Share This Episode
Family Life Today Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine Logo

Understanding Gen Z

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
June 4, 2020 2:00 am

Understanding Gen Z

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 1254 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

June 4, 2020 2:00 am

Each generation is different from the one before it. Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace, co-authors of the book, "So the Next Generation Will Know," tell us about the unique ways Gen Z-those born between 1995 and 2015-differs from their parents and grandparents. First, this is the first truly digitally native generation. Their phones are their lifeline. Parents shouldn't neglect teaching their kids about the responsibilities of owning a smartphone and interacting online. Moms and dads also need to work at connecting with their kids and answering the questions they have about life and God.

Show Notes and Resources

Find resources from this podcast at

Check out all that's available on the FamilyLife Podcast Network

Have the FamilyLife Today® podcast and resources helped you?  Consider becoming a Legacy Partner, a monthly supporter of FamilyLife.


There's a lot in our culture that teaches us to put ourselves at the center of the universe. That's the environment in which our teenagers today are being raised.

Here's Sean McDowell. So I remember these commercials years ago. It was like Coke versus Pepsi. And the idea was, if you want a soda, there's really two options. And now you buy your own soda making machine with the fizz and the size tailored just for you. And if that's not enough, you can get a soda with your name on it. This generation is being raised to have what they want, when they want it, where they want it, how they want it.

There's endless options. And I'm not sure we've really thought about how that teaches them to see the world. This is Family Life Today. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. I'm Bob Lapine. You can find us online at How does it affect our children's ability to understand the gospel when the world they're living in keeps telling them you're what really matters?

We'll explore that today with Sean McDowell and Jay Warner Wallace. Stay with us. And welcome to Family Life Today.

Thanks for joining us. You know, it seems to me, I was trying to think about this. This is a different world today than the world we grew up in. So I'm thinking, are kids today different than we were when we grew up, or is it just they're growing up in a different culture, a different environment? But it does seem like teenagers today, of course, I guess my parents looked at me and said, what's the deal with those kids, right? I guess that's just the generational divide. I mean, I think every parent would feel that way. It is a different generation.

But I know my parents felt the same thing. But there's a different factor. It's what they're facing. I think kids are facing much more that we don't have a history of, of knowing how to handle it. Because of the digital world, I'm thinking.

Yeah, that's what I was getting at. There's a digital presence in our son and daughter's hand that connects them to the world that we never had. I watched a thing online called E-Girl. Have you seen E-Girl online?

No. Bob, what are you doing watching E-Girl? What is E-Girl? This was a TikTok phenomenon that I'd never seen before, but apparently there's this whole thing where teenage tween girls, they, I think this is what it's called, the E-Girls. So they make these videos where like somebody pulls them into a room into the E-Girl factory and turns them from being plain teenagers into being E-Girls with the makeup. And they've got their little hearts on their face in the right place.

And they got all the moves down and they show how they've been manufactured. And I'm, I'm thinking. I don't think I'm going to watch that show, Bob. You'd have to have TikTok. Do you have TikTok on your phone?

I do not. So I think you're safe from E-Girl. I just watched it and I thought it's a different generation and it's a different world.

And digital's part of that. Somehow this is setting up our guests. Well, I think it is. We've got two guys joining us again today and we're glad to have both of them back.

Jay Warner Wallace and Sean McDowell. Guys, welcome. Thanks. That is by far the weirdest introduction I've ever heard. I'm not sure how I even fit into that introduction. Do you know what I'm talking about, E-Girl? Have you seen this? I have not seen E-Girl. Okay, well, we'll, we'll look it up after.

Thanks for ruining our credibility here since we have not seen E-Girl. Both of these guys are authors and speakers. They are at Biola University as professors there.

They're involved in apologetics ministry and they've written a book together called So the Next Generation Will Know, which is about how we, how we connect with our kids and transmit truth in a way that it sticks. And do you think, is this a different generation? Is Generation Z different than we were as kids?

So when you started talking about E-Girl, I was hoping this was the direction that you were headed, trying to connect the dots. And here's the way we kind of frame it in the book. We have a whole chapter on Gen Z, walking through how they think, their experiences, how the world has changed, because we want to parent and reach this generation in light of where they are. But then at the end, I give a couple, we give a couple of qualifiers and one of them is that we have more in common with this generation than we do differences. So we tend to use terms Gen X and Millennials and Gen Z and Boomers and it kind of makes somebody the other and it creates distinctions.

