Understanding Gen Alpha with Dr. Jolene Erlacher

Jun 6, 2024


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Do you ever feel like you just don’t get Gen Alpha? Dr. Jolene Erlacher breaks down this fascinating generation for us. She explains the unique way they see the world, the challenges they face, and the strengths they bring to the table.

They’ve been born into a crazy world unlike any previous generation, and God has a unique call on their lives. How can we nurture that call, help them understand what truth is, and take steps to understand them and connect with them, drawing out their full potential and learning from them at the same time? How can we raise, mentor, and support resilient, compassionate, and innovative kids?

This episode is a wealth of knowledge. Together, let’s help set these kids up to be the world-changers God has called them to be!




Ways to Connect With Jolene Erlacher


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Transcript From the Episode

[00:00:37] Stephanie: Welcome to this episode of the Modern Day Missionaries podcast. Today we are joined by Dr. Jolene Erlacher. Jolene was with us in our summer season last year, and she shared on Gen Z and her episode was one of our highest downloaded ones. So we knew she’d struck a huge chord with people and invited her back to today to talk about another generation that we’re all trying to understand.

Jolene, what I love about you is that not only are you brilliant on the topic of generations , but you’re just a fantastic communicator and fun to listen to. So I also invited you back because I just like spending time with you. So welcome back to the podcast.

[00:01:13] Jolene: Well, thank you, Stephanie. We always have fun when we have these conversations, whether it’s on the podcast or just hanging out. So thank you so much for having me back. I’m excited to talk about this topic.

[00:01:23] Stephanie: I totally agree. So, to give you a little bit of background on Jolene, this is your first time getting to hear her. She has a doctorate in education in international leadership, and she’s been studying generational trends for over 15 years and has written several books including Mobilizing Gen Z, Daniel Generation, and Millennials in Ministry.

She’s also a university professor, a speaker and consultant, and she works with missions agencies and other faith-based nonprofits on engaging the next generation. And Jolene, you’re a parent, so you have that special insight into kids as well. 

[00:01:55] Jolene: I have two Gen Alphas in my house.

[00:01:58] Stephanie: This is real. And there you go. You segued in perfect because that’s what we’re talking about today, Gen Alpha, which if you don’t know who that is, it’s the younger generation that follows Gen Z. So dear listeners, whether you are the parent of some Gen Alpha kids like Jolene, whether you serve kids of abroad or in your ministry, or you just wanna understand how the heck these kids see the world because it feels so different than how you see it. Get ready for today. And really when I was thinking about it, we can’t reach or love or impact people we don’t understand. So I don’t think we can afford to misunderstand them or feel frustrated by them. 

So Jolene, would you just start us off by telling us who Gen Alpha is for people who might be confused about where those years fall?

[00:02:41] Jolene: Sure. Yeah. So there’s a little bit of discussion about where Gen Alpha actually starts, but most people say 2010 to 2012. So my daughters are, I have twins. They were born in 2012, so they often, we discuss, some days they wanna be Gen Z some days Gen Alpha, right? So,  they’re right on the cusp, but really right around that timeframe.

So when we’re thinking about, it’s really those generations that are just pre-teen, just entering the teenage years. So roughly 12 and younger is what Gen Z is, right? Or I’m sorry, Gen Alpha is with Gen Z. Then starting roughly around 2010.

[00:03:19] Stephanie: Okay. And what are some of the things that make them different from other generations? Having both in your house, what have you noticed and seen?

[00:03:28] Jolene: Yeah, so I think that one of the things that’s really unique about Gen Alpha is we’re super aware today of technology and its impact on us more so than Gen Z and millennials. So often I’ll talk to parents, you know, of young millennials or older Gen Z’ers. They’ll say, I just didn’t even know what to do with technology.

It was coming out so quickly. Suddenly all my kids’ friends had a smartphone. And then there were these things, this social media and you know, there’s all these things just kind of hit older millennials and Gen Zs. Yeah. Especially older Gen Zs. Kind of out of nowhere. And so we just were kind of rolling with it, trying to figure it out. Whereas for younger Gen Zers and now Gen Alpha, we have 10. Years of data or 15 years of data, you know, with the iPhone coming out in 2007,  the iPad in 2010, we now understand how these devices are impacting our lives in a little different way. And so Gen Alpha, what I find is they’re much more aware of, of technology, they’re more aware of their own interaction with technology and. Other people’s interaction with technology. So grandparents, parents, teachers, mentors, you know, they’re paying attention to how we’re using it. And often what we see with Gen Alpha is that they’ve kind of grown up competing with devices for attention from the important people in their lives. And so they have been the ones to feel.

