Intro: They may be called the next generation, but they’re the church of today. Reach, disciple and mobilize students to share the hope of the Gospel. This is Next Gen on Mission with Shane Pruitt.
Shane Pruitt: Hi friends. Shane Pruitt here. Thanks for hanging out with us on the Next Gen on Mission podcast. Today I have a dear friend of mine, Jonathan Pokluda, also known as JP. And we’re going to be discussing what we need to know about reaching Millennials. JP is the former leader of “The Porch”, one of the largest young adult ministries in the world, lead pastor of Harris Creek in Waco and servant to the King. JP, how are you my friend?
Jonathan Pokluda: My man. Hey, thanks for having me on Shane, excited about this podcast.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, man. And you know, you and I have discussed this before. You’re in Waco, which I grew up in Waco. Man, really have a heart for Waco so I am so excited you-
Jonathan Pokluda: No. You grew up in Lorena.
Shane Pruitt: That’s true, I did grow up in Lorena. But most people don’t know Lorena. Yeah.
Jonathan Pokluda: Good try.
Shane Pruitt: But man, I am so excited you’re there, in Waco, and around Baylor and reaching college students like crazy. So anyway, man, I’m just so excited to hang out with you today.
Jonathan Pokluda: Man it’s been such a fun… it’s been a fun journey. It’s a really neat city. I miss Dallas, I miss my friends at Dallas. I miss my dear friends at Watermark, our church there. But God is doing a work in Waco and it’s poised for revival. Here’s a hot sports opinion, hot topic-
Shane Pruitt: Bring it. Bring it.
Jonathan Pokluda: … Revival 2020 starting in the heart of Texas, Waco, Texas. That’s going to happen, you heard it here first.
Shane Pruitt: Come on, man. Hey, let it be, Lord. Let it be and let it spread across the state and across the nation and the nations. Let it be. Let it be.
Jonathan Pokluda: Come on. Preach.
Shane Pruitt: Hey, man. All right. Hey, before we get into… Well, we already started getting pretty, super spiritual there. But hey, before we get into the super spiritual stuff, tell us one fun fact about Jonathan that we did not know.
Jonathan Pokluda: That you don’t know… Let’s see. I’ll go with two, because one is less fun. So, I’m 6’7. That’s weird tall. That’s out of the ordinary, tall. I also have a tattoo of a red spade, on my chest, from when I was 17 and getting that illegally. So, but not very many people know that.
Shane Pruitt: Those were BC days. BC days, huh?
Jonathan Pokluda: Yeah BC. That’s right.
Shane Pruitt: And you are tall man.
Jonathan Pokluda: And it’s a red spade, so, there’s not many red spades.
Shane Pruitt: That’s true. Yeah.
Shane Pruitt: And you are tall, man. Because I’m tall, but when I’m next to you, I feel short. You are a tall brother, man. Hey-
Jonathan Pokluda: Well, you’re…
Shane Pruitt: I love…
Jonathan Pokluda: Go ahead. I was going to say you’re average tall, I’m weird tall.
Shane Pruitt: Well thanks man. All right. Hey, I love to… I always open the podcast, Next Gen on Mission, with basically this same question. Briefly share with us, what we need to know about the next generation. And it’s always fun to hear those answers. So, give me the J to the P version, of what we need to know about the next generation.
Jonathan Pokluda: Yeah. I would just say, they want to do something bigger than themselves, they want to change the world, the social gospel is attractive to them, they want to make the world a better place. They care about being green. They care about the planet. They care about global warming. They care about that kind of stuff. And when you can give them a message of something bigger than themselves, about just even bigger than our world, that they can live forever and here’s how you do that, and you can save someone’s life by giving them a drink of water, but when you attach that drink of water to the gospel of Jesus Christ, so they can live forever. I’ve noticed that they respond to that.
Jonathan Pokluda: The cell phone game, the smart phone game, has changed everything, and so I think it’s one of the reasons we’re seeing the levels of depression and anxiety and suicide that we’re seeing, it’s changed the way that they think. They love to solve problems and I think the real message of church is attractive, but do invite this group to play church, because they don’t want to. Nobody wants to play church anymore. And so they’re looking to change the world for Jesus, not play church.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, man. Love that. Change the world for Jesus and not play church. That is powerful. Hey, you wrote a very… Hey, you know one thing I didn’t say about you, is you’re a best-selling author. That’s amazing. You wrote a very successful book called, Welcome to Adulting.
Jonathan Pokluda: That’s because I come from a big family, so when you have a big family and they all buy your book-
Shane Pruitt: They buy a lot of books.
