Generation Z Reaching Generation Z
Emma Jenkins and Jordan Whitmer are emerging from Generation Z and have a passion for reaching their generation for Christ. Hear what they are doing with and for their peers for the sake of the gospel.
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Emerging from generation Z, Emma Jenkins and Jordan Whitmer share what they are doing to propel the gospel in their age demographic.
Generation Z Reaching Generation Z
Michelle: Twenty-year-old Jordan Whitmer is an evangelist to his own generation—a generation that we would call Gen Z—and he is concerned.
Jordan: According to a study by the Barna Group just this year, only 4 percent of Generation Z—American teenagers today—have a biblical worldview. We are at some very low percentages. Their takeaway is that Gen Z is the least Christian generation in American history. Over 19 out of every 20 teenagers you meet on the street/they don’t see the world the way that Christians do. They, very likely, don’t know Jesus.
Michelle: Well, Jordan is not giving up on his generation. Today, we’re going to hear how Jordan Whitmer and his friends are taking the gospel to Gen Z. Stay tuned.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. Today, we are going to dive into hope for Gen Z. As new generations graduate into life, there is usually a little apprehension of the young people who are coming onto the scene; but I wanted to give us a little bit of hope for the new generation that is graduating onto the scene. That’s because I have two young people who are joining me in the studio today, who are just excited about what God has done in their life; so they are passionate about sharing it. I’m talking about Jordan Whitmer and Emma Mae Jenkins.
Jordan and Emma, thank you so much for joining me today.
Jordan: Thank you.
Emma: Thank you!
Jordan: We’re so glad to be here.
Michelle: Now, obviously, you guys are some awesome Gen Zers. We have another awesome Gen Zer in the other room, our intern, Raven Simmons; so I’m excited about some of the Gen Z’s that we are seeing. We have been, as a ministry, studying the
Gen Z’s; and there has been little alarming things that have been going on. Give us some hope for Gen Z’s that you guys have seen through your ministry.
Jordan: It’s been very, very interesting, studying Generation Z. Some people didn’t even know what Generation Z was called even just a year ago. It’s really been more popularized even in the last year or two. The name has been around for a little while; but now, people are finally realizing, “Okay; yes, I’m not a Millennial.” People say, “Oh, Jordan, you’re a great Millennial.” I’m like, “I’m not a Millennial. I’m a Generation Z; I’m the next generation.”
Anyone born between 1996 and 2012, give or take—people classify that in different ways—but Gen Z, according to a study that came out by the Barna Group just this year, they came out with the results that only 4 percent of Generation Z—American teenagers today—have a biblical worldview; meaning that, over 19 out of every 20 teenagers you meet on the street/they don’t have a biblical worldview. They don’t see the world the way that Christians do; they, very likely, don’t know Jesus. We are at some very low percentages.
Jordan: Their takeaway was that Gen Z was the least Christian generation in American history. It talked about lots of other issues with Generation Z with social media and technology—that can be used as a good thing; and in our case, has been a very good thing—but for many kids, it’s a terrible thing. Suicide rates are up; depression is up. Generation Z, overall, is not in a very good place in America and in many other parts of the world.
It’s sad where things are at; but as I often say, there is some good news; it’s the fact that there are some Christian teenagers out there. When teenagers do step up for Jesus—the ones that do know Jesus—they are willing to stand up, and it’s amazing what can happen when teenagers share with other teenagers about Jesus.
Michelle: Most definitely. Okay, Emma, what are you seeing with Gen Z?
Emma: I think it’s really cool how, when you are willing to step up and be bold—not that others need permission—but I feel as though they feel they need to see someone else do it to feel as though they can. I think—
Michelle: They are not the only one.
Emma: No! Absolutely!
Michelle: When you are lonely, you don’t want to be the one standing up all alone.
Michelle: So if they see you doing it, they are willing to follow.
Emma: It’s so exciting! It’s like, “Okay, let’s go!” When we realize that God has made us for such a time as this—and we are willing to be bold; and we are willing to love; and we are willing to shine; and we are willing to walk out in truth—other people will see: “Oh, if she is confident in who she is, maybe, I can stand up too”; or “Why”—I have gotten this all the time—“Why do you smile all of the time?”