So we have a lot of studies in the book, but we also say, look, studies can only take us so far. Every young person is unique. I mean, if you think about the culture of our world or the U.S., well, just look at a family, the culture of a family and kids process that differently. So yes, there's some trends we need to be aware of to understand, but we have to remember the older we get, the more we think the world has completely changed.

It's like, you know what? Kids, because they're made in the image of God, have the same exact relational and life needs as a whole that we did. Let's focus on what we have in common. And you know how you talked about the whole idea of a digital generation? That does have an impact. So for example, we all have the same kind of innate drives that drive us as humans at certain ages.

That hasn't changed. You know how it's said sometimes that whatever character you have or whatever the nature of your personality is and if you add money to it, it just amplifies the person you were before. There's a sense in which this kind of digital technology amplifies all the innate characteristics that teenagers have always displayed, that young people have always displayed.

But now it has to be seen through the filter of the glowing rectangle at the end of your hand, right? So the one thing it has done, I think, is it has reduced the age of skepticism. So where you might have said a generation ago that the first time you would encounter ideas that were contrary to the way your parents raised you, however they raised you, whether that was religious or otherwise, would have been when you met new people in a university setting, perhaps, where you're outside of your home environment.

Well, now you're able to get outside your home environment on the digital technology, on the platform. So it's young people who are in junior high age. So I think one thing we have studied in this is to see when do we begin, what's our sense of urgency as parents, as educators, as pastors in terms of reaching this generation with a Christian worldview? It used to be that sometimes we would wait and say, well, you're gonna go to college next year, so we'll start talking about Christian worldview late in high school.

Or, look, you're gonna get a phone? You're gonna be introduced to secularism, to all the other, the entire plethora of worldviews the time you get that phone in your hand. We have to have these conversations with our kids, I think, much earlier. You talk about what we have in common, but you also say in the book that there are some things we need to keep in mind about the characteristics of Gen Z that are essential in terms of how we communicate truth to them.

So what are those things? One of the big characteristics of this generation that Jim was hitting on is that they're the first truly digitally native generation. So we have a generation of young people being raised who have been swiping smartphones and tablets before they could read, before they could speak.

I still don't think we know what that means for brain development, for relationship, for worldview, for so many different factors. So I think the key to understand the different ways we see this generation thinking and acting is through the lens that they have their smartphones. So when I was a kid, I remember the time where you had freedoms when you got your driver's license. You ask a lot of young people now, if they drive, what would you rather, give up your phone or your car easy? They go, don't take my phone, that's my lifeline.

I'll have a friend pick me up or I'll take Uber, take my car. That's how essential, I mean, they put it in the category of air and water in terms of how they think about life. Now broadly speaking, I think it affects them in two ways. One, we're seeing that it affects them relationally. So in 2012, across demographics, we see a hockey stick increase in the level of depression and loneliness starting to hit young people. So both genders, although it affects girls more than it does guys, across socioeconomic, where people live. And I don't think technology is bad, but what happens is it shapes the way this generation sees and experiences the world constant comparison. You see this depression starting to increase. Now adults typically can handle this as a whole.

We tend to be more mature, have life experiences, but we hand it to a young person without any rules and boundaries and context and we see this relational hurt. The other side is the worldview and belief system of this generation. And Jim was kind of hitting at the fact that there's endless ideas and options. So I remember these commercials years ago, it was like Coke versus Pepsi.

Do you remember these? Oh yeah. And the idea was if you want a soda, there's really two options, right? There's two, Coke or Pepsi. You get a 7-Up, you get a Squirt, but really it's Coke or Pepsi. Now you buy your own soda making machine with a fizz and the size tailored just for you.

And if that's not enough, you can get a soda with your name on it. This generation is being raised to have what they want, when they want it, where they want it, how they want it. And I'm not sure we've really thought about how that teaches them to see the world. Before we get to how it teaches them to see the world, let me ask you as dads, what did you do with the smartphone for your kids? Well, I was lucky.

My kids are 31 to 22 right now. So we were able to kind of postpone all of it until the end of their high school. We're talking about breaking bad flip-flops back when I first started, but the point is we were able to kind of push this off until later. But I would have done that anyway.

The issue is the responsibility of the phone. Let me tell you something, Sean just mentioned though about this idea related to making the free choices and having so many choices you could make. What we've done is we've trained our kids and the world we're in, the digital world we're in is not just that it has all kinds of opportunities in terms of choices, but that you can tailor your media consumption based on whatever worldview you possess. So if I said, hey, I've got these political inclinations, well, we can find the news sources that just reflect the echo chamber of our own preexisting inclinations.

