Social media consumption is at an all-time high, but unlike movies and video games, there are no ratings. Guidelines that once protected kids from foul language, violence, or sexuality generally don’t apply to this type of media. Kids and teenagers are consuming media that they may not be emotionally or cognitively ready for. 
    1. “Over-exposed to information far earlier than they’re ready and under-exposed to first-hand experiences far later than they’re ready. There is an abundance of information, but a lack of experience. If experience brings about wisdom, where is their wisdom coming from?
  • Not only that, but because Gen Z has access to the wealth of human knowledge without accountability, they are likely to either make immature choices and test boundaries or become anxious and overwhelmed.
    • We as a society have failed when it comes to accountability.
    • Solution
      • Push them to experience life beyond screens and theories. 
      • Pair empowering information with experiences.
        • This is where church attendance and participation comes in. Our children and teenagers need to be in church where they are exposed to other kids who may have different family dynamics or life experiences than they do. 
        • Varied teaching styles among volunteers helps engage all students and gives them opportunities to gain wisdom through shared experiences.
        • Teach Gen Z that there are ethical standards and moral absolutes. These provide the right kind of filters for Gen Z’s worldview.
          • Accountability comes from someone they TRUST – transparent, respected, understanding, and safe
  • Teach them to set boundaries online, especially social media
  • 2.    Stimulation without Ownership (Elizabeth)
    • Keeping kids busy keeps them out of trouble, right? Not necessarily. They may be too busy to physically cause chaos, but overstimulation can lead to stress and anxiety. That’s a whole other kind of trouble that none of us want for our kids. 
    • In an effort to shape our kids into well-rounded individuals, we’ve overscheduled them by signing them up for everything under the sun. We’re filling their days and weeks with sports, music lessons, various practices, and more. While none of these things are bad, and in some ways, they appreciate that someone else is deciding what they are doing next, we are not giving them ownership over their own growth and learning. 
    • Snowplow and Lawnmower parents have fed their child’s every fancy. This leads to kids feeling like they can’t let their parents down because they have spent so much time and money on this sport/pursuit/hobby/etc.
    • Even technology has adapted to over-prescribing things for our children and teens. Streaming platforms tell us what to watch next. Shopping websites suggest what products we may like. Social media apps decide for us what shows up next on our “For You” pages and timelines. 
    • Solution – Give them a voice. This allows children and teens to figure out what they want instead of being told what they need to want. Making decisions leads to that ownership that we want them to have. 
      • Focus on ultimate goals rather than specific tasks. 
      • Teach them how to think and not just what to think. 
    • In our context, this looks like group activities and small group discussions with open-ended questions. This helps them wrestle with and work through tough issues about their faith rather than us once again just protecting them.
  • 3.    Privileges without Responsibility (Elizabeth)
    • Many times, we hear people talking about the younger generations being so entitled. How did we get here? If our world is full of instant gratification and conveniences, then we begin to think that things that take time or effort are bad. This leads to entitlement. 
    • Less teens are working than ever before, perhaps due to the over-prescribing that was mentioned previously. This means parents are providing their every want, not just their needs. They have less responsibility while simultaneously being catered to. When kids act entitled, it is usually because we adults have allowed them to be. 
    • Solution
      • Gratitude over what they already have
      • Rights combined with responsibility
    • In the Church – Serve! Giving them opportunities to serve allows them to take ownership of their church experience. Their eyes are opened to what all goes on to put a church service together. When they are busy serving, it urges them to be grateful for the messages that Dr. Shah and Ryan prepare. They meet new people who they serve alongside. 
  • 4.    Individualism without Perspective (Ryan)
    • Gen Z is growing up in a world that is designed to crank out narcissists. Recommended videos, For You page, content tailored for them 24/7, algorithms and ad experiences that track their use and give them syndicated content
      • They value personal achievements such as profile views, likes on a video, or hobbies over contributions to an organization or mission, which is why many struggle to see the need for church.
    • They are being fed dangerous messages like they cannot handle being triggered, anything that makes them uncomfortable should be removed, and their environment should accommodate their needs.
      • They need to be protected, but they also need to mature into self-sustaining adults.
    • Solution – The biggest way to help Gen Z mature is to help them gain perspective. Teach them to see the world from another’s point of view.
      • In our context, prioritizing opportunities to connect and serve. Students need both. We want to look out and see a room filled with students, not so that we can feel good about ourselves, but because your students really do need to connect. And they might not want to at first. Do you always like stretching or working out a muscle that is particularly weak? Of course not, but you know you need to and you are better for doing it. The same is true for your student’s social skills.
      • Service projects on mission trips as well as serving in various ministries within the church is the expectation for our students, which helps them develop empathy and curb individualistic and narcissistic tendencies. “You are not the main character. God is. You are part of a larger story.”
  • 5.    Fluidity without Integrity (Elizabeth)
    • Today’s teens are a part of a complex ecosystem of belonging. This involves multiple social media profiles on various platforms, even creating multiple accounts to showcase different aspects of their identity. They’re creative for YouTube or TikTok, then poised and put together for Instagram, then silly for Snapchat. This constant change can be confusing for their adolescent brains. 
    • Kids’ and teens’ identity also changes based on where they are and who they are with. Imagine going from school to extracurricular activities to family time to church to social media and changing your persona every time. That has to be exhausting!
    • This has even gone so far as to cover gender identity. It’s much more than just transgender, there is an entire spectrum. And maybe this isn’t your kids, but they feel like they have to be allies and work to include others that are trans, gay, or otherwise.
    • Solution
      • Identity is a buzz word in our culture today so I want to clarify what I mean. Their identity shouldn’t be who they feel like they are, but what God’s Word says about them. 
      • Integrating these multiple “personalities” or “selves” will teach them to be more authentic and as a result, have the confidence to thrive in not only the technological world, but also with their peers, families, and those around them.
      • Help them understand that there are some things that are not meant to change. God’s standard is one of them.
  • 6.    Opportunity without Resilience (Elizabeth)
    • We want so badly for our children and teenagers to have the best opportunities in life, that sometimes we find ourselves doing everything for them. We run up to the school to deliver forgotten gym shorts or lunches. We work harder than they do on school projects because *we* want them to be perfect. Is this really helpful to them? This takes us back to the entitlement conversation because they may grow to expect this kind of help when, in reality, help like this isn’t available in the real world. 
    • When things become too difficult, they run to mom and dad to fix things. They become helpless because we help them too much. We have robbed them of any opportunity to develop grit, perseverance, and passion that are needed to be successful in adulthood. 
    • Solution – 
      • Give them opportunities to grow: mastering a new skill, solving a problem, encounter new people, take on a challenge. 
      • The grit and resilience they will develop will help launch them into adulthood where they will be ready to take on what the world has to offer. 
    • In the church – Our Illuminate Leadership Initiative is a perfect example of how to give students opportunities that they can take ownership in. These students are already leaders, but we are pushing them outside of their comfort zones at times. They are being introspective to find qualities and characteristics that they can grow and shape. They are interacting with people that they may not normally interact with. They even have the opportunity to get up in front of their peers and share a message that God has laid on their hearts.
      • Given the opportunity, students can develop resilience and be galvanized into men and women of God. We can help them see that it’s ok to do hard stuff.
  • 7.    Consumption without Reflection (Elizabeth)
    • The internet has decided that minors can handle adult information. This leads to kids consuming content years before their brains are ready to do any critical thinking on it. Can they distinguish reputable sources? Do they know how to fact check? 
    • All of this consumption at both a young age and fast pace can cause stress, anxiety, and depression. There is difficulty in deciphering what is real (filters) and believing that they must live up to a certain standard. 
    • Solution
      • Design Thinking-learning in light of a problem; can be real or fictional, but it will make students care about learning far more because it will make a difference in the world.
      • Teach them empathy and problem-solving skills and help fight against narcissism and impulsivity/fear of risk-taking and failure.
      • In our context, don’t just tell them what the Bible says. Equip them to study and understand the Bible for themselves.
        • Bible study strategies
        • Learning original Hebrew and Greek behind text
        • Expose them to difficult questions about apologetics and textual criticism.
        • This will mature them from people who come to church just to consume into people who belong to the church and seek to partner with every generation.


Throughout this talk, Ryan and Elizabeth have emphasized the importance of True Relationships. The most important relationship you and I can have is with Jesus Christ.

John 1:12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:”

Invitation: Do you care about our children and grandchildren? Do you understand the challenges facing them? Are you saved? Are you doing whatever it takes to save them?

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