I think the joy of the Lord is pretty powerful—because it’s very easy to smile when the sun is out, but it’s really easy to start frowning when it starts raining—but the joy of the Lord/it’s like an evergreen tree. Regardless of the seasons of life that you walk through, you can remain fruitful; and you can remain bright, and full of life and full of joy; because we serve a God, who is steadfast and who is constant.
So when we’re/as children of God, when we realize we belong to God—we are His treasure—whenever He has called us to be His royal priesthood, and we stand up in that boldness, knowing that we are loved and knowing that we are called to love, other people will be like: “Okay; I don’t really know about this Jesus thing, but they have this hope. They seem whole, and they just look like they have it. I don’t know what it is, but I want that.”
I’m really excited because Generation Z, just like every generation, are people wanting a relationship with Jesus; and they may not realize that that is what they are looking for. By us realizing that—that’s what we have, and that’s the answer that fulfills your heart—“Let’s go share it, because that is what they are looking for,” and “That’s what will truly fill their heart.”
Jordan: Also, anytime anybody can just invest into the life of a teenager—teenagers want to be genuine; they want genuine relationships; they want truth; they don’t want small talk—they want to get to some deep issues very fast. My grandpa has often said that: “Generation Z, while they might be the least Christian generation in American history, they are the most ready generation for Jesus in American history,—
Jordan: —as well, probably because of how lost they are.” I see it as a huge opportunity for the gospel, and we need to do something about it.
Michelle: So Jordan, just to give a little bit of background on you. You are the founder of a movement called How to Life. Emma, you’ve been helping out a little bit with How to Life. Now, Jordan, help us understand: “What is How to Life?”
Jordan: For sure; yes. About three years ago, I helped start a completely teen-led movement. It started in Arkansas and has now been spreading all over the country. The whole premise is teenagers sharing the gospel and reaching their friends for Christ through events and through a movement of young people, [who] are passionate about reaching Generation Z for Jesus. Often, a lot of Generation Z teenagers listen to their friends more than any other voices in their life. While usually that’s a bad thing, what How to Life has done is it has made that a good thing by seeing teenagers step up to share the gospel.
We have seen many, many teenagers come to Christ through this movement—and teenagers all over the country—we’ve now had 34 events across 13 states and are expanding even more around the world and around the country in the future. It’s so exciting what God has been doing through a movement of teenagers, sharing the gospel through events and through a very exciting fast-growing movement.
Michelle: So why would you build a ministry, students to students?
Jordan: Other teenagers have such a huge influence on the life of their friends. When teenagers step up and share the gospel, often, that is what it takes for someone to respond. Teenagers often are looked down upon, like, “Oh, they can’t do anything. They are just 15-,16-,17-, 18-year-old kids; what could they do that is good?”
But for teenagers—who do love Jesus; and are growing; and are mature, leader teenagers—it’s amazing what can happen when they are turned loose to take a stand for Jesus, and to lead, and to share the gospel. That’s what we have been seeing happen all over the country, and even more now into the future, through teenagers reaching their friends for Jesus.
Michelle: So Emma, what have you been seeing? What have you witnessed through the movement as you’ve/you’ve been speaking at a couple of the How to Life events. So what have you seen with some of the students?
Emma: Well, it’s been beautiful; because it’s truly an image of 1 Timothy 4:12 that says: “Don’t let others look down on you because you are young; but set an example for believers through your faith, your love, your conduct, your speech, and your purity.” I think it’s beautiful, because God doesn’t look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. So God doesn’t see you—that He can use you or He can’t use you based on your age—He just sees a heart that is willing; and He says, “Yes, let’s go!”
That is what this vision and this ministry has been—of beautiful kids, [who] are growing into who God has called them to be, and realizing, “I don’t have to wait until I am a certain age to live for Jesus; but God sees my heart that is willing, and let’s do it now,”—because something my dad says is: “The right time to do the right thing is right now.” That is what this has been.
