Reaching a ‘Publishing’ Generation
A Q&A with Terry Parkman
Terry Parkman is the NextGen pastor at River Valley Church (Assemblies of God) in Minneapolis.
INFLUENCE: How is youth ministry changing?
PARKMAN: With Generation Z, it’s twofold: First, they’re a generation that’s “apatheistic” — they just don’t care about God. They’re not looking up at the heavens and shaking their fists; they’re just not looking up thinking it’s important. We’re facing a post-Christian generation.
Second, we’re no longer preaching to a generation of consumers. We’re preaching to publishers. Their end is publishing. It’s been wired into their brains through their phones, whether it’s posting, commenting or tweeting. So we need to make space for this in our services.
Generally, the church is built for the consumer. You go get a coffee, sit and listen, ruminate on it, and then integrate it into your life.
Students are there to publish.
How do you help students “publish”?
Sharing a testimony, leading from the stage, and worship are all publishing.
The youth pastor presents a short message, the big idea, and then we go to small groups. Within the context of community, students really wrestle with Scripture, talking with each other. That’s publishing.
“Our job is to lead them into a wrestling match with God.”
— Terry Parkman
Coming out of that time, we go back into worship, and students can journal, pray or worship — three different ways of publishing to God. Then, they come back up to the stage, and the youth pastor gives them three points for next steps. And the next day, the small group leaders follow up through social media.
What are the biggest challenges facing today’s youth?
It’s identity in a rapidly changing culture. It’s not just stressing over identity — questions of sexuality and, “Who am I?” It’s, “Who am I when culture changes every four months?”
Really anchoring into a specific identity is difficult for students today. It’s like delayed adolescence to the max. Young adults want to be parented again.
We’re seeing that extended young adult season happen because there’s so much hesitancy to start anything until they know who they are.
How does a pastor even dig into that? I think our job is to lead them into a wrestling match with God and let the Holy Spirit do that.
What is your message to this generation?
Generation Z is the generation the Church has been praying for: a publishing generation who isn’t afraid of witnessing.
I think we’re going to look back at Gen Z as a builder generation.
So I would say to them, “Keep building. Don’t stop innovating, but make sure you’re tapped into the Holy Spirit because He’s the source of all creativity.”
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 edition of Influence magazine.