What it’s like to have older generations addicted to technology and be the young person who’s not getting the emotional attention that they need, because older people are distracted and preoccupied and may I say, sometimes addicted to their devices. So I find this even with myself, you know, sometimes my daughter’s saying, “Mommy, look at me,” when I’m trying to check an email or a text message really quick. And so this is a generation that has grown up feeling the consequences of other people’s technology use in ways that older Gen Zers and younger millennials didn’t. They were using technology, but everyone in their life was not necessarily addicted to it or tied to it in the same way as today. The other thing is there’s so much conversation about technology use. I see Gen Alpha being very aware of how much they’re using it and when maybe they’re using it too much. And so they’re more willing to draw boundaries. I see this even with my own kids, just where they can say, Mommy, I’m on this app too much, or I’m watching the show too much.

We need to take a break ’cause it’s not helping me be a better person. It’s not helping me feel connected to God. So whether they can articulate it or not, they are just more aware. On many levels of the impact of technology.

And with that, they’re more aware of the world. And so this awareness of the world that they have at a very young age is really, really unique and powerful.

[00:06:30] Stephanie: That is so interesting what you pointed out there, just about that awareness,  of technology in older generations  using it and taking time away from them. Because when I think about it, I mean, my daughters are 20 and 21, and you’re right. When I, when they were young and I was raising them, I. I wasn’t on technology.

That wasn’t really an option at that point. It wasn’t around enough. So they had more or less my full attention in that there was not the competition of technology. But you’re right, I’d, so I’m thinking of them and thinking they didn’t see it as. Taking time away from them the way I interacted with it.

But this new generation, it is. I often look at parents today and I think, oh, if I was a parent right now, which many of our listeners are, how much more challenging would it be? To be raising,  kids right now. Not only because technology’s addicting and it’s something we use because of the dopamine hits, but because of the expectations that people put on us to use it.

[00:07:35] Jolene: Yep. Yeah, I was doing a parenting seminar talking about this with a group of military families. So a family military group brought me in to do this training, and at the end of the training, the commander of this unit came up to me and he said, I came back from a recent. Exercise where I was gone for a long time and had left all my stuff sitting by the door, and my son came up and put all this, my gear on, my hat, my coat and everything.

And then he said, look, I’m daddy. And he held his phone out or his hand out as if it was a cell phone. I am daddy. That’s how he pictured daddy with his coat, his hat and his cell phone. And this commander was like, we’ve just been sitting at our table talking about how as leaders, we put this expectation on those who are following us, of responding to text messages, of answering the phone. Even if it’s not nine to five, you know, and what we realize is we’re putting this on our people to then be that person who their kids see with that phone in their hands all the time. So I think just being really aware of, you know, how we’re responding to those expectations that you mentioned. And then how are we putting those expectations on other people? Do we freak out when someone doesn’t answer the phone or respond to our text message within 20 seconds or 20 minutes? So I think it is a really powerful thing because so many parents and leaders, grandparents, we feel that pressure to always be responding.

[00:09:01] Stephanie: Hmm. So what you’re saying too is making me think of something else. I was reading an article the other day about how important family is to Gen Alpha. I, I mean, it was a super high percentage. And, and I’d love for you to even say more about that if, if you probably know what I’m referring to the statistics, but I’m thinking if I don’t have access to my family because they’re buried in technology.

 That’s gonna make me crave family more. So what, what is,  the way that Gen Alpha views family right now?

[00:09:29] Jolene: The definition of family is just undergoing a lot of change right now. And Gen Alpha is caught kind of in this turmoil that’s occurring just in culture in General, about what is a family, what makes up a family. We know in North America, more young people are experiencing families without two biological parents in the home, then in many other parts of the world, and more so than in other times in history, but. It is true because the family is still in a global survey done by One Hope, which I really encourage people to check out. On the global youth culture, the statistics are still that globally, 80%, I think was the number of young people look to parents and family for important decision-making important information.

So sometimes we feel like we’re competing with technology, but in reality, young people do want family to be a primary source of input and influence in their lives. And yet often we’re distracted. The family is broken, they’re not seeing healthy conflict,  and conflict resolution modeled so young people greatly desire family. They’re trying to figure out what family is sometimes, and as a result, what we’re seeing is a desire for belonging.