And young people are doing this too. They have complete autonomy. If you're looking for, well, what kind of sports? Well, I can watch it on Fox or I can watch it on ESPN. I get almost two different worldviews from the two different platforms. You could tailor all of your media consumption to whatever worldview you already hold and you have complete autonomy. And we're moving more and more toward this. You see the cables companies are reducing and now all streaming online platforms, right? Disney Plus, Hulu, Netflix, CBS now has got their own streaming platform. I mean, we're going to be moving into splintered media choices that just continues to affirm the autonomy our kids experience. Now, here we come along offering a worldview that at its very core requires us to submit our autonomy to a generation that has been trained to maximize their autonomy. You don't think this is going to have an impact on how we share the gospel.

You're probably not paying attention to the culture. So with my kids, in terms of the phone, I wrote a blog a while ago, why my son got a phone at 14 and a half. And I explained the whole thing. And the point was not that there's something magical about 14 and a half, but I'm doing the same thing with my kids that my parents did with me. They didn't say you get to drive when you're 16.

They said that's necessary, but you get to drive when you show us you can handle a car with maturity. And my dad was a little over top. He'd say, son, it's a death machine. I'm like, okay, I get it. Like, fine.

But he would say, you don't just get to drive because you're 16. Because when you say that to your kids, you lose the power in their life. So with our kids, there was a few things that we feel like you're respecting us and your siblings.

There's some character that's there. We put grades to it because my oldest son was capable of that and wanted to teach him, you have to put some work into that right now. And it took them until 14 and a half to really be ready and to handle it. So I think the reason a lot of parents give their kids phones too early is because they don't want to fight the battles.

I was going to say, they're on us constantly. It's just easier to give in. And that does a disservice to kids, to the rest of us who are trying to hold back the phone.

My daughter at Christian school, almost all of them have phones at like 11 and 12. What are we doing? Well, let's be honest. I mean, for a lot of it was I was operating on one income as a police officer. So a lot of this, I was able to kind of just say, well, look, a lot of it, what are our priorities as a family that would cause me with four kids to embrace the phone charges of a self? I mean, at some point you've got to ask yourself, what are your priorities? Where are you spending your time, your money, your resources, your passion?

Where is that going? And for my kids, I was able to delay a lot of this to say, hey, there's nothing for you to look forward to if everything you ever wanted is going to be given to you before you turn 16. So yeah, they didn't get cars. Why? Because I couldn't afford to give them cars. It was pretty simple.

But also I thought it taught them a lesson. I'm driving a Hyundai Elantra right now. It's a 2013, so it's seven years old. It's the finest car I've ever driven. It's probably going to be the finest car I'm going to drive because to be honest with you, it's not a priority.

And I want my kids to also feel like when they get in their 50s and they can afford a Hyundai Elantra, wow, they've really arrived. So a lot of it is us trying to figure out, well, what is our priority and what are we going to spend our money on anyway? I wonder how many of our listeners right now have thought about what percentage of their monthly budget they are spending on digital platforms.

Don't bring that up. Oh, man, that's a great question. We actually wrote out a contract I came up with that my kid, my son, who's the only one with a phone right now, had to sign. We set in boundaries. You're not using it when we jump in the car unless you ask for permission. It's never at the family dinner table.

And at 9 p.m., it's in our room or you don't use it the next day. And Shawn, do you guys, are you looking and checking his phone? We are. And this is an ongoing conversation.

Actually, we wrote into the contract, you'll probably fail and you'll lose it and we'll give it back and you'll try again. And that's happened. And I'm not going to pretend we've done this perfectly. We're trying to have reasonable boundaries.

This whole technology thing, in my experience as a teacher, as a speaker, as a parent, for the most part, if we have reasonable boundaries with technology. And we express them to our young people and why, for the most point, they'll respect it and they'll understand. But we give unreasonable boundaries. We don't say why. That's what creates conflict.

So I'm a Gen-Xer. So I sit down with someone, the assumption is like, we're not on our phones, let's talk. Well, with this generation, the assumption is let's pull out Instagram while we're sitting together or whatever, Snapchat, because we might be liking the same photos. And that's how they bond. And that's how they bond.

So these expectations and assumptions, which are not stated, are at the heart of at least a good amount of the conflict. Well, here's a question. So I've got two dads here and the title of your book is So the Next Generation Will Know. So we're all about how do we help the next generation? How do we transmit the faith? That's where we're going.

That's right. Let's say you're checking your son or daughter's phone history and you find all they're looking at on the Internet is atheist, skeptic, Richard Dawkins. They're just studying this worldview that is not what you've tried to raise them with. How do you deal with that as a parent? How do you step into that? It's not they're looking at games and they're actually really searching and they're going down a track that you want to have a discussion about.

