Focus on gospel vital in reaching the next generation

By Timothy Cockes

ANAHEIM, Calif. (BP) – Shane Pruitt and several other SBC leaders discussed the challenges and opportunities of ministering to Generation Z during a CP Stage panel at the SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif.

Pruitt, national Next Gen direction for the North American Mission Board (NAMB), led the panelists in a conversation about the struggles that Generation Z is facing and how churches can step in and be a light in that darkness they are facing.

Shane Pruitt (left) leads a discussion at the SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim on reaching the next generation. YouTube screen capture

Other panelists included Paul Worcester, national collegiate director for NAMB, Chip Luter, senior associate pastor at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and RJ McCauley, student ministries pastor at Magnolia Baptist Church in Riverside, Calif.

McCauley opened the panel by stating the importance of preaching Gospel hope to young people.

“One of the things about Generation Z is that they need hope,” McCauley said. “There is so much hopelessness around them, and all they see is bad news. They need good news, and we need to preach the good news more than ever before right now.

“That’s what I would say to all of us is that at times youth ministry becomes games or gimmicks, but it needs to be Gospel and we need to be bolder with that more than anything else. You miss what you dismiss by proximity, so if you want to reach young people then you need to be around young people.”

McCauley also serves in a role as a youth coordinator with the California Southern Baptist Convention.

He said one of the main issues Gen Z is dealing with in California, as well as around the nation, is an identity crisis.

“Out here in Hollywood, we are the image capital of the world, and identity crisis is a reality,” McCauley said. “So many people have misplaced identity because they are putting it in the wrong things. Now the culture is even saying you can identify as whatever you want, so Gen Z is very confused because they are not sure what their identity can be.

“We need to get back to reality and preach the truth about our God-given identity as men and women in his Image and for his glory. When we know Christ, it changes everything and repurposes our lives for the right things, not the wrong things.”

Regarding Generation Z students currently in college, Worcester said it is a great time in their lives to reach them despite the struggles they may have.

“Among college students there is so much brokenness with anxiety, depression, addiction and you name it,” Worcester said.

“Yet, in my opinion it’s the best time to reach someone with the Gospel. They’re trying to decide what they’re life is going to be about and who they’re friends are. I see a lot of hope there.”

Pruitt echoed the sentiment about Gospel hope amidst the brokenness of the generation.

“Generation Z has realized at a very early age that the world is broken. They are broken, and they are looking for answers,” Pruitt said. “We know that the answer has a name and that’s Jesus, and as a church, we get to come in and point this generation to Jesus.”

Luter described the importance of church leaders to invite, involve and invest in the next generation.

“They are at the age that if they are going to do something big, they are ready for it,” Luter said. “Just as we’ve been saying, give them something to go towards. Jesus launched the 12, and they were young people. That was a high calling, but they were crazy enough to believe that they could do it.”

Pruitt reiterated that amongst all the tips and practical steps for reaching young people, the bottom-line advice is to be intentional with the basics of Gospel ministry.

“Generation Z is always saying that they are a cause-oriented generation, and there is not a greater cause than the Great Commission,” Pruitt said. “We don’t have to overthink it as leaders and forget the basics. The same Gospel that has worked for over 2,000 years still works today.”

The full video of the panel can be found here.

Published June 30, 2022

Timothy Cockes

Timothy Cockes is a Baptist Press staff writer.