So in the past, belonging often came out of family or local communities, but today with young people connecting virtually and there being, you know, more brokenness.

In family systems, young people are really desperate for belonging. They want a sense of belonging. So I would say that’s one of the greatest needs that we’re seeing emerge. Now, this is really powerful for one, if we are family members of Gen Alpha or Young Gen Zers, to really be present. To say, how can I make sure that I am really being present with the young people in my life, wherever that is.

If we’re coaching them, mentoring them, leading them in church, whatever, how can I make sure that I’m making eye contact, I am engaging with them at a level that communicates value to them. And then just really cultivating that sense of belonging with them. And then thinking about how do the ministries that we’re a part of help. Enforce a sense of belonging for young people who might not be getting it at home or from their family systems. So I also think that it’s important as parents, grandparents, older brothers and sisters, aunties, uncles to remember, they are listening to us as they’re seeking. Input on important decisions and moral,  you know, topics.

They are listening to us. Sometimes we think they’re not, but they are. And they do desire to hear input from us, you know, sometimes not the way that we’re giving it, but they do desire it from us. So I think that’s very affirming, you know, that there is a desire for that and we have so much opportunity to really give them a sense of belonging and connectedness if we choose.

[00:12:34] Stephanie: Hmm. And I hope that’s a, a key word that everybody’s hearing and taking away right now is that sense of belonging. How can I communicate belonging to those in my family, especially that Gen Alpha? And then how can we communicate to them? Them in the church. That’s such a great question, and you’re right presence––true presence––is so lacking nowadays that it doesn’t take much to be seen as like a superstar listener. All you have to do is just not take your phone off for 10 minutes and you’ll stand out far above the crowd. It’s, it’s pretty remarkable. 

[00:13:05] Jolene: It really is, and I, the thing that’s so interesting about this is that it’s such simple, basic things that we need to do to engage the next generation, but they’re often things that we’re not doing well or that require some personal sacrifice. So I was recently doing a study for several missions agencies on, you know, what is helping young people engage in missions and then stay in missions. One of the things that just shocked me in the study was the power of listening and how much just having someone listen to them actually made them feel like they belong and they have a place and they’re valued.  I mean, over and over that came, came up. Someone listened to my struggles. Someone was with me as I was journeying, and they just listened. So I think sometimes we feel like we need to have the answers. We need to impart some great wisdom, or maybe we do have the answer, but what they really need is someone to listen to them process. Tell the Holy Spirit guides them to the answer versus us just telling them the answer. And so that that ability to just listen,  and be present is so powerful with the younger generations.

[00:14:14] Stephanie: What a good point. Maybe they’re asking questions, not so much to get the answer, but just looking for a point of connection

[00:14:22] Jolene: Yeah.

[00:14:22] Stephanie: And sometimes we’re so quick to fix that we might be missing what it is they’re actually asking about. That’s such a good point. Jolene, I. I’ve got a question for you. 

A lot of these characteristics, characteristics and things that, what we’re talking about, are we seeing these globally? Are they more of a Western or American issue? Or how can we separate what’s global and maybe what is Western? 

[00:14:47] Jolene: That’s a great question. So again, I really encourage people to check out the global,  youth culture report from Onehope.net is where you can find it. There are several other studies too that show similar trends, but that one I really appreciate how they kind of show the data. But they interviewed young people in 20 different countries,  and really I think they interviewed 13 and 19 year olds, so these would just be a little bit older than Gen Alphas.

The youngest of the Gen Zers,  but we’re seeing some similar things with Gen Alpha. They’re just not quite old enough for us to measure some things yet. But we’re really seeing a lot of similar trends because technology is transmitting culture. I mean, just the Taylor Swift tour right now globally speaks to this, right?

Young people all over the world are listening to the same music. They’re watching the same TikTok videos, they’re following the same YouTubers, they’re following the same influencers, and so. The ideas, the values are being transmitted globally. Now. There are still cultural nuances, within these values, but we’re really seeing globally where older adults are saying, young people in my culture connect to young people in other cultures.

Better than they connect to older people in their own culture. So there is something very unique happening, right, right now, and I would say it started with Gen Z and we’re gonna see a continuation of it with Gen Alpha is just this global youth culture where they are connected, to each other. One, one where place.

