This morning the United Nations released the newest world statistics. There are now 7.4 billion people on the planet. That means the number has grown by 0.10 of a billion or 100 million since the last time the world population figure was released. For me, no surprise there. We are doing what God told us to do – “be fruitful and multiply.” But the interesting statistic for me is that over 50% of the world’s population is 24 years old or younger. That speaks to me. Really, it should scream at us.
This means that we need to catch up with what is happening in the world. For example, we need to learn to speak to people whose eyes are fixed on small screens from smartphones to laptops. The younger generation is a ‘screen culture.’ We can ignore that fact, we can argue about it, we can wish it were not so, or we can leverage it. Of course, this will mean we need to change the way we relate and the way we teach. Think about it. It is now possible to reach infinitely more people through media that we could ever hope to reach by standing in front of a room of people sitting in seats facing one direction. That excites me.
The younger generation do not attend weekly. They consider regular attendance to be two – at the most three – times a month. Most often they don’t tithe – instead, they tip if it was a good service and the message spoke to them personally. So, if you preach in series then those who are younger will miss every second or third episode of the series. But, if you place the series on line as a podcast most of the younger generations will tune in and even, at times, binge watch an entire series in a day or two. The “talking head” up-front no longer suffices. The younger generation want to interact with the truth and thus discuss the ideas and information being presented.
Outreach through social media is a must. People live on social media. On my smartphone I work with Skype, Twitter, Viber, Kik, Snapchat, Tweegran, whatsAp, Linkedin, Tumblr, Slack, Facebook, Messenger, Podbean, Podcasts, and the list goes on. We can impact a young person through social media long before they enter the doors of the local church. But, we need to adapt to the new ways of communicating and connecting.
This also means we need to be speaking to the issues that are current in our world and culture today. Topics like sex, marriage, gender, drugs, welfare mentality, parenting, sexuality, finances, terrorism. People are no longer putting up with condescending, ‘think happy thoughts,’ it-will-all-work-out teachings. Time to teach hard, biblical truth because life is hard. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble,” but take heart, don’t give up, Jesus has overcome. Preach it!
So, the way young people “do church” is radically changing and will continue to change, if not accelerate. As people’s attention spans continue to decrease (generally), we will have to change the way in which we expect people to interact with the church and the way we present our message – not just on the weekend but daily.