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Three Things This Week
1. Does Jesus Need to Go Viral?
What it is: Christian TikTokers have been promoting the #makeJesusviral hashtag, which now has over 253 million views, according to reporting by Christianity Today.
Why the impact might be short-term: It’s tempting to conclude that young people preaching to other young people on their preferred medium (TikTok) is only and entirely good. And of course it is possible for Christian teens to draw genuine inspiration and encouragement from these 60-second soundbytes. We hope they do! But populist preaching that lacks a structure of accountability has always had the potential to spark fervor without translating into solid faith. It’s great if your teen actually wants to watch Christian content on TikTok (especially compared to what else is on there), but discernment is equally as important even when content is coming from Christians. (Also, Jesus is already viral, just saying.)
2. From Victims to (More Than) Conquerors
What it is: For The Gospel Coalition, a Millennial pastor muses on how Gen Z is decidedly different—and perhaps uniquely positioned—to appreciate a theology of strength.
Why it’s food for thought: This article includes a thoughtful breakdown of how the zeitgeist has changed the definition of strength. For many Gen Zers, the category of the oppressed is seen as the most virtuous category to associate with, and telling teens to simply “be strong” in the face of difficulty can be seen by them as a form of abuse or toxic language. Of course, an experience of oppression can sanctify us and lead us deeper into Christlike virtues, if we let it. But victimhood for victimhood’s sake is not a currency to bank on. Thankfully, moving away from victim-blaming and looking at oppression as a character-developing asset—which Gen Z is already doing—can be a great inroad to discussing the rich and nuanced view of strength that Jesus and the Bible depict. We highly recommend reading the article from TGC.
3. Wanna Feel Old? There's a Tweet For That
What it is: Teenagers (yes, teenagers) are flocking to TikTok and Twitter to make memes about how old (language) social media makes them feel.
Why it’s time to model a better way: When teens are calling Selena Gomez (born 1992) the “queen of aging,” it’s weird and honestly a bit troubling. It’s natural for adults “logging on” to feel like the content deluge is overwhelming and incomprehensible. But it’s a bit more surprising to realize that young people feel the same way, too. As Rebecca Jennings explains for Vox, this is yet another side effect of social media changing the way that our brains view our physical bodies. Culture moves faster, and time feels arbitrary when we are staring at our screens all day. And since “getting old” is such a caricature of a person who has lost their curiosity, it makes sense that Gen Z is horrified by becoming older (and therefore irrelevant). Try to celebrate aging as a gift in interactions with your teens, and show them that every birthday signifies more wisdom and time with loved ones—the weight of which may exceed a billion “likes."
Spotlight: Saturday is the last day of the Parenting Pivot Challenge! Join our Pivot Parent Coaching to maintain momentum: our year-long coaching program for you and your kids. Continue breaking down barriers so you can talk confidently with the next generation about any topic in their world!
Twitch, Gaming, Ministry, and the Incarnation
This week, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Anyone want to play Among Us with me on Twitch to get out the vote? (I’ve never played but it looks like a lot of fun).” Some of the biggest names in streaming volunteered to play with her, and her Among Us session quickly became one of the most-watched streams in Twitch’s history. 440,000 viewers tuned in live, and since then the video has been watched over 5 million times. “And of course,” she said at the 18-minute mark, “we are here to vote Blue."
Her tactic was less about making an argument for the Democratic side and more about trying to get Twitch users to associate what they love with something she wants them to believe in (i.e. it was modern marketing 101). But politics aside, we have to commend her approach: In her desire to connect with a younger audience, she didn’t ask them to tune into C-SPAN; she met them in their world, on their turf. It’s exactly the approach we’ve advocated to parents for years.
Of course, she’s not the only one to make use of Twitch for outreach purposes. Last month, Christianity Today published an article called “The Next Mission Field Is A Game,” which told the story of how Christian soccer coaches were adapting Twitch for ministry during the pandemic, playing video games and inviting players to watch and ask spiritual questions. David Roach writes, “Teenage soccer players reluctant to spend 15 minutes discussing spiritual matters in person were willing to engage for three to four hours over video games online.” (For this reason, we think Twitch may have more long-game potential than the #makeJesusviral trend on TikTok.)
When we meet Gen Z in their world and on their turf, we are modeling the incarnation of Jesus. Jesus came, took on flesh, and entered into human society and customs. He didn’t wait for us to climb up into the Third Heaven, He went where people were. While the old guard scorns and scoffs at Gen Z’s new customs, soccer coaches and people like AOC are entering into these new ways of being to make a difference in the next generation. May we have the ingenuity and foresight to do likewise.