Jonathan Pokluda: … you become a best-seller.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah. So, Welcome to Adulting, man, has been a great book, great resource. I enjoyed reading it. I encourage anybody to get that. Welcome to Adulting, can be found anywhere books are sold. But, you have a new book coming out in March of 2020, called, Welcoming the Future Church: How to Reach, Teach, Engage Young Adults, which is the very heart behind this podcast. So, tell us the big picture of your new book coming out.
Jonathan Pokluda: Yeah. Listen, ministry is pattern recognition. And so, for the last 13 years, I’ve had the privilege of ministering to millennials, it’s just the age group that the Lord entrusted to me. And so, young adults, Millennials, Gen Y, now we’re moving into Gen Z, I’m defining that as 18-35, 39. And that’s the future of the Church. And so, here’s the reality. If we’re not reaching the future of the Church, then our church has no future. And I don’t think it… That seems like a really simple idea, a simple math problem, but I don’t think pastors are realizing that. It’s like, okay, if we just cater to the people who are coming today, then we’re not reaching the next generation, then our church is dying. It will not survive a turnover of generation.
Jonathan Pokluda: And so, as I got to minister to Millennials and young adults, I began to write down patterns. And see what worked, what didn’t work, have a front row seat, trial by error, for over a decade. And I just wrote the best practices down, and that became Welcoming to Future Church. And so, I hope that that is helpful for anybody who has a heart to reach the next generation, the future of the church, young adults. It’s very practical, so every chapter just talks about some experiences that we’ve had, some trial and error, like I said, but then just gives you, “Hey, here’s one thing to think about that I think you can apply to any ministry across the board.” Whether you have a gathering, or you’re a parachurch ministry, regardless of what it is, we want to help you reach that generation.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, man. And I know you get this question all the time. I get it as well, is, from pastors, Next Gen leaders, student pastors, college pastors, young adult pastors, go down the list, churches as a whole, how do we reach the next generation with the gospel? How do we reach Millennials? How do we reach Gen Z? And I know we could talk about this the rest of the day, rest of the week. But, give some practical, maybe first steps, to a church that says, “Hey, we don’t really have a lot of the next generation in our church, but we desperately want them to be a part of our community.” What would be some next first steps that you would give them?
Jonathan Pokluda: The biggest thing I think you can do, as a leader, in an effort to reach the next generation, is be real. And so, when I say be real, those are just two words, but there’s so much power behind them, there’s so much meaning behind them. I mean, be real in your walk with Christ, model it. But I also mean, be real in your sin struggle. Confess openly, be honest. They’re not looking for a replica of their favorite celebrity pastor, contrary to popular belief. You don’t have to have cool jeans and Jordan’s to reach them necessarily. If you’re just honest about the argument you got in your home, the challenges that you face, the last time that you tripped up, the struggles of life, that’s what they resonate with. And so, you have the solutions to that in the scriptures and in the gospel.
Jonathan Pokluda: And so, when you share your struggles along with the hope that we have in Jesus, I see them really respond to that. And then secondly… So the first one is, lead with authenticity, or be real. The second one would be, you give them a heroic vision, expand their vision, call them to something greater. I think one of the biggest mistakes ministry leaders make is, they lower the bar. They’re like, “Oh, will you please show up to this gathering?” They’re buying Facebook ads and Instagram ads, and they’re begging people to come to their little bible study.
Jonathan Pokluda: And instead… Jesus said, “Hey come and die. Let the dead bury the dead. Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” He says to the rich young ruler, “You’ll sell everything you have, give it to the poor and follow Me.” These are huge asks. And so, don’t just come at them with this little, “Oh, will you please give me an hour a week?” Say, “Hey, come. We want to change the world here. We want to do something bigger than us. Let’s dream big. What if you lived your life radically sold-out to God? You just believed that there’s a God, a creator of the heavens and the Earth and that he’s going to intervene in what you do.” Have dreams so big that they would be destined to failure unless God intervenes, unless God partners with you.
Jonathan Pokluda: So, be real, expand their vision, give them a heroic vision, and then lastly, I would just say, deploy them. Meaning, don’t do ministry to them, but through them. Allow them to do the ministry. Let them have the fun. When you meet with somebody that’s thinking about having an abortion or thinking about taking their life, or the really heavy, gritty, challenging stuff, say, “Hey, come with me on this. I want to teach you what it looks like to actually do hands on ministry.” This is what Jesus did. He said, “Hey, come.” They threw down their nets and they followed him. He would always say, “Come and follow me. Come and follow me.”
Jonathan Pokluda: And so, you take them with you and let them experience ministry, and then let them do it. Say, “Hey, you go meet with that person. You go do ministry. What do you guys want to do?” Let them come up with the ideas. So, I think, be real, be honest, be authentic, that’s one. Secondly, have a heroic vision, expand their vision, help them dream big, that’s two. And then thirdly, I would just say, deploy them, meaning, let them do the ministry, and you manage them doing the ministry. And I believe those are some ways to reach that generation.