What do you do? Well, I'm going to let you start with that, because, Sean, his stories with him and Josh, his dad, I think kind of illustrate in essence your family was the definitive, you know, an apologist for a father. There's a sense that, hey, if you've got an apologist for a father, you're either going to become an apologist or become an atheist.

You're going to be one extreme or the other. So just share your stories about his questions to you and your questions to him. The first thing I would do is I would not freak out. We don't know why. We don't have context.

I think if that was my son, I'd sit down and I'd say, hey, you know your mom and I now and then will check your phone. Yeah, dad, I know that. I notice you're watching a lot of videos on Dawkins. Tell me about that.

Well, it could be something for class. It could be a whole range of reasons before I freak out. I also don't want them to think, son, son, what are you looking at? This is evil.

This is bad. Like, I don't want to overreact, because a lot of things I've done with my kids, we were up near Hume Lake at a camp in California. We walked by this Jehovah's Witness booth. And one of my friends had their kids and they all want to look. He's like, no, don't look at that. My son was interested. I said, yeah, pick it up. Let's talk about it. Brings in the car. He's like, what is this, dad?

I'm like, well, here's a teaching opportunity. Let's talk about it. So calm down.

Take a deep breath. At least your son or daughter is interested in spiritual things. And let's get to the root of it before we overreact and make sure that young person knows you love them no matter what direction they go, even if your greatest fears come true. And they're starting to believe this stuff.

You say, hey, I love you. This will not change. I'm in the long haul with this for you. I got to say one thing about this, though, because this drives me crazy as a writer, as a dad, as a pastor, as a youth pastor. How many times have we been at an event where we've spoken at an event and afterwards we're at the book table and somebody will walk up and say, hey, my daughter is 23. She's no longer a Christian. Can you please sign up one of your books to her?

And I always say the same thing. I'm happy to sign a book to her, but she's not going to read it. The reality of it is that we have to do two of these things we talked about last time. We talked about relationships and truth claims, information and relationship. That is the marriage we have to have.

And if you've got the relationship with your daughter, but you haven't been able to answer her questions, that's the first thing you need to correct, right? I mean, I know as a dad, part of my responsibility is to be able to articulate the gospel, but also to explain why the gospel is true, to be able to answer these kinds of questions, to be able to preemptively explain what I believe and how I believe it in such a way that they're not going to learn what the objections are for the first time watching YouTube. And you're basing that on 1 Peter 3? Yeah, I'm basing it. A little bit?

Yeah, I am. My own son, about both my sons, they grew up in our youth ministry in which these kinds of conversations were happening all the time. And they remember sitting at the table with us as we were talking about the evidences. In other words, you're going to share something about your faith with your kids.

I'm wondering what it is we're sharing with our kids. It's our love of God, I hope. But also, I have questions about why God would allow evil, questions about whether I should trust this ancient manuscript. Why do I think the resurrection actually occurred? Why does the resurrection matter at all? These are things I've always talked about with my kids. It's part of our faith journey so that I know that then in that context, I'm not worried that they're going to encounter the objections for the first time. I always tell these pastors, say, look, if you're going to go off and chase your passions in college and walk away from the faith, that's fine. That's on you.

I get it. We're all human. We all have passions we'll chase. If you're going to leave and go to college and then think it's not true evidentially, that's on me. My job was to make sure you knew it was true. And in my own kids' life, I've seen them go out for a season and then say later on, yeah, but I always knew it was true. You have to come back home to it. Sean, when you were 19, you went to your dad and said, I'm not sure I buy all of this stuff.

And I mean, his whole career is riding on whether his son buys all of this stuff. You remember that conversation? I remember it very well, yeah. Sean, what led you to that point as a 19-year-old? I think it was a couple things.

One of it was, so this is mid-'90s, and I remember the first time in college I was given an e-mail address. And you couldn't Google, but you could search around and find different blogs. And it turns out that one of the secular web kind of internet sites that began took evidence that demands a verdict chapter by chapter. Historians, philosophers, theologians writing saying why it was wrong. This is your dad's magnum opus on apologetics, evidence that demands a verdict, and somebody would go on chapter by chapter and refuted it?

That's how they started the secular web, as far as I'm aware and as far as I've been told. So I'm just kind of searching around to figure out this internet thing, and I come across this and was like, oh, my goodness. At 19, I didn't have the sophistication to answer claims that Jesus didn't exist. Now I look back and I'm like, I can't believe I was taken by that, but I was 19. And I also was at just emotionally the stage in my life trying to figure out who am I, what do I believe. You know, I took this class called Authentic Manhood, and it was all about like your father wounding. And, you know, I'm just like processing this kind of relational stuff in college. And so there was this relational component, and there was this truth component.

