TikTok. Marijuana use. Anxiety. Flexitarian diets. Text message therapy. These are just a few of the Gen Z trends emerging in 2020. But what do trends like these mean for our ministries going forward? Should they impact what we’re doing week to week as youth leaders? This week, join us as we discuss why we should care about cultural trends as youth leaders, where this next generation of students is heading, and what we can do to better connect and engage with the students we lead along the way.
- What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear ‘2020 Trends’? (1:20)
- Why do we need to be aware of what’s going on with Gen Z? (3:35)
- How well do we feel like we’re doing at keeping a pulse on what’s going on with Gen Z? (6:55)
- Let’s dive into some of these Gen Z trends (18:46)
- Let’s talk about Kanye (29:50)
- Other trends to unpack: weed, anxiety, texting, TikTok, etc. (35:00)
– Hey everybody, I’m CJ, and let me wish you a happy new year and welcome to Rethinking Youth Ministry where, this week, we’re joined by Candice,
– Hey CJ.
– and Crystal.
– Hey there.
– And to kick things off in the new year, we’re talking about 2020 trends for Gen Z, Generation Z. And obviously, this is very timely, and as youth ministry leaders, we want to stay on top of what’s going on in our students’ lives and in culture because if we can’t speak their language and if we don’t know what’s going on in the world, it’s really hard to reach them, right? And so to kind of kick things off, well, first, I want to mention we’ve talked about Gen Z before and if you want to catch up on that episode, it was episode number 26, and we’ll have a link to that in the show notes, but we’re kind of picking up, that was actually in 2018, so we’re almost two years out from that and a lot of things have changed, and that initial conversation was a little bit about who Gen Z is. Now, here in 2020, we’re talkin’ about where Gen Z is heading. To kick things off, though, I want to start with this question. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear 2020 trends?
– I feel like I have to be a fortune teller to know that. I don’t know.
– Yes, look into your crystal ball, Crystal.
– I mean, I hope TikTok is still around, because I’ve done a deep dive and I can’t get out.
– We’ve worked together quite a bit, and just about every day in the office, you’re showing us some sort of TikTok, so you are headfirst definitely in the TikTok world.
– I may need help.
– Yeah, yeah, yeah.
– I applaud you for that. That’s amazing that you’re being that relevant.
– Well, thank you, but I’m also wasting hours and hours of time.
– Candice, what do you think?
– What is the first thing you think about?
– Oh gosh, more change.
– I get stuck on the year. It’s an election year, and I think what lies ahead of us by that very fact, experts… There’s one side that says that if the present administration stays in office, there will be a lot of emotion and it could get heated, and then the same experts say that if there’s a different administration elected that it could be just as volatile. I think the generation we minister to, they are more politically aware than we realize, it affects who they are spiritually, and it certainly affects their outlook on the world, their future, that’s what I think about.
– Yeah, and I kind of think about, like I wonder who’s going to emerge as influencers that we don’t see coming yet. I think about in 2019, you had people like Kanye who not came out of nowhere, obviously, but really became a pivotal figure in 2019 and I’m sure will be going forward. But who is that name, that person who is on our radar a little bit but who is going to emerge as oh this person is doing something that’s shifting culture in a significant way that we don’t know yet. So that’s kind of what I think of when it comes to 2020. But I guess before we dive into that any further, why do we need to be aware of what’s going on, what’s trending in the world of Gen Z as youth ministry leaders?
– I mean, in some ways it’s kind of like being missionaries who go into a culture and don’t bother to learn about the culture if we don’t. Student culture shapes worldview the same way that ethnic culture shapes worldview. It’s going to shape the things that they value, the things that they think about, the things that they wonder about, the questions they’re asking, and so I don’t know that we can do our jobs effectively if we’re not at least making an attempt to zero in on student culture.
– Yeah, that’s great.
– Yeah, that’s what I was going to say. Because this is our audience, and it’s important to know your audience and the things that matter to them, the things that they’re thinking about, and the things that are surrounding them, and what they’re entrenched in.
– I would even go so far as to say that a lot of our responsibility as youth leaders is to be culturalists. We need to be. If we’re not careful, if we don’t understand, to Crystal and Candice’s point, then you wind up preparing students to lead and live in a world that no longer exists. And to be really, really honest, a lot of the issue in the capital C Church is because we keep acting as if it’s still the same way it was, and it’s not. And we do have enough data now because of our capacity to have information to be able to be a bit more of a futurist, to some degree.
– You know it reminds me a lot of when I was in public education, and the same issue is the one that we face. If we don’t know our student culture well, it’s really hard to teach them. And I remember one of my last education classes in college, and to her credit, it was the best professor I had. She was incredible, but one day towards the end of the semester, she put on the movie Breakfast Club, and we said, “What are you doing?” And she said, “You have to know the nature of the beast.” And I sat there thinking, cool assignment, I get it, but those kids were in high school when my parents were, like that was 15 years before me, and I’m supposed to think that that reflects the culture of kids younger than me? There’s no way. But as I’ve gotten older, at least I’ve begun to understand exactly what that professor was thinking. For her, the time span between Breakfast Club and the early 2000s was not that long, and in her mind that was the nature of the beast, and now I’m tempted to do the exact same thing. I’m tempted to watch Mean Girls, and say, oh that’s how it is.
– [Stuart] Every girl is like that, yeah.
– And it’s the same distance in time as Breakfast Club was for me.
– Wow, and even more scary is that we have youth leaders in our country that still minister to teenagers and think about the high school campus like Breakfast Club.
– Yeah, for sure.
– When the pods have multiplied and splintered and, you know, it’s just not the same world.
– Yeah, and culture’s moving even faster than it did when your professor was referencing Breakfast Club.