I really see this is, you know, I’ve worked with several Asian American churches and you know, the many Asian cultures are more collectivist, honor, shame,  and. What we’re seeing with young people today is they’re such an individualistic. Spent on Gen Z and Gen Alpha because they’re able to individualize everything about this experience. And they really have been affirmed to be true to who they are. To do you––you do you. They have a lot of choice in their identity and how they’re deciding to portray themselves. And so as a result of that focus on individualism often for younger people and cultures that are more collectivistic historically. It’s a really sharp generational divide that can occur when you have younger people coming in with a more individualistic mindset. In most Western cultures, we already are more individualistic, and we’re seeing even younger generations kind of even significantly more individualistic. So it is a gap there too.

But globally, we’re seeing it more significant in some other cultures. So just one example, but really if you look at, I mean. Young people globally are using technology. They’re accessing the same things, especially in urban centers. I mean, in rural areas it might be a little bit different, but where there’s access to internet easily,  we’re seeing a lot of similarities globally.

Just crazy really for the first time in history, I think seeing these, so many trends happen across borders. I mean, demographics have become less relevant than your age, you know, so it’s crazy. And the fact that that’s bleeding over now into other cultures or, or beginning to actually shift fundamental ways that people are seeing things. That’s wild. It’s interesting listening to too, because I’m, I’m listening and, and hearing in one sense, there is this super individualistic, I have my own device and I make my own choices and have my own identity in every way, shape and form.

[00:18:22] Stephanie: Yet on the opposite side of the spectrum, this craving for belonging and being with people. So it feels like you’ve got these two extreme desires and trying to hold both of those in one little person. That’s a lot. 

[00:18:38] Jolene: It is. It is. And I, I see that tension. I mean, it’s one of the things that this generation is wrestling with, and sometimes I look at them and I just see that the enemy has sown so many lies into every generation, right?

And, and you just see how the lies contradict the truth.

And so much of what this generation hears through the music, the messaging is you need to make yourself happy. Above all else, you need to be happy. I, I have a young friend who just made a really significant decision in her life to just walk away from some things that God has for her. And she’s like, my counselor told me it was time to just make myself happy. And, you know, it, it’s just that messaging is everywhere. And,  the reality is we know that making self happy is. An empty promise, right? True joy comes in surrender and in service. And so there’s just this desire for true joy, but they’ve been told the message to seek it in sometimes the wrong places in in self, right? And so that’s where just coming alongside them and really walking with them can be so powerful, helping them process what.

This, just asking questions to understand, you know, what, what they’re thinking, where the truth is asking, you know, helping them seek God’s truth in some of these things that they’re talking about or understanding. So it is, there are so many contradictions between what they want and what they’re being told to do. and that’s, I mean, what’s beautiful is it’s like the enemy’s always sowing lies and culture, and God’s truth is always. In our hearts calling for a response, right? Calling out that empty space in us that needs to be filled.

And so you see this with every generation. And for Gen Alpha, that’s, and, and young Gen Zers, that’s one of the ways it’s,  it’s apparent.

You know, it’s just that, that desire for belonging and yet being individualistic at the same time.

[00:20:38] Stephanie: Yeah. I appreciate you continuing to emphasize the understanding and the empathy because I think, it can be hard for some people to have empathy towards. People who are so different from them. And when we look at Gen Alpha and we look at some of the older generations, especially like a Gen X, there’s such stark differences or even, you know, some millennials such stark differences.

It can be difficult when you just don’t understand what’s going through their, their minds in cultivating that empathy. So let’s say that I were to put on a pair of glasses that had a Gen Alpha filter. We’ve talked about a few of the things that they see, the way they see the world, like my dad with a phone or my mom with a phone. 

What would be some things that I would see if I put on that Gen Alpha filter?

[00:21:30] Jolene: So think about I, I think about even my daughters right, who are the oldest of Gen Alpha or on the cusp of Gen Z. Ever since they were born there has been turmoil. On display 24 7 on screens all around them. I was recently a part of a conversation where someone was saying, well, the world is just so chaotic today.

Well, we just finished studying ancient empires with my kids, and guess what? The Roman Empire was pretty chaotic. You know, the fall of the Roman Empire was pretty chaotic. There’s, I mean, Egypt. Oh my goodness, Cleopatra, it was a mess, right? So just so many. The world has always been chaotic and uncertain, but we now see it 24/7 in our back pockets on devices, under our pillows, playing on every screen around us.