Shane Pruitt: My gosh, JP. That is rich, man. That is the Lord speaking through you. I’m over here trying to host this podcast, and I’m trying to write down these things as fast as possible. I’m going to go back and listen to this podcast myself, so I can write all this down. I pray that the listeners will listen to this over and over.
Jonathan Pokluda: It’s all in the book, man.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah. That’s right. Buy the book.
Jonathan Pokluda: That’s just chapter one.
Shane Pruitt: Come on, man. Hey, okay, so. Hey, now, you can correct me if I’m wrong, and say, “Shane I didn’t say that at all.” But, I don’t know if you remember this, about two years ago, I brought you in to Dallas to speak to some pastors at a local association there. And man, you shared a story about “At the Porch”, when y’all really felt “The Porch” was going to go to the next level and really this servant-hood, of people serving there. Didn’t you call a meeting together and say, “Hey, how many of you want to be greeters?” And if they raised their hand you were like, “Well, you’re out a job. We don’t have greeter jobs anymore. This job…” You’re like, “We have evangelists that…” Would you explain that, just real briefly again? Man, because when you shared that, that jarred me.
Jonathan Pokluda: It’s all under that second point I just shared, that expand their vision or come with a heroic vision, they’ll probably say, “Well there are no vision.” Well there’s no vision that people perish. And so, yeah. We were running a church service essentially, on a Tuesday night, and we had greeters and ushers. And people would show up, we had like 13 volunteers. And people would show up and we’d give them responsibilities, we’re like, “Hey, why don’t you go greet in the parking lot. Why don’t you greet at the door. Why don’t you be an usher and help people find their seat.” And they’re like, “Okay. That’s what we’ll do.” And we prayed and would break it out and everybody went to their station.
Jonathan Pokluda: And the biggest issue I was dealing with, Shane, was discouraged volunteers. And so, we called this meeting together and I was like, “Hey, if you want to be a greeter, raise your hand.” And like half the people raised their hand. I’m like, “All right. You’re fired.” “You want to be an usher, raise your hand.” And the other half was like, “Oh, maybe that’s what he’s looking for.” So they raised their hand, usher. And I’m like, “All right. You’re fired.” I’m like, “We no longer need greeters and ushers. We need evangelists. We need missionaries. We need people who will share their story in 30 seconds, three minutes, or 30 minutes, pointing to Christ, who can talk about where they come from and where they’re going. I need pastors, people who will sit with someone who’s thinking about taking their life, or cutting themselves, or they’re depressed, they don’t know what to do, they came here by themselves, they’re looking for hope. I need someone that will engage them, share the gospel with them, share scriptures with them, give them hope. I’m looking for missionaries. That’s the job we have.
Jonathan Pokluda: And so the greeter, you’re no longer a greeter, you’re no longer standing at the door with a smile saying, “Hi.” I want you on the look for somebody that God has entrusted to us tonight, that you’re going to sit with and that you’re going to have a conversation with. You leave your post if you need to, care for the one. And I said this, their hearts start pounding, their spines stiffen, and they’re like, “Man, I want to do that but we don’t know how.” And I’m like, “Oh, man. We’ll train you. You come here, we’ll train you.” And they’re like, “You’ll train us? You’ll teach us how to do it?” Like, “Yeah, man. That’s discipleship, of course we will.”
Jonathan Pokluda: And so we started doing that. We raised that bar and what was interesting, we started with 13 people. We were begging them to come, please serve with us. After we raised that bar and we fired and we wiped the slate clean, we fired them and we said, “All right. Who wants to be a pastor, a missionary, work alongside people, host this gathering?” They started lining up, coming by the droves, lining up out the door. So, it’s interesting because the ministry, at that point, was about, on a really good day, maybe 100 people. And then, all of a sudden, we had 250 volunteers, that are like, “Hey, we want to serve here.” And then ministry grew to thousands and thousands and thousands.
Shane Pruitt: Yep.
Jonathan Pokluda: And it all started with that heroic vision for those volunteers. I think that’s just what that looks like played out is, don’t come at them asking them to greet, to stand at a door, to help somebody find their seat, there’s nothing inspiring about that. And it’s not really what you need. If you think that’s what you need, you’re dreaming too small, you’re thinking too small.
Shane Pruitt: Wow, man. That inspires me, man. That makes me want to go be a greeter evangelist now, dude. That is expanding their vision. That is inspiration, and people want to be a part of the mission, and that’s the very heart behind this, the next gen being on mission. Hey, JP, you and I, we’ve shared our testimonies with each other, you and I both became Christ followers a little bit later in life, compared to some. So, if the JP now, could go back and have a conversation with the teenager JP, or the college student JP, or the young adult JP, what would you tell him?