– There were no apps, there was no social media.
– Right, it’s spinning and spiraling in a way, not spiraling, but moving faster and faster and faster that, yeah, what was trending six months ago is no longer the case now and, so if keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s trending is so popular, or so important as youth leaders, how well, if I can put all of us on the spot, how well do we feel like we’re doing at that?
– How well do you feel like you’re keeping up, Candice? I see you glaring at me. How well do you feel like
– Yes, Candice tell us. you’re doing keeping up with the direction Gen Z is heading?
– I have no problem being honest here. I’ll be transparent, terrible. And a huge part of it is it’s exhausting, one, it’s confusing, because there’s so much that changes so frequently, like, you know, apparently TikTok has been around for years, but it’s just gaining great momentum. I don’t have a TikTok account.
– Let me help you.
– But do I need something else in my life that really consumes me like that? That’s a challenge in which I’ve always sat, because me in my era, I’ve found the things that I like and they consume my life, and then there’s new things that come around that our youth are using and it’s important for me as a youth leader to connect with them to be connected to those and be aware of those, so how much time am I really going to spend engulfing myself in their culture and my culture? So I think I’m doing a terrible job. I’ve gotten to the point where I care, but I just don’t really have the ability to stay as connected.
– That’s good. People look at me, and they think, what, I’ve got on hoop earrings and red lipstick, oh you’re connected. No, I’m not. You know, don’t just assume because I’m a millennial that I know certain things, ’cause I don’t. This is a totally different generation.
– Well, we have full-time jobs.
– Right, exactly.
– They have time to discover new things that often we don’t, just because the time commitment it would take for me to learn yet another social network is a lot. I’m with you. I don’t feel like I do a great job, and I put effort into it, and the more I learn, the more I thin I’m doing a worse job. The further I get into certain aspects of student culture, the more I realize, oh that thing that I thought was serious that’s actually a joke. They’re poking fun, oh, now it’s a parody. Now, I have to go find the original and find out what they’re making fun of and–
– [Candice] Now, I’m lame.
– Yeah, now I’m lame.
– Totally. I’m taking something seriously that they take as a joke. It’s hard to keep up with it in that way.
– Maybe this’ll make you guys feel better. I don’t know if it will, but part of my responsibilities here I feel are to at least have my finger on the pulse of what is happening with student culture.
– And you do a great job of that, by the way.
– Well, I don’t–
– I wish the world could see the constant emails and texts you send us with articles about student culture.
– Well, I appreciate you saying that, but what I was going to say to encourage you is that as much time as I do spend, and maybe this is the push back, I do feel like we don’t have the luxury of not doing it. I don’t know if youth leaders can sit back and go, well, I don’t have to do that. I do think, too, there is a tension, and I feel this in what Candice is saying, as people who follow Jesus, we also believe that we have some anchors that don’t change. So, those are the things that we’re going to stay connected to, and we can’t get caught up in all the cultural trends, but we also don’t have the luxury to have principles, as it relates to this.
– What do you mean by that?
– Well, I’m actually I’m quoting–
– Oh, shoot.
– There’s a line in the movie, The Patriot, where–
– I’m not old enough for that.
– Benjamin Martin is a father. He is asked, “I thought you to be a patriot.” And he said, “I’m a parent, “I don’t have the luxury of having principles.” And I feel like as a youth leader, we can use some things as an excuse not to put our head down and do the work. And you have to put your head down and do the work. And I feel that because of my own children more than I do scores of teenagers that we’re trying to connect to across the country. I want to be able to know what’s goin’ on in my own kids’ world, not to be cool, but to communicate. I think there is a difference.
– I do feel like I hear that, particularly in youth pastor and teacher Facebook groups, a lot of the message is transcendent, so I don’t have to worry about culture, and in the youth pastor groups it’s the gospel is transcendent, so I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to add anything to it. And sometimes I want to reply, but I know better to reply in a Facebook group. But I want to reply, “Well then, why did the Apostle Paul “even bother to write letters?” If the gospel was all people needed, why did they need translation to understand it in their daily lives?
– And why did he speak a certain way to these people, a different way to these people, because, yeah, that’s such a great point.
– I guess, for me, I’m thinking about how well do I keep up with Gen Z. There are two sides to it, and I’d be curious to see if you guys would agree that there is the, you stay connected with students is one way to keep up with what’s going on in Gen Z and you do research and you read articles to stay connected and up to date on what’s going on in Gen Z and I lead a small group, so I feel like I’ve got some insight into what’s going on in their lives, but I am transparently, to join Candice, I don’t feel like I do the other side of that really well. I don’t know as well the culture in which my students are living in as much as I do their specific lives. And I would guess that some youth leaders lean one way or the other. They’re either somewhat disconnected from the students or the students in their ministry but they read a lot, and then you have leaders that are so plugged into their students but they’re neglecting what’s actually going on in culture because they only know what’s going on in their 10 or 12 students’ lives, and I think staying up with what’s going on in Gen Z and what’s trending requires some of both, but I just don’t do, you do a lot of research, Stuart, obviously, like Crystal was saying, and that is something that I’m not very good at, to be honest.
– Part of it I feel like is my responsibility, so it’s not like you need to feel guilty about that.
– I don’t, don’t worry.
– You know what, I wasn’t going to lose any sleep that you were feelin’ guilty about that. But the other side of it, to your point is part of the reason why, it’s almost like having a map to cross a swamp with a group of people that you’re responsible for. We all know we’re trying to get–
– Are you saying the culture’s the swamp?
– I’m trying it out, too.
– To some degree, and we’re tryin’ to get across a very precarious area to a goal, and every youth leader listening to this or perhaps watching this, the anchor is the end. What we get hung up on is we think we’re there, and we’re not. And so what being a little more savvy culturally does is it allows you to point out the places where we can’t–
– I don’t think Candice likes your analogy.
