By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
It was a great day and we were blessed to be there for the service. Both of our grandchildren are under the age of 4 and are members of Generation Z. Read the story and take a hard look at the photo on page 1. If that doesn’t get you on your knees, I honestly don’t know what will (assuming you have children or grandchildren in that category).
If statistics hold true, nine in 10 of children born since 9/11 (2001) will not come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
That’s why it is so imperative that Southern Baptist churches do what it takes to reach Generation Z and their parents with the gospel. I include parents because they are just as important to reach. I don’t know many preschoolers who attend church without Mom and Dad (unless their grandparents take them).
This issue of the Baptist and Reflector provides insight into ministry to both Generation Z and Millennials.
Churches are popping up everywhere geared at reaching Millennials. I have no problem with that. Many of them already are parents of Generation Z children. But reaching the latest generations cannot be a task for just new churches. It will take all churches willing to do what it takes.
Skypointe, which my daughter Joanna and her family attend, is a good example of a church targeting Millennials and families with children born since 2001. They have the loud praise band and a “coffee shop” before service. They sing songs I have never heard before. But, is that wrong? Of course not. The songs mention the blood of Jesus and other topics we find in our traditional hymns. They’re just not what I’m used to.
Skypointe is a great example of what our churches need to look like. We sometimes think that for a church to reach Millennials everyone in it has to be 30 years old and younger and meet in a storefront. That’s simply not true. Millennials need mentoring and leadership that can only come from older, experienced Christians. Older generations need the energy and zest that younger generations provide.
At Skypointe, though the music is contemporary and the feel of the church is certainly non-traditional, there were quite a few “gray hairs” there on Mother’s Day Sunday and they weren’t just visitors. They are active participants. Even the pastor is an older minister but he has an ability to connect with people of all ages. He is an excellent preacher.
The church is reaching Millennials and Generation Z while maintaining ties with and ministering to people of all ages. I truly believe that the most effective churches today will be intergenerational congregations. I was speaking with Gary Rickman from our Tennessee Baptist Convention staff recently about this subject and he made this observation: “A church can and should include everybody.” He also rightly noted that “it takes everybody to do the work.”
Single generation churches are impractical although I know they exist. Churches comprised of primarily senior adults will eventually close their doors as people die. Younger churches need mature Christians (normally associated with age but not necessarily) to disciple and mentor new believers. If not, those churches will flounder due to lack of spiritual growth and resources.
To reach the younger generation means I may have to bite my tongue and accept the louder music on occasion. It may also mean that those under the age of 40 need to be willing to sing a few traditional hymns at times. We can adapt and adjust methods without watering down the gospel.
I applaud what Skypointe is doing because my prayer is that my two grandsons will come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior through the ministry of that church in addition to the influence of their parents and grandparents.