I have gotten to see kids step up and realize that God is in it—He has made them for such a time as this and that they were made to be a light for Him—a light for Him, not only to share what He has done in their heart privately, but to share it publicly so that He can continue to do that in the hearts of other people too.
Michelle: And that is so great, Emma. I’m just wondering, “What are some of the stories that you have seen through the ministry?”
Emma: Hmm; oh, it’s been so beautiful. It’s been kids, who may not have realized how much God loves them. I think, sometimes, we have a vision of God being on His throne, looking down His nose, waiting for us to mess up. I think that it’s been a beautiful walk of people realizing that it’s not religion, but it’s a relationship.
That’s been something really cool, that I have personally been so humbled, to get to share with people—from being in a relationship with God and getting to help others walk in a genuine relationship with Him, too—and getting to see their hearts be open to: “Wow! I get to have a relationship with Him! This isn’t a list of do’s and don’ts, and making sure I do everything right; and if I don’t, then I’ve screwed it up. My God is a God, who wants to walk with me and who never stops pursuing me.”
That has been—wow—I don’t want to stop; because it is priceless, getting to see hearts awaken to the fact that God is a God, who pursues them and already knows everything about them; but He wants to walk with them.
Michelle: Emma, this is such great stuff, but we need to take a break. When we come back in two minutes, I want to hear more about How to Life. Stay tuned.
[Radio Station Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. Emma Jenkins and Jordan Whitmer join me today. We’re talking about How to Life, the events they lead to reach their generation.
There’s a Sara Groves song—and this is totally going to date me, because I’m pretty sure that she came out with it about the time you guys were toddling around—it’s a song called Tent in the Center of Town. It’s all about an event/it’s all about a crusade that comes to town. In the chorus, it says, “There is a tent in the center of town, where the people can gather around, who wouldn’t step a foot in a church; but who aren’t afraid of the Good News Crusade.” Now, with your events, are you noticing that some of these students that come probably wouldn’t step foot in a church?
Jordan: For sure, it’s amazing what has been taking place. Often, a lot of the people [who] attend these How to Life events that have taken place: some of them are Christian young people, [who] have grown up in churches and things; but often, a lot of those Christian young people are not necessarily [in] the best place themselves; and they really need to be impacted by the gospel and by Jesus again. And then others are/there are people—many stories of people, [who] are not connected with churches at all, that might not go to a church on a weekly basis or much at all—that come because a friend invited them.
What is exciting is that, through an event that is led by teenagers—when a Christian teenager invites their friend to something like this and says, “Hey, would you be willing to come hear me speak and share at this completely teenage-led event?”—some of these people, who attend, say, “Wow; that’s incredible. I thought that church was something for adults, or something that happens at churches.” They come; and they hear their friends, and say, “Wow; I never knew this was about a personal relationship with Jesus and that this is what we need to focus on.”
It’s incredible what takes place through a How to Life event and through a movement of young people reaching young people.
Michelle: Okay; so as I’m thinking about this—and I am fascinated to see this student-led event—but as an adult, and I’m speaking for probably several/many adults—that it’s kind of scary to hand the gospel over to a student, and hand that over and say, “Okay; now, just go forth and share with these other students.” What is your grid for allowing students to speak on a platform on the stage to other students?
Jordan: That is a great question. The good news is that there are some teenagers and young people out there—it’s definitely a minority—of this minority, there is a strong percentage and a strong amount of teenagers that do love Jesus: they have grown up in churches; they’ve grown up with good Christian parents/families.
Often, I say that anybody that is a strong leader for Jesus that we find, they’ve either had really, really good parents or really, really good churches—or a combination of both—that have been investing and pouring into their lives. There are some good people out there/some good teenagers that do know Jesus—they are strong theologically; they understand the gospel—and we help coach and train them in how to share the gospel clearly through an event/through things like that.
Michelle: Now, Jordan, your grandfather is Ron Hutchcraft; and for some of our listeners, they are familiar with him as being an evangelist, and an author, and a speaker, and a radio show host. Do you feel like you are walking in his footsteps?
