Spiritually Homeless Youth

Spiritually Homeless Teen

In his book You Lost Me, David Kinnaman—president of the Barna Group—divides once church-going Millennials into three types of spiritual journeyers: “nomads,” “prodigals” and “exiles.” Despite church homes stalwartly flashing the “welcome” sign, many youth are exiting the building to strap on backpacks and opt for a mobile life, leaving them spiritually homeless.

The next generation has an insatiable desire to go into the wild. Instead of hurrying up to settle into a routine indicative of generations past, they are slowing down and not committing to anything other than taking the scenic route—hey, YOLO, right?

Many youth are, however, fiercely loyal to their peers, many of whom they interact with more often digitally than they do IRL. They are used to total freedom as they’ve grown up with unlimited access to digitally explore the world, make connections, and find context.

Many churches haven’t figured out how to embrace this spontaneous, adventure-seeking Millennial mindset. Instead the Church is steadfastly marching on in its solidly rooted traditions, offering featureless programs instead of epic, life-altering experiences and moralistic content instead of Evites to experience larger-than-life God moments.

This next generation wants a fast pass to the top. In order to capture their attention and channel their energies, the Church is going to have to turn its old ways on its head–almost literally–and implement top-down leadership strategies.

45% of teens globally think that religion is very important and 57% wish to be influential over others (ABY 2011). We as leaders need to tap into that desire for spiritual rootedness and extend the invitation into Christian community in an innovative way knowing that 88% of teens are interested in digital media and 76% of them surf the web at least weekly (ABY 2011). We need their input to help us understand how to create a new, courageous sense of home within the Church.

At OneHope, we decided that it was mission critical for us to harness the unique talents of this generation and utilize cyber natives in order to exist in their digital age. We became intentional about raising up leaders within our organization, so we recruited young college graduates and gave them responsibilities early. We assigned them to a mentor within the organization and offered them full-time positions at the end of their fellowships. We even call it a YEP program–Young Emerging Professionals.

These mentorships allow for two-way learning, making it a win-win. It also allows for YEPs to experience the good, bad, and ugly side of ministry while also seeing our hearts. Having a younger presence in the office has not only changed the face of our office, but it has also started changing the shape of our organization. For the better!

What are you doing to open up your “home” to the wanderlust generation? How are you stepping into the digital realm to reach cyber natives in their own “domain”?

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Rob Hoskins is the president of OneHope. Since taking leadership of OneHope in 2004, he has continued to advance the vision of God’s Word. Every Child. by partnering with local churches to help reach more than 2 BILLION children and youth worldwide with a contextualized presentation of God’s Word.

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