Nona Jones is the head of faith-based partnerships at Facebook, but she also leads a church with her husband in Florida. She led a workshop at NYWC 2019 all about leading the selfie-centered generation we are seeing now in Millennials and GenZ.

She started by stating that we are in a monumental shift as we approach how we reach the next generation. The advent of the front-facing camera has drastically changed how we captured moments. Selfies really are all about yourself. But selfies are also about what matters to me.

The General Social Survey – study of societal trends

  • 23% of respondents marked non-religious (biggest percentage ever)
  • 23% as evangelical Christian
  • 21% as Catholic

We are in the midst of a very big transition and shift socially. But our tactics don’t seem to be working.

So how do we lead a generation that is saying truth doesn’t matter to them as much as their own truth?

Nona then reminded us that Millennials are the fastest-growing demographic that identifies as non-religious. And the top cited reason for this was a lack of relevance.

What does it mean to be relevant?

  • Being closely connected or appropriate to what is being considered
  • Being appropriate to a particular time, period, or interest

What this generation is saying: My concept of religion isn’t appropriate to my life.

  • Because we have for too long identified church as a place people go and a program that people watch. 
  • If you don’t show up to the place and watch the program, it becomes disconnected from your life.
  • We are less concerned about serving people than we are attracting people.

Looking at Jesus, He went to people where they were in order to meet their needs. He never asked them to come to a place at a date at a time in order for them to hear a message.

Recent studies show that 2 out of 3 churches are plateauing or declining in attendance.

So, again, how do we lead a selfie-centered generation? Nona says that we need to change our paradigm around what church is. 

What could this look like? This generation has a deep sense of injustice. If they are going to be a part of a faith-based institution, they want to be a part of one that is about righting social wrongs.

After looking at 1 Timothy 4:12 and following, Nona said it’s important that we answer the questions: What are you giving me that has selfie-potential? What are we doing that I can’t help but share it with the world?

As she wrapped up, Nona shared 3 practical thoughts about faith and reaching the selfie-centered generation:

  • A faith that doesn’t right wrongs isn’t a faith this generation wants to be a part of.
    How are you bringing faith and encouraging youth to bring their faith to the lives of the hurting? They will know us for our love, not our doctrine. We are often known more for what we hate than what we love. Bring faith to life and the lives of people hurting in your community.
  • A faith that doesn’t achieve anything isn’t a faith this generation wants to be a part of.
    Recent study said 43% of millennials said achievement is their top priority. They don’t just want to observe. Jesus went to the people and equip His followers to go to the people. Ask them what challenges they would like to address, and then allow them to lead it. Always remember that this generation is motivated by achievement.
  • Faith has to be a conversation that accounts for real issues.
    A recent study says 4 out of 10 people fact check what they have heard in a faith-based institution. How do we create a multi-channel conversation around faith? We have to be wiling to welcome the debate, though. This generation has unlimited access to information but limited access to wisdom; that happens in the conversation. A recent study shows 60% of people search for spiritual content online. Find ways to make faith a conversation.

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