– No, I like it, I just have a thought, and I’m tryin’ not to lose it.
– I need to go around this, you need to think of this this way to help you get to where we feel like you need to go.
– I agree with that. I don’t necessarily disagree. I think that the piece where… I think there’s many things. There’s many different degrees of being connected to something, right? Me, scrollin’ through my Instagram feed the other day, and I see one of my former students and she’s wearing an outfit that I probably would’ve worn in like 6th grade. Not being connected to a culture would be not even recognizing it. I recognized it, and I’m like, oh man, I showed my husband, I’m like, “Look at this.” From the clips in her hair to the shoes she’s wearing, it was what I wore in middle school.
– Welcome back, 90s, we missed you.
– Exactly, right? And so, I’ve recognized it, but am I student of it and am I allowing myself to go down every rabbit hole of memes that come out and social media platforms that are available? No, I look ’em up to see what it is. But I don’t spend a whole lot of time there. And I think that there are some youth leaders who might be seeing different things and completely ignoring it. And we cannot ignore.
– That’s good, that’s a great way to put it.
– But there are people who are like you, Stuart, who are just like students of it.
– But don’t make the assumption that I dive into the rabbit hole, because I don’t.
– Okay, so whoever the people are who dive into the rabbit hole, who are those culturalists and those people, there are people who are students of it. There’s a whole spectrum. So just making sure that we’re not too far on the ignoring side of this spectrum that we’re just irrelevant and we’re saying things that are just not like what?
– Or so far on the ignoring spectrum that you’re asking your students to walk you through what’s going on in culture. There is value in asking in connecting with your students about hey what does that mean or what’s this about, but if you’re doing that, and almost to your analogy Stuart, asking them to guide you through the swamp, then I feel like I don’t know what it does necessarily, but I don’t know, there’s a balance there somewhere. Does that make sense?
– It does, ’cause there’s a way of allowing students, there’s a way of engaging students in your ministry to navigate culture but not necessarily utilizing them as being the ones who are driving the ship.
– So can we go back and talk about the research for a few minutes. Because you posed such an interesting question a second ago. You said, “Is it more important to pay attention “to research and articles or to your own students, “even if they’re only in an isolated community?” And I’ve spent a lot of the last couple of years trying to do both of those things, so I pay attention to the small group that I lead and also to the research, and what I’ve noticed is the research always seems off, and I think there’s a lot of reasons, but most of the research is from marketing organizations, and they’re targeting young adults who for the first time have disposable income, and the oldest of Gen Z are now 22, so I feel like the majority of the research is around them and it’s around college students, and it’s around maybe their values, when I recognize that even my own girls who are in 12th grade seem to be a little bit different than that. And so I would still say that research is no substitute for diving into the culture of your own students, even if it’s just in your community, that’s okay because that’s the group of students that you were called to. And there are some things that you won’t learn from an article that you will learn from simply asking the question of a student what does this mean, what matters, or who are you following. There are some things like that. When I first started working here at Orange, I remember thinking I’ve been out of the classroom for a year now. I’m not in constant conversation with students anymore. What do I do? And so I started substitute teaching on Fridays just to be around them, and it was so incredibly helpful to just sit in their presence and eavesdrop on their conversations for a little while that part of me wants to go back and do that now.
– And to the point you just made, I think that your small group and what they are doing versus having a conversation with a group of kids on campus that don’t give a rip about God–
– Completely different.
– Completely different, it’s true.
– And sometimes it’s the church kids who are on campus who are completely different.
– Yeah, exactly.
– And you find out their normal world does not look the way that they look and act and think at youth group.
– Wow, so let’s get a little bit more specific here, and let’s start actually diving into some of these Gen Z 2020 trends, what’s going on, but of course the word trends is super huge and broad, and there are tons of different kinds of trends. I listed a few here in my notes. There are social trends, social media trends, religious trends, dating/ relationship trends, eating trends, which I was reading a lot about with–
– I know, that was amazing.
– For the Gen Z, fashion trends, obviously, the list goes on, but what kind of trends can or should impact what we do week to week as youth ministry leaders? Should we be paying attention to eating trends or, obviously social media trends are huge. Which ones matter in our world?
– If they’re not going to eat the pizza anymore, stop buying it.
– Yeah, that’s a valid point, seriously.
– I know.
– Well, keep goin’.
– Go ahead.
– A lot of the young people nowadays are way more into eating a lot healthier than what my generation or generations before me, older than me, have been. And within youth ministries, we go cheap a lot of times when it comes to food, so we do pizzas. We might do hotdogs or things like that, and one of the things as I was preparing, I saw a new term that I had no been familiar with, but I totally get it. I learned the term of flexitarian.
– I read that, too. Did we all end up on the same article?
– And I totally understood my son. And I think that that’s part of the–
– So explain what flexitarian is.
– Yeah, I will in a second.
– Sorry, CJ, let her talk.
– I’m so excited, wait.
– Sorry, Candice.
– Don’t make her take out her hoop earrings.
– That are not really hoop earrings.
– Hold my hoops.
– But back to Stuart’s point, the importance of us being, as youth leaders, being aware of what’s happening within the trends of our generation. It informs us of things even as important as what to put before a student to eat. If students are not eating pizza because they’re really, really not into carbs as much, why are we putting pizza before students a whole lot. If they’re not into processed foods, why are we putting hot dogs in front of them? If they’re flexitarians, which means that they are sometimes vegetarians and they’re sometimes not, let’s not look at it as being youthful and not being certain of yourself, just understand it and dive into it and navigate it and be supportive. My son, he doesn’t eat meat some days and he does some days, and I’m like, “You are so confused, child.” And now I know what I can call him, not to label him, but–
– You know what I love
– These children will be like cage-free vegan, no carbs, no processed food, but drink five Monster energy drinks, and I’m like I think you’re a caffeinatarian. I think that’s what you are. But I actually like that that came up in the research. I can’t believe we’re starting with food trends for 2020, but I think what I see at least in my own group is they’re attracted to anything that gives them a unique label, so they might eat meat sometimes, not eat meat sometimes but they’re more likely to do that if they can call it flexitarian, or pescatarian, or whatever the tarian is of the moment, and I think that bleeds over not just into food choices, but into choices in all kinds of political areas, thought areas, religious areas, sexuality areas. There are all these areas where they go I just need the most unique label I can, which is really hard for those of us that are millennials, because we just wanted to be part of the crowd, part of the movement. I just want to be part of this big group of people, and now the kids I serve are like, no, I want to be in the smallest demographic possible.
– Right, to go along with that, I think that we have guys and girls in our schools that don’t normally attend church, and it’s already hard for us to build a bridge to those students, but this generation is so socially conscious and sustainability is such a big deal to them that if they come to your church and you’re using plastic straws and you’re feeding them junky food.
– Communion cups?
– Communion cups to go, like the ones in plastic.
– Paper communion cups. But all of that, it could be that they are checking you off because your awareness of what’s going on in the world, I think the research screamed at me, there is such a concern and it bleeds into one thing I think we all have to mention at some point today, it bleeds into the anxiety pandemic that is going on, but part of that anxiety is being driven by the fact that they are looking at their world that is collapsing around them and we as adults don’t seem to care about climate and so all of this is interconnected. We may think it’s just silly food when you’re feeding them pizza, but it’s interconnected, because they’re going, you don’t care about me because you have plastic straws and you’re feeding me pizza.
– Yeah, and all of a sudden, also, I know it is kind of funny that we’re starting with food, but in some ways it’s also not, because it is something they care a lot about, and all of a sudden if we are feeding them pizza and we make a vegan joke on stage, all of a sudden, they kind of made fun of me or this place doesn’t get me. You know what I mean? If we’re making those kinds of low-ball jokes or whatever.
– That’s a powerful point, that the kinds of jokes we are making need to be so sensitive to the diversity of the kids in the room, because there was a time where it kind of felt okay to make vegan people because we didn’t know any vegan people. There was also a time where I think a lot of people felt like it was okay to make jokes about gay people or jokes about transgendered people or jokes about different races, and it was never okay, but it was more common. And now, knowing that this generation is the most sexually and ethnically diverse generation that’s ever existed, we at least have to be aware of the fact that whoever we’re making a joke about, if we’re making a joke about a human, there’s a chance that human is in our audience.
– And we have to, I’m so glad you both brought that up, because as the elder statesman around the table, which you guys love to make me aware of–
– Okay, boomer.
– Crystal actually brought this to my attention about a year ago, and she doesn’t even know she did it, but for the longest time, when I would be on stage and talk about girls, I had a certain stereotype in my mind, and I had a mimic of that girl down to a T, and it’s just not cool anymore, with the Me Too movement, how we are looking at feminism and what is happening in our culture, it’s just not cool anymore to stereotype girls a certain way, and it bleeds into what you’re talkin’ about how we speak about this generation. We really do, there are old school men and women listening to me, and you’re thinking, well, they’re just way too sensitive. It’s the generation that we’re trying to reach. And you can’t use that as an excuse.
– I like that you said that, ’cause there’s a part of me when I hear myself say it’s not cool anymore and when I hear you say it’s not cool anymore, it almost goes was it ever? And I think it’s not that our current generation is too sensitive or it’s a political correctness issue, but more of like even as believers, we’re progressively becoming more understanding of how our words effect people.
– That’s good. Words create worlds.
– And even in that, this is one of the things I was thinking kind of shifting the conversation a little bit, so if I’m going too far, pull me back.
– You’re good. As we are more informed today, as a people, parents are also more informed, too. And there’s way more literature out there and resources on parenting, and I think some of the generations coming up today are the students of probably some of the more informed parents.
– Yeah, that’s a brilliant thought.
– So, what does that mean when it comes to parent involvement in our ministry. If more parents nowadays are reading more literature and learning how to engage their students and are being more intentional about being present and involved in the life of their children in different ways, how does that translate into our ministry?
– Wow, that’s such a good point, because we do have a tendency to just, we dumb down our ideas of Mom and Dad, and youth leaders across the nation, we are just convinced that Mom and Dad do not care about their kids, and it’s just not true. We also have racial stereotypes about parents that we have to lay down.
– I also tend to have the assumption that their parents’ age is the same as my parent’s age. I don’t know if you feel that, but sometimes I forget. In my mind, I’m like two years older than the girls I serve, and then one of their moms tells me that we graduated high school the same year, and I’m like, “Whoah, hang on.” Hang on, can a millennial parent and it’s not uncommon anymore for even the majority of the students we serve to be raised by millennial parents who had a completely different worldview than the Gen X parents before them.
– All right, so I’m going to reign this back in just a little bit, and I threw out a question a few minutes ago about there are a lot of different trends, which ones matter the most or could have the biggest impact in youth ministry? I don’t know if we need to go back there, because it sounds like–
– Can I speak to one that you brought up?
– I think Kanye, the Kanye phenomenon is something that we need to talk about.
– So, that was going to be my next question.
– Your next question was Kanye?
– Not Kanye, but let’s get specific, because I did throw out there are social trends, social media trends, religious trends, all of those, and I guess the answer is all of them matter, because I really do think it’s funny that we just did a deep dive on the eating trend just a little bit, and that might’ve been the one on the list that we might’ve been tempted to–
– I literally thought are we really going to talk about this?
