Why is there not even one story in the Bible worrying about the generational gap? In the scriptures we see stories of marriage problems, sibling conflicts, disease outbreaks, church conflicts, etc. But we do not see any example of a father going to God to pray to understand his son’s differences, or a grandfather trying to seek ways to connect with his grandson. Some might argue that intergenerational conflicts do not exist during Bible times, but I have a different answer.
As a youth pastor in different churches over many years, I ran into the counterculture debate many times. I worked a full-time job during the day to support what I jokingly called my “teen addiction”, namely, working with teenagers from my youth groups on nights and weekends. I clearly remember doing research during those years and found out that 85% of all youth pastors in America were following God’s call on their lives while receiving no salary.
As an evangelist I once had an older motor home. It was nothing fancy and seemed sufficient for a church evangelist who often stayed overnight in church parking lots. However, one day when I was at a campground with my family, a small group of teenagers walked by the motorhome and laughed while pointing at my “Teen Talk Radio” bumper sticker. Right then I knew I needed to pray for an idea and make a change to my motor home’s image. If I was going to reach this 90’s generation, I needed to step into their world. Bear in mind that this was the age of Beavis and Butt-Head on MTV.
When I got home, I contacted a local young airbrush artist who sketched out a design idea. After he worked hard for 110 total hours, we had graffiti on wheels! To test my project, I drove the RV to a church in Clark Summit, Pennsylvania, where I was the guest speaker. When I pulled in, the pastor smiled and said something like, “Wow, that sure is colorful!” That first night something happened, which had never happened before: The entire youth group invited me out to McDonald's after church! It was like I was automatically cool! For the next few years the RV continued to be a teen magnet.
Just as I did with my RV, I encourage youth pastors/leaders to do what you can do with what God “puts in your hands” regardless of how little budget you may have. Learn to be guided by the Holy Spirit with prayer in everything.
In the beginning of the article I asked, “Where in the Bible do you see the generation gap issue mentioned?” Do you know what I believe? I believe that God considers each generation so precious and so unique that it is the one topic He wants everyone to seek Him about to obtain the needed “right now” answers. Do you have the answers of how to reach this “Z” generation? Have you asked?
Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. His website is www.verticalsound.org.