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Opportunity 5 // This Generation is Globally Connected

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This generation is more aware of global issues than any previous generation.  They are globally connected and their world is very accessible.  I think there are at least a couple reasons for this:

1 – Access to Air Travel.  As I sit to write this blog, I am on an Air Canada Boeing 767-300 traveling at 38000 feet on my way to Calgary.  In just over 3.5 hours, I will arrive and begin my day of meetings and church visits.  Accounting for inflation, the cost of this trip is less than it has ever been in history.  Airfare has never been cheaper.  This relatively low-cost airfare (combined with North American affluence) has made the world accessible to many of today’s youth.  Family vacations and school trips are not uncommon.  Mission or service trips are for many a regular occurrence.  Access to air travel has contributed to this generation’s global awareness and connectedness.

2 – Internet and Cell Phone Technology.  I have had the privilege of traveling to Bolivia several times with Canadian Baptist Ministries and working alongside families in rural communities as they improve their adobe mud homes to protect themselves from the bite of the vinchuca beetle and Chagas disease.  It never ceases to amaze me to see these rural Bolivians plug their smart phones in to charge in the outlet in the mud wall of their house.  The internet and smartphones have connected people in rural Bolivia to urban Hong Kong to rural Nova Scotia to urban Vancouver.  Through social media, this generation has access to first hand accounts of the reality in South Sudan or Charlottesville or Attawapiskat.  This technological and social revolution has shrunk the world for this generation.  Access is literally right in their back pocket!

Not only is this generation globally aware, but they also have a thirst for compassion and justice!  What an incredible opportunity for the church to come alongside and help them engage meaningfully locally and globally in this broken world.  What an opportunity for the church to allow this generation to lead us more into this engagement. 

This reality demands a faith in Christ that is lived out on the global scale.  It demands a global discipleship.  So how do we as the church do this well?

1 – Talk about issues – The first step is just making sure we are part of the conversation!  Are we talking about global events in our churches? Are we making space in our corporate worship time to address justice issues like food security, racism, or gender equity?   Are we taking time to consider together how faith in Jesus intersects with the issues? 

2 – Study God’s Word – We can help this generation engage meaningfully by studying the scriptures.  Why is our world broken?  How is God in Christ making all things new and what does in mean for us to participate with Him in that work?  What did it mean that Israel was to be a blessing to all of the nations?  What did God have to say through the prophets about poverty, oppression, and how God’s people are to live?  Throughout Scripture, what is God’s heart for the poor and the marginalized?  How is this exemplified in the life and teaching of Jesus?  What does it mean that we are God’s workmanship created in Christ to do good works?   What does it look like to make disciples and be His witnesses to the ends of the earth?  As we engage deeply in the whole of the Bible, we cannot help but engage this generation in issues of Justice.

3 – Avoid Simplistic Answers – When faced with questions from a student about a famine in South Sudan or a devastating hurricane in the Caribbean the temptation can be to rush to simplistic answers.  I believe we should resist this and instead listen, provide a safe place for questioning and walk with them through it.

4 – Engage locally – Justice is not just a “far-away thing.”  It is also a “in-my-own-neighbourhood” thing.   Engage your students in a local neighbourhood assessment (CBACYF Neighbourhood Assessment Workbook).  Provide opportunities for students to participate in compassion ministries but also in larger justice issues through advocacy or partnership with community organizations. Start! Help your students become a part of righting a wrong in our world. Channel their energy and the overwhelming information they receive in this world and help them start with one thing.        

5 – Go, Serve and Learn – Lastly, I think that there is incredible value in going and serving and learning alongside long-term partners in the majority world.  God can work in and through this type of global discipleship journey in a way that both those that go and those that receive are blessed.   It is essential though that we do this well.  If not, we can actually end up doing more harm than good.  This is so much more than taking a group of youth and building that wall or serving some meals.  A few great resources on this are Helping Without Hurting in Short Term Mission , Serving With Eyes Wide Open , and Deep Justice Journeys. Of course, I think we at CBM facilitate this engagement well.  I would love to talk to you more about it (agardner@cbmin.org). 

This generation is more globally aware and connected than any previous generation.  What an incredible opportunity for the church to be the Church. 

Adrian Gardner