Emma is doing well in life. At twenty-six she has a good-paying job, a boyfriend who loves her and a group of friends with whom she spends weekends. Yet she is not satisfied. Emma desires something more. She is seeking.
Carl’s parents split up when he was eight. With nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce in most Western European countries, Carl’s situation is normal, isn’t it? For the most part, Carl enjoys life. He is studying for his degree and has the freedom that comes with being a young, single man. Why look for more?
You probably know people like Emma and Carl—they belong to the emerging generation.
Nearly 2.5 billion of the six billion people around the world are aged 15-35.1 The emerging generation is a subgroup of this number. Typically raised in a Western context, this generation is the first to have grown up in a global culture defined by media such as television and the Internet. As a result they share common values (friendship, community, no absolute truth, discovery and consumerism) that may be expressed differently in various cultures.
Because many (like Carl) have seen their families break down, those in the emerging generation value friendship above all else. This results in a strong desire for community. It is this community of friends that plays an important role in helping people like Emma make sense of life.
Truth is not viewed as absolute by the young people today; instead, truth is subjective. Anyone claiming absolute truth will be met with suspicion. This profoundly affects how we communicate faith today.
The emerging generation also tends to approach subjects in a non-linear way. The inner search for something more is driving many young people to look into spirituality. They tend to find themselves on a journey of discovery that looks at the world from different angles. They want both experience and logic to speak to them.
The way the emerging generation goes about their spiritual search bears a strong resemblance to their consumeristic lifestyle. They pick, choose and mix according to personal preference. Sadly, the Church is not where most of them turn to for answers. Church numbers are declining while alternative religions and religious activities continue to increase.
The good news is that young people today are deeply and genuinely seeking. They are looking for practical and real ways to live life to its fullest. They are longing for answers to questions of origin and purpose. They need to be known and accepted by a community of friends. What they are really searching for, whether they know it or not, is God.
Innovista Seeks to Reach the Emerging Generation
Innovista is an organisation that is passionate about reaching this generation. With centres in the UK, the Ukraine and the US, Innovista helps the emerging generation engage with Jesus in the context of contemporary culture. This means seeing the good news bring change to people, churches and communities.
Seeing People Change
Helen treated her questions about life the same way she treated math equations. Things needed to follow a certain logic to make sense and have validity. Clearly, she thought, religion and spirituality did not fall into this category.
When Helen began attending the university, she made some Christian friends. One of them was Ruth. After several conversations, Ruth had a hunch Helen was interested in spirituality. She invited Helen to join a “” (GYA) seekers group. This media-based, interactive, small group resource is built around the things the emerging generation values: friendship, spiritual search and a safe environment to share experiences.
Helen was taken by the idea. She later said, “It was a group of people with completely different beliefs just wanting to explore their questions.” She felt comfortable in the group. Participants would look at questions like “Does God matter?” from different angles. The group helped Helen discover her problems with Christianity and discuss them freely. She eventually concluded that Christianity did offer something beyond the logic she had been holding on to. When Ruth asked if she could pray for her, Helen found herself connecting with God. Helen discovered that she can be both a scientist and a Christian.
GYA explores the most frequently asked spiritual questions that young people in Europe and Eurasia have. In ten sessions people can discover the person of Jesus through expert evidence, stories and personal discovery. GYA includes a leader’s guide and a DVD and is currently available in English, German, Norwegian, Swedish and Russian. For more information and session samples, visit http://www.gladyouasked.org/.
Seeing Churches Change
Living as a Christian among the emerging generation brings its own challenges. Oftentimes we do not know how to meet the needs of the young people around us, let alone know how to answer their questions. Even more foundational than these issues is that fact that we are faced with a need to redefine some of the basics of our own faith.
Alina lives in Russia. She is also a Christian. Some time back something in her heart had been urging her to spend more time with non-Christians. To Alina this just did not make sense. She had grown up believing that “clean” Christians should not mingle with “unclean” non-Christians, as the latter might cause the former to stumble. However, as of late, Alina could not quiet her heart.
During a relational evangelism training session, her heart resonated with the importance of sharing her faith in a friendship context. She started building genuine relationships with non-Christians and applied what she had learned in the training. As she met her friends as equals (and communicated both love and appreciation), she met openness to the gospel.
Alina wanted to help other Christians make this transition, too. She soon became a relational evangelism trainer. Since then she has been travelling through the Western part of Russian, sharing her experiences and helping students and church groups become more outwardly focused. This is called the “multiplier effect in action.”
One person is changed. In turn, that person helps others change as well.
Seeing Communities Change
Marina, a member of the Ukraine Innovista staff, sees the multiplier effect at work as well. A local church in Kiev is not just taking the training to heart, but has entered a process of evaluating and re-focusing their entire approach to evangelism. This is an example of how an entire community can be powerfully impacted if the person transformed is a leader. Lasting change in leaders will have a lasting impact on the people they lead. A change in attitude toward evangelism will create a community that makes relational evangelism a priority every day.
For this reason Innovista has a special focus on developing missional leaders. Through training events and relational mentoring, Innovista invests in seeing relevant evangelism on the agenda of the people, churches and communities it works with. Innovista also tries to provide the support young missional leaders need to stay strong.
In August 2006 Innovista will be holding “Leading for Life,” its first European young leaders conference focused on the unique challenges and opportunities of leading mission today. Leading for Life will be a place where leaders can be equipped to take personal leadership to the next level.
1. New Media Communications Survey. 2000. Spring and Fall.