Jordan: Maybe a little bit. It’s been so amazing to have such an exciting and influential grandfather in Ron Hutchcraft, who has poured so much into my life. He has been a huge mentor and voice in my life as I’ve grown up over the years. He’s very much influenced my entire family to just be passionate about the gospel, and to make that such a huge priority in our life, and to seek out evangelism and to see people all over—lost people—come to know Jesus. That’s just something that has really grown up in my family DNA—you might say literally and figuratively—it’s very exciting what God has been doing through this.
Michelle: Now, Emma, you, along with working with Jordan and the How to Life Movement, you also have a platform on Instagram® and YouTube®. How did your ministry come about that way?
Emma: Yes, ma’am; when I was in eighth grade, I would say that is when I fell in love with Jesus. There is this beautiful saying of: “Go private before you go public.” God—my heart fell into His hands privately; so I couldn’t help but share this publicly. Being in this beautiful time that we get to live in—we do have social media, and we do have YouTube, and all these cool ways we get to talk to people—so I was like, “Wow! What a great opportunity to share Jesus with some precious hearts that may not know how fearfully and wonderfully made they are.”
I started using my Instagram, that I had previously been using for selfies and let people know I ate Chick-fil-A that day—I started using it to let them know how much God loved them—I started making YouTube videos. I did this for about a year—my whole freshman year of high school—then in tenth grade—I’m originally from Louisiana—one of my dear friends, Sadie Robertson/we went and got yogurt together—because that’s just what friends do—friends go get yogurt together.
Michelle: That’s right; they do—or coffee.
Emma: Oh, yes. And like a lot of teenage girls, we took a picture in front of the yogurt place after we ate our yogurt. Sadie posted a picture with me: it was me, and her sister-in-law Mary Kate, and Sadie. We were all in this picture together, and I was in the middle. She posted it, and pretty quickly after it got posted, a lot of comments started scrolling in of: “Who is that girl in the middle?” and comments all about my physical appearance and just a lot of bullying.
I chose to respond in love—because in Luke 6:27-28, it says, “You’ve been told to love those who love you back but to hate your enemies,”—but Jesus; I love Him; Jesus said—“Very truly I tell you to love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, and bless those who curse you.” What is so cool is, when you realize that hurt people hurt other people; you see it in a different way. You see it as a heart that just doesn’t know how loved they are yet, so the only way they know how to respond is through hate.
What an incredible opportunity to introduce Jesus to someone by loving them, so I responded in love. In my response—Sadie saw my response—and Sadie responded of how: “We are called to honor people, and how we’ve got to shake the hate. It’s not personal; we are here for a mission.”
Emma: It says in Acts 20:24 that my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned to me by Jesus/the work of telling others the good news about the wonderful grace of Him. Sadie just posted something of just protecting me and about the love of Christ. From there—I now just graduated high school—and from there, along with more bullying, God has been shared on even greater platforms. Because my dad says, “God will place you where He entrusts you with His name.” So from there, the platforms just skyrocketed. Yes, more bullying took place; but, hey! That’s just more people I get to love on.
Michelle: Well, I’m reminded of: “What man meant for evil, God meant for good.”
Emma: He sure did; He did.
Michelle: He is multiplying your message through that.
Emma: Yes, it’s so beautiful; it’s so beautiful. I love Him! It’s so cool, too; there will be comments of atheists, saying, “I don’t believe in Jesus whatsoever; but there is something about this girl. She makes me smile.” I’m just going to keep on loving them, because you introduce God to people by loving them. You never know where people are coming from.
Michelle: Now, how have your parents been helping you along this way and encouraging you in ministry?
Emma: They are the best. They are the epitome of what God said when He said, “Train your child up in the way they should go so that when they grow old they will not depart from it.” I’m about to move out of the house; but even though I’m about to depart from my house, I’m not departing from my faith; because my faith is my own. That’s something that my mom and dad really instilled in our home; was that, “You choose the journey that you take. ‘As for us and our house, we will serve the Lord’; but you get to choose if you want this relationship with God. This is your choice you get to make.”