Jonathan Pokluda: I would just say, ideas have consequences. Be careful, pay attention to what you pay attention to. Be careful of what you’re turning to truth for, because I think the temptation, as a young adult, is just to try to milk all the fun out of life, just to try to squeeze it all out at the time, to live for the next thrill, the next party, the next sexual escapade, whatever that is, the next porn, exploration. And I would just say, “Man, no one ever gets away with sin. That’s costing you something. You’re sewing seeds of addiction that you’re not going to be able to step out of.”
Jonathan Pokluda: And then secondly, and attached to that, I would just say, “If there is a God, if there is a Creator, and He’s created you with a purpose, then you, with a tremendous sense of urgency, need to find that purpose. And if that purpose is to know Him and to make Him known and that purpose is to live for His glory, then begin now. Because everybody’s becoming something, great husbands, great fathers, great wives, great mothers, great pastors don’t just happen. They begin to sew those seeds of greatness when they’re 16, 17, 18, 22, 25, and so what you do right now really matters.” And so, that’s what I would hope to tell myself, then. I wish I would have listened to that advice, for sure.
Shane Pruitt: That is powerful. Yeah. No doubt. Well, JP, man, it’s always so fun to talk to you. And hey, we always close the Next Gen on Mission podcast with this same on mission charge, the heart behind this podcast, is to see the next generation realize, they’re really the now generation, and have a mission now, and to be on mission now. So, give us a closing thought on that.
Jonathan Pokluda: Yeah. I think that’s absolutely right. Every moment you live is training for a future moment. Every moment you live is training for a future moment. And so, man, we’re creating a place, a world, that Jesus is going to come back to. And I would live with that biblical world view that, now matters, right? And so, your past is behind you, the rest of your life is in front of you, and as you live in this present, redeem it for the kingdom, make it count. Live this moment as though it’s going to matter a thousand years from now. As though, you’re going to leave it, lay it at the feet of Jesus Christ, when you stand fully in his presence. Live a life that matters. And you have do that in the now.
Shane Pruitt: So good. How can people connect with you?
Jonathan Pokluda: Man, I’m social, @Jpokluda, last name is P-O-K-L-U-D-A. So, Jpokluda. That’s Instagram, Twitter. My Facebook is Jonathan and Monica Pokula. Leadership@HarrisCreek.org is my email. Leadership@HarrisCreek.org goes to me. Harris Creek is the app. Becoming Something is our weekly podcast. I’d encourage you to listen to it, I think it’s perfect. That Welcoming the Future Church is something that I think they would connect with and out this month so, excited for that.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah. No doubt. Hey, and your Friday “Ask me Anything” on Instagram stories, my wife and I, we look at all of them every week. Man, we love it. We love your sincerity, your honesty, your bluntness, because I think, that’s another thing that next generation is kind of tired of the sugar coated responses.
Jonathan Pokluda: Yeah.
Shane Pruitt: And so, man, we always enjoy your bluntness. And so, I would encourage people to engage on that and feel free to ask JP anything through those. But, hey, how many of those are you getting in? How many questions do you get in on a typical Friday, for those?
Jonathan Pokluda: About 800.
Shane Pruitt: You are spending some time. I know you can’t get in to all of those but we’re always so impressed by how many you do try to answer.
Jonathan Pokluda: Man, people are always like, “You didn’t get to my question.” I’m like, “I’m trying man, because I want to. I want to.”
Shane Pruitt: Yeah. Awesome brother. Well, dude, you always, when I’m around you, talk to you, you always expand my vision, man. So, I appreciate you, my brother. I deeply appreciate you man.
Jonathan Pokluda: Likewise, man. Hey, love what you’re doing, love your heart for Jesus, and love your heart for this generation. And man, I pray this is the generation that Jesus returns to. And if it’s not, if it carries, I pray that this generation doesn’t waste their life in preparing a place for Him.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, man. Well, friends, thanks for hanging out with JP and I. Thank you for listening to the Next Gen on Mission podcast. If you have questions on reaching the next generation, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to answer those on future podcasts. Also, we want to make JP’s new book available to you. Now, unfortunately we can’t give it to every listener, but if you are a pastor, a student pastor, a Next Gen leader, college pastor, young adult pastor at your church, if you’ll email us at email@example.com, and you can just simply say, listened to JP’s podcast, or get me JP’s new book. We’d love to be able to provide that for you on the behalf of the North American Mission Board. So, have a great rest of your day and tell somebody about Jesus.