– And it was our opener, that’s amazing.
– And we haven’t even talked about social media trends, it’s great. Proof we do not rehearse these conversations.
– That’s exactly right. Oh, there’s the bug man.
– For those watching this episode, we paused for a second, because there was pest control doing rounds behind us here in the office.
– And Crystal put on her surgical mask.
– I was like no chemicals, please.
– All right, so the remainder of our conversation might feel a little disjointed as we jump around kind of from topic to topic, but best transition here in podcast history, let’s talk about Kanye.
– Well, here’s what I would like to put on the table for us to discuss.
– Please. Obviously, right now, there is a ton of, is controversy a fair word, or he’s definitely the topic of conversation among many people, but the religious community especially, and I think what it points a light to that we are facing in the future is how do we measure and gauge spiritual formation and transformation. I think this generation, we have done such an incredible job of changing the course of theology for them to understand grace and forgiveness, and my generation and those older than me are having a difficult time with can someone like Kanye be transformed, and then you have the tension of is he just doin’ it for money? All of that plays into this, so I would love for us if we could–
– [Candice] Or is he doin’ it for the political side of it?
– Correct, yes, right.
– I guess if we want to talk about Kanye a little bit, I would ask, and the answer might be a resounding yes, are our middle schoolers and high schoolers, Gen Z, are they talking about Kanye the way that we as church leaders and ministry people are talking about it?
– That’s a good question.
– Like, we’re having all of these debates about him and his spiritual life and all of that kind of a thing. Are we missing the mark by talking about that, if that’s not even what our students are talking about?
– I, ooh, what if we disagree?
– I would say– Let’s find out.
– Say it on the count of three.
– Ladies first.
– I don’t think so. I don’t think they’re as keyed up about it as the adult generation is. I think they either like the music or don’t like the music. He’s a Christian, cool, he’s not, okay. And they kind of go on with their lives. It feels like the outrage and the questions and the turmoil I see come from a generation or two older than them.
– We kind of agree. I think–
– Kind of agree?
– Well, my pushback would be, I hear what you’re saying, but when you see how many downloads he’s sold, that’s not adult America downloading that album, so that’s number one. Number two, if we’re talking about the future, I think it’s going to become more of an issue in 2020, because I think more and more teenagers are going to be faced with a mom, a dad, their church, their youth leader going you’re looking at him. And there is this, this is what you’re professing, this is your actions, there seems to be a quandary. That’s why I was bringing up Kanye.
– So thinking about Kanye as a whole, right, I was in college when College Dropout came out, one of Kanye’s albums that really put, was that the one that put him on the map, I think? ♪ He’d give me money ♪
– Right. ♪ When I’m in need ♪
– Great, now we have to pay for the rights to that song.
– Are you sure that it’s Kanye?
– It wasn’t that long, to pay for the rights.
– Oh, she a gold digger.
– Now, we do. ♪ Way over town ♪ ♪ Who digs on me ♪
– No, but seriously, so I was in college when College Dropout came out, and it was a major thing, so Kanye has been really, really big amongst my generation, right? So I know amongst me and within the Black community, especially, the way that Kanye is presenting himself in the media by wearing the MAGA hats, Make American Great Again, and then coming out with this gospel album, or whatever you want to call it, I know within many Black homes, or people of color, or whoever has been a Kanye supporter, I know that it’s being talked about. I know students hear that, and it makes me wonder how it’s informing this generation in their response to him as being a sellout to what they feel, a sellout to the Black community, but now he’s trying to take this spin. It makes him look like he’s takin’ advantage or tryin’ to use people. What’s the word? I don’t know what the word is.
– Manipulate in a way?
– Yeah, like–
– Gold digger?
– You’re having too much fun with that.
– But I know many people feel that way, and it’ll just be interesting to see as Stuart talked about, this is election year, what that looks like within our youth.
– Yeah, it’ll certainly ramp up the closer we get to the election, the more it will–
– Yeah, I think no matter what reason why different generations are talking about him, for whatever reason, for all of these reasons, all of these generations are kind of talking about him in different ways.
– It is, it’s crazy.
– And that is why I do think this was a great place to start it that this will likely be a big trend in 2020 So what other trends do we need to talk about and unpack when it comes to Gen Z?
– So speaking of the election year, some of the research I found shows that one in four students, so one out of every four, is using marijuana in some capacity. I think that may change what our youth ministries look like. I mean, I was talkin’ to some youth workers in California who said, we now have to monitor very carefully who brings snacks to youth group and what those snacks look like because there’s a product called Weetos that looks like Cheetos. And I just think
– Wow. that’s going to be a different kind of conversation in our student ministries about how you balance what’s wise and what’s legal.
– That’s good.
– But I think the underlying part of Crystal’s point is I think this is a major issue for youth leaders across the country is how are we dealing with the anxiety coping issue, and how are we either structuring or restructuring our ministries to be a safe place because having conversations yesterday with a very respected psychologist that we love and adore, her telling me, it’s not epidemic, it’s pandemic. And I think marijuana use is simply a symptom of an anxiety-ridden generation. So that’s one thing I think we’ve got to tackle in 2020.
– We know how a lot of students nowadays like hiding behind the screen and would prefer, they’ll say more to you via text than they will face to face, but via text message they’ll open up a whole lot more, so I’m seeing a lot more advertisements for therapists that you can text. So it makes me wonder how maybe the church should not necessarily shun students for not wanting to verbally communicate. I mean, yeah, everyone needs to be able to communicate verbally, that’s not what I’m saying, but maybe not shun that part of them but just lean into it to maybe do some kind of, we’re not licensed therapists within the church, all of us, but maybe provide some sort of texting ability, where if you’re experiencing that anxiety or some kind of something, maybe not a clinical diagnosis of anxiety, but you’re experiencing some sort of pressures of life or you just need somebody to talk to, how can we lean into that?