Is this really true? And so we're in Breckenridge, Colorado, and I remember I went out to coffee with my dad. And I just remember looking at him, saying something to the fact that, dad, I want to know what's true, but I'm not sure that I really believe this is true. And my dad is like, the glass is 99.9% full. That's just the way he chooses to look at life. And he goes, son, I think that's great.

And like paused. And I remember I looked at him, I'm like, dad, did you just hear what I said? He goes, I think it's great. He goes, look, I've raised you to seek truth and to follow it. You can't live on my convictions. You've got to decide for yourself what you think is true and follow it. Your mom and I will love you no matter what. He said, just don't reject the things you've learned just to rebel.

Only reject it if you're utterly convinced it's not true. He said, but you know what, I think if you seek truth, you're going to keep following Jesus because Jesus is the truth. I love you. Something to that effect is how I remember it. And years later, I asked him, this was maybe two or three years ago, I said, dad, what were you really thinking at that moment? What you're asking, were you really freaking out inside?

Yeah. And he said to me, he goes, I wasn't. I said, why not? He said, because I knew the depth of relationship that you and I had. And that is not what I expected him to say, but I realized that relationship is the heart of it. It's the heart of it.

Wow. And I think for every parent listening, that point has got to be crystal clear. I remember, I don't know how many times I heard Dennis Raney say, the relationship is the bridge you build that you can carry a ton of truth across that bridge as long as the bridge is solid.

Blow up the bridge and the truth won't get across. And so if you've got to focus on something, make that your focus, make sure that's solid, because that keeps the lines of communication open throughout a lifetime. As a mom, when our kids were teenagers, we had so many kids hanging out at our house. And it was really because they had the freedom to be who they were. No, it was because we had a bunch of food.

I was going to add that. I was going to say we laughed a ton. We listened a lot.

We asked a lot of questions, and we had so much food. And teenagers will gather around food and relationships. And I think that there's a sense of loneliness and even of not having community. And I think what you're talking about is create an atmosphere where our kids can come and ask honest, real questions that you're going to love them no matter what and where they can talk and maybe eat a lot too or have some good food. I think it's important. And then when they do have questions, because they will, about these kinds of things, some of the things you'll have answers for, some of the things you're going to go, that's a really good question.

We need to explore that together. And maybe you then run back to your bedroom and get a copy of the book that we were talking about today and look it up and go, okay, what's the answer to that one? This is a good book to have around. And it's a good book to go through together as parents, maybe with other parents. The book is called So the Next Generation Will Know, Preparing Young Christians for a Challenging World. If you have preteens or teenagers, get this book or get the participant's guide and go through it with other parents so you can have some interaction, some clarity on how to deal with these issues. Both the book and the participant's guide are available in our Family Life Today Resource Center. Order from us online at or call to order 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number. Again, the title of the book is So the Next Generation Will Know by Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace. Order online at or call to order 1-800-358-6329.

That's 1-800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. You know, I'm thinking back to what Sean shared earlier about the interaction with your son over the Jehovah's Witnesses material. And I'm thinking we have to, as parents and as grandparents, be ready for those moments, be ready in season and out of season. Not that we have to have an answer in the moment for everything that we get asked, but we have to be ready to say, let's look at this.

Let's ask the hard questions. Let's do this together. And here at Family Life Today, one of our assignments is to help equip you as parents and as grandparents with the resources you need, the information you need, the encouragement all of us need to be ready for those moments, to be engaged with our kids and grandkids as they continue on their journey of faith. I hope today's program has been helpful for you, and if it has, I want to encourage you to make ministry like this available to more people by helping to support the ministry of Family Life Today. Your donation makes it possible for more people to more regularly receive practical biblical help and hope for their marriages and their families.

You can donate to support Family Life Today by going to, or you can call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY. We're grateful for those of you who listen regularly and for those of you who take the next step to help enable this ministry to reach more people. Thanks for your partnership with us. Now tomorrow, we want to talk about something that is equally important to truth. As you're trying to lay a foundation of truth in the life of your child, our guests believe there is something that goes right alongside that that cannot be neglected. We'll find out what that is tomorrow.

Hope you can be with us for that. I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Bob Lapine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life of Little Rock, Arkansas. A crew ministry. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-03 07:01:15 / 2024-03-03 07:14:00 / 13

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime