Editor’s Note: This post is part of our month-long theme on celebrating and showing the love of God in all our relationships. You can find the rest of these articles here.
I am convinced that the greatest need for this current generation is to experience genuine and true biblical love. It seems that in the chaos of our day, many desire to fixate on the multitude of differences between their generation and this current generation, Generation Z. The chasm seems quite wide on the outside: clothing, music, lifestyle, worldview, politics, etc; however, the beauty of being a Christian means that whatever generation we find ourselves in, we are never without the answer to that generation’s questions or issues. We easily forget the wisdom of Solomon when he addresses his audience saying,"I am convinced that the greatest need for this current generation is to experience genuine and true biblical love." -@ReeseHammond #collegiatedisciplemaker Different Generation, Same Love: How to Love Generation Z College Students Click To Tweet
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
Different Generation, Same Humanity
In 1976, writer Tom Wolfe published a cover story in New York Magazine reflecting on the Baby Boomer generation, which he considered to be self-absorbed and narcissistic. Wolfe termed it “the ME Decade.” Wolfe drew the same conclusions about Baby Boomers that have been drawn about Millenials and are now being drawn about Generation Z. It seems to me that the older generation always tends to look down in some fashion upon a younger generation. Perhaps it isn’t the case that each generation actually becomes more selfish than the last. Rather, the perspective of the older generation’s many years of life experience makes the ignorance and inexperience of youth seem that way. At the end of the day, they’re the same kind of human as you and me.
Different Generation; Same Love
We could spend our time and energy trying to dissect and understand the uniqueness of Generation Z so that we can come up with tailor-made tactics to reach them. Maybe there’s merit in that; maybe there’s not. But I propose that reaching Generation Z looks a lot like reaching Millenials and Baby Boomers and every generation before that: with the simple, unchanging love of Jesus.
How, then, do we love today’s college students? I think with two ingredients: Humility and Connection.
Loving with Humility
Loving Generation Z college students begins with a deep, personal reflection upon our own humility. When we think of those that are younger than us, more inexperienced than us, and culturally different than us, are we thinking only about the differences, or are we actively cognizant of our very own experience when we were young, inexperienced, and different from our parent’s generation?
My dad admitted he was young and dumb. I know I was young and dumb. My kids will be young and dumb. It’s the cycle of life. As the Scriptures say in 1 Corinthian 4:7,
What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
Why does this verse matter in how we love younger generations? It reminds us that the experience, wisdom, and discernment that we’ve gathered over the years did not come from us, but from God. All things are from Him, and when we remember our rightful place before Him as the giver of all things, we will approach this generation with patience, humility, and gentleness.
Loving with Connection
Loving Generation Z college students well will be determined by the level of connection and relationship we are willing to invest. This is true for all generations—biblical love for others doesn’t happen apart from connection and relationship. Jesus modeled that for us, and it is certainly true for Generation Z.
Today’s college students have witnessed the animosity toward millennials for their perceived laziness and lack of drive for the more traditional vision of life. They have seen the generations before them fall prey to shallow relationships and gimmicky connections. More significantly, their entire existence has occurred under the influence of technological devices, especially the world of smart phones.
They are truly and desperately hungry for authentic connection. We have the opportunity to provide a type of deep human connection they may never have outside of family or their closest friends. Taking the time to invest in a student today pays big dividends for the Kingdom. In fact, most of my ministry time is spent in 1-on-1 and small group discipleship. Students have a hard time connecting with the traditional church scene if they’ve never experienced it, but they connect more deeply when your investment in them is personal and authentic.
Different Generation; Same Starting Point
Loving Generation Z college students well requires humility, patience, and an authentic desire to invest your life into their life for their good. That may sound daunting, but you can easily begin with the same simple starting point that traces right back to the relationship Jesus shared with His disciples: share a meal together. Invite them to your home for a meal where you can connect with them by just being you and truly showing that you care for their spiritual health and well-being.
I encourage anyone reading this to take that first step in investing in the college students in your life, church, etc. They may be of a different generation, but they’re the same kind of human as you, and they need the same kind of love.