– Yeah, that’s good.
– What can we provide? I know within my church one of the things that I used to do every so often was we’d use a texting system, and I would be on my computer, and I would lie and say that I’m sitting here in front of my phone, but I would text all of our students and say, “Hey, it’s 3:30, I’ll be here in front of my phone “until 4 o’clock, text any questions you have, “any things you want to say.” And I would just I can type–
– That’s great.
– It’s like office hours.
– Exactly, right. And I would just text students back and forth, and a lot would come out from there, and it was confidential, unless if I needed to look somebody’s phone number up because of something they said or say, “Hey we should continue this.” And then I would do that, but what are some ways that we can provide, maybe more consistent, maybe daily, things for students for them to have that outlet, so that they’re not eatin’ the Weedos and, is that what it was called?
– Weetos, yeah. Candice, what you said reminded me of a trend that I’ve noticed in my own small group, and I don’t super know what to do with it, but it’s been interesting, and I think it’s connected to anxiety that when I plan an event and announce an event early on, there’s very little participation, but when I text the group and say, I’m going to be at this Starbucks at this address from 3:30 to 4 today, suddenly they all show up. And part of me wonders, is the anxiety of waiting or build up or who’s going to be at or how long do I have to stay at an event, they just check out. Whereas, the spontaneity of let’s get together right now it just seems to have a better response rate. I wonder if that’s connected to anxiety.
– Can I turn the corner
– Sure. on something with what you’re saying, Candice–
– As long as you’re not disagreeing.
– No, I’m not–
– He only disagrees with me.
– But there is some data that suggests that all those students are having a difficult time communicating face to face. Part of the reason why Facebook is obsolete, and that probably should be a PSA for us, for youth leaders, if you’re still using Facebook as it relates to teenagers,
– To reach students. to reach teenagers, it’s obsolete. Twitter is on the downtrend, but it’s things like Snapchat, even Instagram is probably becoming or will become nominal.
– It’s being used differently, for sure.
– Right, but Snapchat, and then Crystal’s favorite thing on the planet, TikTok, part of the reason why, though, all the researchers say that’s a big deal is because there is a lean now back toward them being able to have face to face interaction, even if it’s via social media.
– They’re using TikTok because they crave the face to face, is that what you’re saying?
– At least, they’re able to see it, and the other thing that I found that was really interesting is that it’s temporary.
– [Crystal] It’s temporary, yup.
– So it could go away, so if I’m not in my best–
– There’s less pressure on it.
– Yeah, it’s going to go away, so I wasn’t at my best, but nobody’s ever going to see that again. But I do think it’s almost like Generation Z going we do want to have relationships. We do want to have relationships, but we struggle a little bit with that interaction.
– But as youth workers, Thoughts? that puts us in a tricky place.
– It does.
– Because I feel like, you know this, you talk to youth pastors all around the country who have to have policies in place about private communication between volunteers and between church staff and their students. Well, if we completely disallow private communication, we might be disallowing communication entirely.
– [Candice] Mm-hm, in ministry.
– And so there is a risk issue there, where I’m going I might have to take a legal risk in order for this kid to have a safe place to have a conversation with an adult. How do I do that wisely?
– Just to keep the conversation going, what other trends, I know we’ve kind of touched on TikTok, is there anything else to unpack there, as far as social media trends I should say that we need to be leaning into in 2020, as youth leaders?
– I don’t know if this will happen everywhere. I see it happening with some of our students on the West Coast, that their grids on Instagram, the perfectly curated photos that stay up forever and used to have palettes are disappearing entirely, and they might have one or two, it’s almost like a profile photo but all of the activity happens in the storybook and, like you said, it disappears.
– It disappears, totally.
– Yep, I agree.
– Yep, I lead middle school guys, and that’s what they do. They have Instagram profiles with one picture and a thousand followers, but it’s because everything’s either happening in the stories or in the DMs, right, so that’s definitely where things are/ are continuing to head. Go ahead, Stuart.
– This isn’t along those lines, but I was going to press more into the trend thing in future. A lot of the data is suggesting that 49% of Generation Z is multiracial. By the year 2045, we’ve talked about this on a couple of podcasts, but by the year 2045, if you are Caucasian, you’ll be the minority in America, but with Generation Z being the largest generation, I think, am I right there? The largest generation right now, and with 49% of them being multiracial, as youth leaders you better start thinking through how you talk about and think about interracial dating, because the vast majority of them not only have no problem dating someone of a different color, but they also are really, the lines are blurring as it relates to someone of a different political or religious persuasion.
– So you can think of all the theological obstacles we may have in youth ministry, about hopefully not interracial, but with things like being unequally yoked, a nonbeliever, that kind of thing.
– Yeah, I think and even just to hone in on specifically the diversity aspect of that, I think it’s just even more important that we’re leaning into that in our ministries, because I think our generation, when it comes to diversity in the church tend to think, unfortunately, we think it’s nice to have, if we got it, great, you know. We hope to be a diverse church. I think for Gen Z diversity is mandatory, that, hey, if you aren’t a diverse church, we’re checking out, because that has to… This is no longer optional.
– And I don’t even know if it’s Gen Z. I mean, I think about my husband and I. He’s Chinese. We chose our church intentionally, because one day we’ll have kids and we want them to know other kids who look like them and have leaders who look like them, and I think more and more families are choosing churches based on who is seen on stage and who is seen in the congregation.
– Yeah, that’s great.
