Young people born between 1997 and 2012 (currently 11 to 26 years old), have been nicknamed Generation Z. One author calls them iGen because they have come of age in the era of the iPhone. Ubiquitous access to so much technology has shaped them dramatically, moving most of their social interaction online, primarily through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. This has not been a healthy reality for young people. The lack of in-person interaction and the problems of comparison that social media exacerbates have created extraordinary amounts of anxiety, depression, and isolation. For that reason, they have been called “the loneliest generation.”
As older members of the “loneliest generation” go to college this year, leaving home for the first time and starting to make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives, they desperately need two things: Jesus Christ and His body, the church. If they are redeemed by Christ, they are never alone. The Savior is always with them, infusing their lives with meaning no human relationship can. And he is, right now, in heaven, preparing a home for his children where they will one day live with him. Until then, they have his body to point them to Scripture and away from the world’s lies, surround them with meaningful relationships, and show them how to follow Christ in every avenue of life.
This fall, our church has the privilege of ministering to hundreds of Gen Zers through our college ministry, Crossroads. Through several Grace on Campus Bible studies and home studies, we integrate these young people into the body of Christ at Grace Church. As they connect with each other through Crossroads, they forge relationships that provide far more than an antidote to the loneliness that plagues their generation. They pray for each other, they encourage one another to press on in their love of Christ, and they strengthen one another as they go into often hostile campus environments where the truth is not welcomed. In other words, Crossroads provides the context for students to practice all the biblical “one anothers” within the church.
Beyond the blessings of these peer-to-peer relationships, Crossroads also provides unique opportunities for discipleship. The staff are there for the students. They understand that the college years are pivotal and that many a young person’s spiritual course will be set by the time he or she leaves college. The staff are there to help, to encourage, to teach, and to disciple college students as they go through these wonderful, formative, and often uncertain years.
Finally, Crossroads provides countless service opportunities so that students can learn to see beyond themselves, to understand that this world is not about them. Whether it’s reaching out to a lonely peer or volunteering at Shepherds Conference, the college years are a wonderful time to serve. Not yet tethered to a family or career, these young people can devote themselves to the service of the church. Crossroads provides the framework for many of those service opportunities.
Of course, all of us have a role to play in the lives of the college students who attend Grace Church. We can pray for them, especially those making life-changing decisions and those navigating life on a campus hostile to the gospel. And we can encourage those we meet, telling them of what Christ did for each of us in our college years and how he can use them for his glory.
So thank you, Grace Church, for what you already do, and will continue to do, in ministering to college students and investing in the next generation of the church.