Solutions For the Five Main Challenges Young People Currently Face
What Josh McDowell and Ben Bennett Have Discovered
Generation Z (those born between 1999 and 2015) are struggling today, and few understand why or what to do about it. Research reveals five common challenges, and though they’re nothing new, recent data shows that young people experience them in greater numbers than ever before:
At Resolution (a new initiative from Josh McDowell Ministry), Josh and I have started the Resolution Podcast to deal with these issues directly. We reexamine what God says in His Word, along with what we’ve learned from brain science, to find ways to help young people learn how to heal, thrive and live in wholeness.
Below are key takeaways from our first conversation. You can watch it here in this video, or listen to it wherever you like to listen to podcasts.
Let’s look at the five issues and explore how they’re impacting Generation Z.
Issue #1: Mental Health Issues
Last year, Pew Research found that 70 percent of teens say anxiety and depression are major issues among their peers. Another study from JAMA Pediatrics reported that between 2007 and 2015, emergency room visits for suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide doubled among children and teens.
There’s no one root cause, but two things have happened that at least correlate with this statistic.
First, the introduction of the iPhone isolated children and gave them unfettered access to potentially damaging information. Second, kids with a disconnected father tend to have higher rates of depression. When taken together, the situation is potentially explosive.
Issue #2: Emotional Wounds
We recently asked close to three hundred pastors and leaders about common issues the teens in their ministries face. They told us, overwhelmingly, that these young people deal with emotional wounds, a negative self-image, and above all, shame.
As Josh began to see these trends, he spent an entire year thinking deeply about why young people experience so much shame. He saw that shame diminishes a child’s respect for authority, their desire to spend time with friends, and even the normal drive to connect with the opposite sex.
Issue #3: Porn Use
We’ve come to believe that, among other isolating factors, the pervasive use of porn drives these emotional wounds higher. Porn affects how young people view themselves, and increases the struggle for acceptance already prevalent during the teen years.
The majority of men and women — 91.5 percent of men and 60 percent of women — regularly seek out porn at least once monthly! When Josh and I spoke all over the world, we discovered that the majority of all teens, Christian or not, are caught in the grips of porn.
In our experience, too many parents and Christian leaders ignore the issue. Josh recalls, “Parents come to me and say, ‘Look, Josh, you don’t understand. My kids are good kids … they’re not going to look for porn.’”
But if kids have access to smartphones, porn can too easily find them! The porn industry is aggressively targeting our kids, even when our kids aren’t looking for it.
Issue #4: Loneliness
Cigna, a major health insurance company, recently found that members of Gen Z are lonelier and feel more left out than Millennials, Baby Boomers, and the Greatest Generation. Young people can connect freely through the Internet, yet they feel more isolated than ever.
Compared with the youth of previous decades, today’s teens are socializing less in person. They are less likely to go to movies or parties, hang out with friends, or date. Instead, often they’re alone on a Friday night on their smartphone.
Issue #5: Lack of a Biblical Worldview
Finally, we learned that today’s youth are growing up with the least biblical worldview in American history. Barna Group found that only 4 percent of Generation Z have a truly Christian worldview.
As Josh says, “A worldview is simply how you view the world.” Our worldview, then, affects how we see ourselves and others. It affects every relationship we have. It affects how we behave and the choices we make.
And this generation doesn’t view truth as objective — but entirely subjective, based on every person and every situation. The result? What Josh calls “spiritual individualistic morality.”
Christians know that it is God, alone, who defines truth. We need His truth to operate effectively in this world. Living our lives from subjective truth will do us irreparable harm. We must correct our view to gain God’s perspective.
Parents and Leaders: You Can Help
Some believe Gen Z to be the most broken generation in American history. But brokenness isn’t a barrier for God — it’s a bridge to Jesus’ healing work. We must help this generation, through practical steps, to understand how Jesus brings healing.
Parents and Christian leaders, intentionally engage with the young people in your life:
- Listen to young people carefully and without judgment
- Ask questions and let them respond
- Stay involved in their lives
- Find things to do together
- Be a safe person and share truth in love
As you can see, these issues are huge. That’s why Josh McDowell Ministry has jumped into this arena to do something about it through Resolution. We need to help our youth to learn who God says they are, and to experience wholeness. We can help them to love God, themselves, and others. To develop healthy relationships.
We invite you to join us in the Resolution Movement!
Subscribe to the Resolution Podcast wherever you listen: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or YouTube. In the coming weeks we’ll be discussing healing through the Bible and brain science!