– Another thing to keep the conversation moving. The biggest problems for this generation among 13 to 17 year olds, number one is climate change, number two is social media, number three is technology addiction, and we’re recording this on a day where there has just been a school shooting in Southern California, number four is gun violence and school shootings, bullying, politics, debt, mental health, laziness, and drugs are the top ten things that the lower half, not the older half of the Generation Z, but the lower half said those are the things they worry about the most.
– And even though I don’t think that this made the list or maybe it did, one of the things that I’ve found in research that I thought was so interesting is that every generation is shaped by some kind of generational trauma. For my generation it was 9/11, and it shaped all of us, but for this generation it was the 2008 financial crisis, and their sense of safety and security at home was shaped financially, and so they are so driven by financial decisions, which means when church camp costs a lot, they are quicker to say maybe not.
– And one of the reflexes of the 2008 crash of our economy is that they are such an entrepreneur generation, which is something that we can take advantage of.
– [Crystal] Oh, for sure.
– Because they want to start something, they love their independent thinking, and I think the youth leader that captures that heart in kids is going to really be able to do some really incredible things. And that something you can start in 2020, like how do we give our kids room to be entrepreneurial, to start something, and you couple that with the fact that–
– In your church and outside of it.
– Exactly, yes, and you couple that with the fact that they’re so socially conscious–
– That’s where I was goin’.
– Yeah, go there.
– Yeah, ’cause I’m thinking of all the youth nowadays that are so into advocacy, advocating against different issues, social justice issues and things like that. I see a lot of that, a lot of our students who have come alongside a cause and are committed to it, and it’s so, so great, and it makes me wonder how can we bridge generational gaps from that? You know, you talked about the financial crisis, and if you think about, especially within the Black community, what generation is that the Greatest Generation, is it?
– Like the World War II generation?
– Uh-huh, and then also the Silent Generation, those were the ones who were youth during the Civil Rights Movement, and the youth led the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King was what 15 when he started getting heavily involved in that. So if you take the people who are now older, maybe like 80, 90, or so and how can we use them as being possible mentors or influencers in this current generation who are coming alongside social justice issues and also who are the students who have been impacted by the financial crisis? ‘Cause the older generations were The Great Depression. So how can we maybe have some kind of conversation there, but a lot of the students today might not be too aware when it comes to the financial crisis piece of how it might impact them in the same way that some students today might realize how Black Lives Matters impacts them.
– There’s a quote by Josh Miller, who’s a part of XYZ University. Here’s what he says about Generation Z. And I think this is something that youth leaders should ask is how do we capitalize on their disruption, because they are disrupters? He says, “To Generation Z disruption is the norm. “We’ve been exposed to global flaws and issues “our entire lives, giving us the ability to understand “the problems that need to be solved. “We’re also skeptical, challenging pre-conceived notions “about how the world should work.” I love this. He said, “This leads to innovation, problem-solving, “and new ideas.” So instead of us being doom and gloom, I hope and pray that what we’ll think about in 2020 is how do we use their propensity toward being disrupters to their gain but also the greater good of the world.
– Because what we’re really talkin’ about here, I’m processing this as we’re discussing this, obviously, but when we say 2020 trends, how do we lean into that, what we’re really saying is, “How do we lean into what matters to them?” That’s all we’re talking about here is what matters to them, and I think sometimes, I’m talking to myself, too, as youth leaders, we’re tempted to talk about, especially from stage, what matters to us, and what’s on our heart, and hey, God put this on my heart, I think this is just a chance to pause and say, for lack of a better phrase, “What’s on their heart?” Going back to that list that you just mentioned a few minutes ago about the list of 10 things there, Stuart, how often are we being conscientious askers of what’s on their heart, what matters to them, what’s trending in their world this year, and leaning into that because that’s what they care about and if we talk about what they care about there’s a greater chance that they’re going to lean in back.
– I have gained leverage with my own children. I no longer make jokes about straws in restaurants. I don’t use a straw in a restaurant, because they are so passionate about it, and we’ve gone from buying packs of water bottles to going plastic-less in our house. And you would think I have just become the most socially conscious person on the planet, by our daughters, but it’s just simply because they’re teaching me. That’s something good that I can do because what they’re thinking, it’s not stupid to them. They’re thinking you’re leaving me a world where I think there’s a year coming up where half of the ocean will be filled with plastic. That’s crazy.
– Or a third of the ocean, maybe not half of the ocean.
– We won’t fact check you, you’re fine.
– Even if you think that’s all made up, even if you think it’s all garbage, if we can’t give up plastic straws to reach the next generation, we have a problem.
– I know.
– That’s not that big of a deal.
– There’s an Andy Stanley quote, “What’s the next generation worth?” And it’s, “Everything.” I think we need to tweak it, what’s the next generation worth? Plastic straws.
– Plastic straws. Hey, someone @ Andy with that, please.
– Okay, can we talk about a trend I really hope does not go away in 2020?
– Okay, but TikTok, I love it so much.
– Are you serious?
– I’m not kidding.
– Oh you were serious, I was joking–
– No, that wasn’t my answer, I just got distracted because Stuart said it, and I was like, oh yeah, I should just go scroll TikTok, forget all this. But I see it on TikTok, and it is that trend towards authenticity.
– [Candice] Oh yes.
– And nothing being overproduced and being like your quote said skeptical of things that are overproduced. I am constantly watching Snapchat videos and TikTok videos of these kids going, “I don’t have a date, ’cause I’m not cool.” That’s it. That’s the end of the story. It’s not a joke. Or sharing things that I wouldn’t have shared three years into a small group, because I’m a millennial, and it had to be polished and perfect, our friend, Chef, who is often on the podcast, I heard him recently say for the first time, “The next generation needs most what they want most.”
