By Jordan McClarnon from Renovation Church
History repeats itself in the Scriptures.
At least in the case of the Israelites who repeatedly found themselves stuck in a cycle of disobedience, crying out for help and finding themselves rescued by God once again.
The Old Testament is filled with stories of generations who got it right and those who didn’t. Their strengths and their weaknesses illuminate for us one of the greatest discipleship principles found in the Scriptures: from the very beginning, Christianity was designed to be a passed down faith.
When a generation was obedient and passed down the stories of God and His character, a younger generation grew up connected to a vision, a community, and a legacy of faith that placed their story within the context of God’s bigger story. It gave them meaning, significance, and hope as they learned through the power of family storytelling.
They weren’t just learning Bible truths; they were receiving stories of how God rescued mom and dad. Tales about how God provided for grandma and grandpa in the wilderness were told around the dinner table, the campfire, or at bedtime. The idea of generational faith was simple but profound.
A generation was responsible for setting their gaze onto God and following Him and for passing on their faith to the next generation. Parents took on the responsibility to lead their individual families, and communities took on the responsibility as the family of God to lead and disciple those in the community.
It takes a village.
But when a generation had hard hearts and chose to be their own god, a generation rose up behind them who did not know the Lord or the incredible things He had done. In choosing disobedience, generations also chose not to pass on the stories and truths of God and His character.
As a result, a selfish generation rose up, a generation rooted in stubbornness, rebellion, and pride. This absence of spiritual leadership led to greater and greater forgetfulness and disobedience in the generations to come. Families abandoned their calling to pass on their faith to their children and their children’s children, and communities avoided their corporate responsibility to teach the foundational truths of God to their neighborhoods.
What does this have to do with youth ministry?
As a local church youth pastor, my fear is that many students in my ministry are trying to disciple themselves. Some have had the foundational truths of God and His character handed down to them throughout their lives, but many have not been so fortunate. A generation now finds themselves forced to make up their faith on their own, piecing it together as they try to make sense of it all.
Scripture, Netflix, Google, Instagram, and that one year Grandma forced them to go to Sunday school all collide together in a concoction of confusion and skepticism leaving students with more questions than answers. What is the solution? How long will a society talk down to a generation that has not had much passed down to them in the realm of faith? How can our youth ministries prioritize healthy discipleship as we pass down the foundational truths of who God is and what He has done?
In a world of relative morality, subjective truth, and TikTok theology, Gen Z needs to receive the foundational doctrines of Christian belief and practice. In a world of absent parents, “spiritual but not religious” teachers, and a lack of family storytelling, Gen Z needs to hear stories of life transformation through personal testimony and intergenerational discipleship. Gen Z is a generation in desperate need of spiritual fathers and spiritual mothers.
This is where the local church shines the brightest. As the family of God takes on the responsibility to disciple the next generation, mentors and spiritual leaders rise up to pass down a faith to those who do not yet know the stories of who God is or what He has done. If you have a personal testimony of God’s grace, you have a part to play in passing on faith to the next generation.
What if our churches stopped critiquing and complaining about a generation because of the sins and shortcomings of their fathers? What would our youth ministries look like if parents, grandparents, and wisdom carriers in our church saw themselves not just as dads and moms to their own children but as spiritual fathers and mothers to a generation!
Tips to Encourage, Inspire, and Empower Spiritual Fathers and Mothers:
Find Common Ground
I think we would all agree that generations coming together is a beautiful thing. In fact, I believe it is one of the most beautiful yet overlooked realities of the Church. Where else in society do people from all races, backgrounds, and ages come together to be unified in one mind, one heart, and one spirit? The opportunities are boundless, but the problem of generational differences seems insurmountable at times.
Generational gaps are very real. As generations misunderstand each other, we are often left with misrepresentation, stereotyping, or making jokes. On the surface it seems that growing up in different worlds has completely isolated different generations from one another. But what if we positioned our ministries, small groups, and events to create space for students and adults to realize that they have so much more in common that they realize. Great questions and intentional programming can position our students and leaders to see things from a new point of view and to see the value in the experiences and wisdom each group brings to the family of God.
Share Personal and Family Stories of Faith
Many adults struggle with sharing their faith due to a lack of self-confidence in personal knowledge and understanding of faith and Scripture. I believe that leaders in our ministries need to be able to handle the Word of God and be actively growing in spiritual health and maturity. But what if the greatest strength a volunteer brings to their small group or the ministry is their personal testimony of how they have seen the faithfulness of God in their own lives?
What if their personal story of transformation was the greatest source of truth and wisdom they had to offer? What if God was not requiring them to “know more” to be effective but to simply be faithful in intertwining the truth of God’s Word with their personal stories and lives as they pass down faith to the students of your community. As leaders share themselves with their groups, they create powerful opportunities for younger students to see vulnerability and honesty as tools for spiritual growth rather than weakness. As leaders tell personal stories they share the truths and reality of who God is and what He has done.
The Feed Team would love to connect with you as you seek to lead others! Reach out to us at [email protected] to find out how we can partner with and support you in your ministry