The 60 Second Generation

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I’ve recently downloaded a game from the Apple AppStore called “Fruit Pop”. For those us who don’t have the game, the concept is very simple: there are six different colored “fruits” on a 6x8 grid, and the objective is to connect as many colors together as quickly as you can. You have 60 seconds...

I am absolutely addicted to this game. When boredom creeps into my busy schedule, I default to my smart phone and begin the 60 second vortex which holds my attention for 30 minutes at a time. When enough time has been wasted, I realize that this game has interrupted my schedule, putting me behind on the list of tasks which must be done for this work week.

This game is just a glimpse of understanding for how the attention of this generation of youth is understood. This generation has been raised with these games as a part of their entire lives, nearly resulting in a cultural expectation of constant changing and problem solving (all easily done or we change games). I’m young, clocking in at 25 years of age, but even I remember the days of Super Nintendo's. Duck Hunt, or Sega Genesis', Mortal Combat. These games, now
highly sought as “vintage”, were the front runners during my time as youth.

The challenge this presents to youth ministry is a generation enthralled by the video game world. The detrimental result is a lesson or event compromised by the pressure to keep students “engaged” long enough to teach them something, or equip them with some sort of practical application of faith for their livelihood. I’ve found that the material of Scripture isn’t something to be reduced, but is actually something which compliments this ever changing culture of entertainment. Many of the parables Jesus taught leave us on the edge of our seat, wondering how to apply these teachings to our every day lives, waiting for some response or action, much like our culture of video games. And through His example, we too can speak the foreign language of a changing generation or culture, entering into His quest: the Kingdom of God come.

So as leaders, we are faced with an exciting challenge: keeping students engaged. One of the ways we captivate our youth community is by involving others around us (friends, parents, coworkers) in challenging questions, encouraging students to go on a “quest” to answer those questions tangibly. We tie cultural things (real life stories or struggles) into our material to relate to. This generation, with such a short attention span, might only take 60 seconds to make a difference. Do you have 60 seconds to give?

  • What are creative ways in which you’re engaging your students?
  • Do you agree that this generation is a “60 Second Generation”?
  • What stories can you share about the ways that Scripture contributes to our teaching in this generation?
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Community Builder

I think in your second paragraph you point out that it's more complex than simply calling millennials (I assume that's who you're refering to) a "60-second" generation. Our attention may seem to last 60 seconds at a time, but we can spend hours dedicated to those 60 second chunks. Also, as anyone who has tried for a perfect 3 stars on all levels of Angry Birds can tell you, those simple puzzles aren't always so easy.

Speaking as a millennial and "technically-still-young" person, I think the obstacles we face in ministry sometimes have more to do with our frustration that old models aren't working anymore rather than anything. I think where in the past youth ministry has been more about the rote memorization of Biblical knowledge, maybe it needs to take a cue from these little puzzle games and be about helping young people make conclusions themselves about their faith. In stead of saying "Jesus wants us to do X, and here are three versus that prove it", it needs to be more like "what do these three versus tell us about how we are called to live as Christians in a complex and messy world outside the Church?"  Now if you'll excuse me, there's a squirrel and some shiny objects outside my window that need my attention. =)

Jonathan! You've hit the nail on the head and I'm happy you understand what I'm trying to communicate. I perceive from your comment that you're somehow involved in leadership which makes me curious: What sort of tangible ways you're carrying out the initiatives (living scripture in a palpable way) you've referenced above?

Community Builder

My passion and focus at church is in worship and how we use art and liturgy in an instructive way. For me, in the worship setting, it's about treating people like adults and focusing less on the "show" and more on the content. Are we telling the gospel story in the art and liturgy we use during the service? Can I as an artist take liberty with a text or scripture to make a broader point that helps people connect with the sermon comming next? Can we provide context for the message? Like I said about memorizing "Bible facts", it isn't just about rushing though a few happy songs so we can get to the sermon. It's looking at the service through a comprehensive lens and helping people connect the dots through word and song and silence. Worship extends far, far beyond a set list of hymns and praise choruses!