– Oh, that’s good.
– And they need authenticity
– Wow. to build these real relationships with Jesus followers, and it’s what they crave. So honestly in some ways, that trend makes ministry easier for us, because we don’t have to lean into the polished and try to get past that wall. They want to start past that wall.
– So while we’re on authenticity, can we just talk about some of the language for a second?
– One of the things that drives me–
– Some of your language?
– Like slang and stuff.
– We’ve been meaning to talk to you about that, Candice.
– Oh, okay, I thought you were going to confess.
– I’m sorry. But one of the things that really just drives me crazy is when people try to be cool by using younger people’s language, you know? It’s one of those things when if you ask and you learn about it to understand, that’s cool, but if you’re just tryin’ to speak it just to be cool and be relevant, then it looks inauthentic.
– It’s weird.
– And it’s very, very weird. So one of the things, in my generation, we did not talk like the students do today, and I still say some of the slang words that we used to say back in the day, for me.
– What was one of those words?
– Joint, not like a joint, joint, but say, hand me that joint over there. It’s like another way of saying thing–
– Mm-hmm, that’s what we used to say in DC. We used to say joint, but when you’re talking to students, it’s important to understand the slang that they are using, so you know what they’re saying and they’re talking about, so it’s important to get clarity for that, but not just so you can throw it in the middle of a message and use it, ’cause all of a sudden students are lookin’ like this is so not you. They’re able to know that. So it’s important for us to just know the language so that we’re able to really understand what they’re talkin’ about. If it’s you then use it, but if it’s not you, don’t try too hard.
– And if you don’t know, it’s okay to ask. I ask my girls all the time,
– It is. like hey, can a 37 year old grown person say, “Dope?” And they’ll tell me, whether it’s cool or not or okay or weird or not okay, they’ll tell me.
– Well, obviously we could keep going down the trends rabbit hole, and obviously there’s a lot more to unpack here, but this was kind of just a starting place, and really just the start of a conversation. We’ll continue to unpack some of these trends and stuff throughout 2020 here on Rethinking Youth Ministry, but more than that this was just a way to get the conversation going maybe in your mind and you, the listener’s mind, like hey we really do need to be plugged into and be leaning in and caring about what’s going on in our students’ lives in 2020, and this was just a little taste of that.
– It may be good, too, to interject as we land the plane that some of what we’re talking about, as well, will ebb and flow, based on where you live.
– That’s super true.
– There are some communities in our countries that aren’t as progressive as others, and so it could be that you’re listening to this or watching this and going, you guys are crazy, well, A, it’s coming, but, B, another reason why you have to be a culturalist for where you live is because it does, it ebbs and flows depending on what part of the country you live.
– [CJ] That’s a great point.
– I also think we should go back and listen to this episode some time next December and see if we’re right.
– Oh, that would be so fun.
– I hope the word dope comes back.
– In prepping for this, I was listening to our episode from 2018 about Gen Z, and we were talking about how big Instagram stories are and this new thing that’s just now really pickin’ up steam and it’s just like, wow, we sound really dated, but that’s just–
– [Crystal] It’s how quick culture moves.
– It really is, and it’s just an indicator that we need to be having these conversations often, repeatedly. We can’t just do this once and move on.
– I know we were wanting to finish, but–
– I do, too, right, I have somethin’ too!
– No, you go.
– You go first.
– I was just going to ask doesn’t some of this though speak to how mobile and agile our ministries need to be? Like, we get, were you thinking that?
– Same thing! Sam thing.
– You probably will say it better, go.
– You’re hilarious. I was thinking both about our ministries and even what we do here each week. We write this curriculum for middle schoolers and high schoolers, and just in order to get it done, we have to work on it a little bit a year out, work on it completely six months out. It’s published six months out from when we use it, and just yesterday we were having this conversation of when we publish six months out, we are missing the curve of what culture is saying, and do we need to go back in six weeks out, and tweak things culturally just to meet students where they are, because we can’t depend on a trend still being around six months later. Thank you very much, fidget spinners, which came and went in three weeks.
– Shameless plug, it’s the reason why with Influnsr, we write content the week of, because we want to be–
– I do love that.
– It’s hard. It puts a lot of pressure on you, but because we think we have to be connected to where students are.
– Yeah, and if you’re not familiar with Influnsr, because I know Stuart’s not going to plug this much more than that himself, but–
– But you’re wearin’ the shirt, and that’s cool.
– Yeah, I am, this is an Influnsr shirt, if you’re watching this, but Influencer is a program that youth leaders can jump into that actually helps mobilize and raise the next generation of student leaders. It’s a program specifically for student leaders, and where can they learn more about that?
– Influnsr.com, influnsr.com, go CJ.
– Well, we’ll put a link in the show notes, yeah?
– Yeah, yeah.
– We can’t spell, but we’re tryin’ to help ya.
– And with that, again, we could keep on goin’ down the rabbit hole of trends, but we’ll stop it here for now, and we’ll be back next week with another conversation, and I’m sure this will not be the last time we talk about this kind of stuff, as well. So I want to thank you three for joining us for this conversation. I think this was a really great place to kick off 2020, and thank you for joining us, for listening and watching this week’s episode of Rethinking Youth Ministry. The conversation doesn’t have to stop here. We would love to know what we missed, the big thing for 2020 that we left out, and the best place to do that is to join the conversation that’s happening in our Facebook group, and you can find a link to our Facebook at rethinkingym.org. Until next time, thanks for listening.
– I don’t know if you all heard that horn, but CJ, that’s your mom. It’s time to go.
– You were waiting for that for so long.
– You see what I have to deal with. Andy, Andy, help me.
– Email all your questions to Candice.