It was a choice I got to make; and in the midst of making that choice, they walked with me in it. As the bullying came, and as the higher platforms got, they realized that their role was not to protect me and shield me from the world; but we are supposed to go into the world and be the light in it. They really taught me how I protect myself in the way of: “I have my shield of faith; I have the Word of God; I have the helmet of salvation,”—from Ephesians 6—that my thoughts are going to honor Him, but I’m still going out into the battle. We’ve got our boots on the ground. We are on the front line, knowing that we are already victorious in Christ.
There are too many people that don’t know how loved they are, because they don’t know love Himself. We can’t stay sitting down all comfortable; we’ve got to go! They really have trained me up to be a strong warrior for Christ in such a way of: “Let’s go! Let’s be wise in how we shield ourselves, but let’s go!” They do that, not only by teaching me with their words, but they live that out. I couldn’t honor them anymore than I do today because of who they are.
Michelle: That is so neat how they poured into you, and now you are pouring into others.
Michelle: It is just so neat how God does that and how it just happens—and it doesn’t just happen—it took a lot of determination on your parents’ part, and discipline, and hard work; but the rewards are incredible.
Emma: Yes; yes.
Michelle: Very cool. So how did your parents—Jordan—how did your parents pour into you and prepare you for ministry?
Jordan: Yes, I have been very blessed to be in such an amazing Christian family—a passionate family about the gospel, and making a difference, and Jesus—it’s been so incredible to see what has happened through just some amazing parents in my life. They invested into my life; and they, at a very young age, would read the Bible to me; and just invest in my life; and take time to help me grow spiritually and to help me grow as a child; and ultimately, into a teenager; and now an adult. It’s been a very exciting process.
I began my relationship with Jesus at a young age. My parents were able to communicate the gospel to me clearly and help walk me through what that meant. Then, over the years, we just continued to have family Bible time. Often, we will have family Bible time and have had family Bible time, growing up. Sometimes, we’ll even have family worship time, where we’ll worship together once a week on Sunday evenings. My dad will play the piano; we’ll do exciting stuff. There is always a vibe—and has been at my house—of just: “We’re all about Jesus,” and “This is what we are all about.”
Jordan: That just exudes into every aspect of our life.
Michelle: What I think is really neat about both of you, Emma and Jordan, is that you have a faith that you haven’t held privately. Emma, the verse that you shared a little bit ago—1 Timothy 4:12: “Let no one despise you for your youth; but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity,”—how are you guys setting an example for others, who are watching you?
Emma: I think it’s a daily example of: “How are you daily living?”—not just when you are on stage and you have a microphone in your hand, and when you are in front of a bunch of people—but: “What are you doing when you are walking the hallways of your school?” and “How do you treat the janitors?” and “Whenever you are doing your homework, do you work at it wholeheartedly?” I think it’s a daily: “How do I treat people?” “How am I going to honor God in the clothes that I wear?” “How do I honor Him in the words that I am speaking?” “How do I honor Him in doing the dishes without even being asked to do it?”
It goes from the smallest of things, because God delights in the details. It’s the quiet mornings of seeking Him first in His Word when no one else is watching—not because you want the attention of it—but just because you want to be with Him. You know that: “If you don’t go with Him privately first, I don’t know what I’m going to be doing publicly. I need Him.”
Michelle: So good; so very good.
Well, Emma Mae Jenkins and Jordan Whitmer, thank you so much for joining me today—and for sharing just all that God is doing through you guys; and how He has laid on your heart to reach the next generation, Gen Z—thank you so much for sharing your hearts with us.
Emma: Thank you!
Jordan: Thank you.
Michelle: Of course, if you want to know more about the How to Life Movement, go to our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
Hey, coming up next week, we are going to talk about money, money, money! We’re going to talk about debt, and giving, and what it takes to live the life that we live. That’s next week on FamilyLife This Week.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the cofounder of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and the president, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. And a big thank you to our Generation X engineer today, Keith Lynch; and to our producers—Millennials—Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams, also a Millennial, is our mastering engineer; and Megan Martin, another Millennial, is our production coordinator.
Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.
I’m Michelle Hill—and I am the Beatnik Generation—inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
©Song: Tent in the Center of Town
Artist: Sara Groves
Album: Conversations (p) 2005 by INO Records
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