And so young people have just grown up in a world where everything feels chaotic, uncertain, unpredictable, and the adults around me are constantly fearful, frustrated, upset, angry. We now have places with social media to project, you know, all of our emotions out there and young people are watching.

And so when you are in a world where everything feels uncertain and everyone around you who’s supposed to give you stability, feels, it feels like they’re fearful or anxious or confused or angry. The world is a terrifying place and,  there’s just very, it’s very hard to see any stability to see. So we, I mean, we’re seeing anxiety and depression and all these things even in little kids. So I think one of the takeaways for us is how, first of all, if we have Gen Alphas in our homes and our ministries,  to think about how much art we are exposing them to. How much are they being exposed to things that psychologically and emotionally, they’re not ready to absorb yet?

I mean, I know sometimes even if I’m like checking messages or emails. This morning I was, I was doing an email and one of my daughters came and she’s like, what’s that email about? It was about something she did not need to worry about. It was about a conflict that needed to be resolved. Right? An adult level conflict that needed to be resolved. But sometimes our kids are just reading over our shoulders, even emails or text messages, or they pick up our phone to check the weather or something and they see a, a thread that they should not see. So how much. Are we protecting these little people in our lives from things that emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, they should not have to carry yet?

It is not their job, it’s not their responsibility, and if we’re opening up too much to them and we have the ability to protect them, like I think we’re responsible for that. The other thing that I think is really key is what are we modeling? Are we modeling hope? Are we modeling peace? Another thing that came out in this study I just did, which was of Gen Z, so it’s not Gen Alpha, but I think it’s a good learning point for us as we’re thinking about Gen Alpha is so many Gen Zs are like, I’m going to prioritize, who are going into ministry, are saying I’m gonna prioritize personal and family wellbeing because I’ve seen the older generations not do that and I’ve had older generations say, well.

We have, what are they talking about? We’re not, you know, they’ll say, well, the older generations are just burnt out, or they’re bitter, or whatever. They’re, they’re saying these things and older generations  are like, that’s, that’s not true. I said, they don’t see, they’re, what they’re hearing from us sometimes or seeing in our lives is not joy. Passion, thriving. Sometimes they’re seeing surviving versus thriving. And so I’ve just been really convicted, even in my own life, like my kids see me surviving sometimes, and that’s okay. There’s learning that can happen there.

 But I also need to make sure I’m pressing into the vine, right? I am abiding in the vine where true joy comes, where true peace comes.

Regardless of what’s on my newsfeed, my piece does not come from my newsfeed. My peace does not come from what’s going on in the world. It has to come from the true vine, and I have to be able to have the fruit of that coming out in my life. So at my kids, the kids I coach, the kids I teach at church, see joy, peace, I. Love, patience, right? Hope We need to have these things just flowing out of our lives and they’re not always flowing right. And so if we can model those things, it gives this next generation something stable to hold onto. Because when they ask us, why do you have joy? Did everybody else, literally during Covid, we had our daughters ask us: should we be afraid? Everyone’s afraid, right? We want young people around us to say, why are you? Why do you have peace or hope?

Why do you when everybody else is afraid, when everybody else is angry, why are you loving? Because when they see that, now we have the option to, we have the opportunity to say the source, the thing that is stable, that is unshakeable. Hebrews 12, the unshakable kingdom that cannot be shaken is ours. Now, I’m, I’ve, I’ll slow down. I’m getting up on my soapbox now, but kids need to see this. And the thing is, is that those younger gen, the youngest of kids, they feel it. it. doesn’t matter what we’re saying. They feel is there joy in my home when that little baby is crying? They can tell if mommy has peace, they can tell if daddy or grandma and grandpa have peace. and so we need that to be truly authentically coming out of our lives for these Gen Alpha young people around us to see the fruit of the spirit in action and to know. If there is hope and peace and joy in the midst of uncertainty and chaos, which is what they see all around them.

So yeah, I think those are the colored glasses, you know, uncertainty, chaos, and they just need that, that unshakable kingdom to hold onto and they need to see the fruit of it in our lives.

[00:27:44] Stephanie: Yeah. Okay. Just like we were saying earlier with listening, it doesn’t take much when things are so dark. I mean, we, we all know Scripture talks about when the dark is, is darker, the light shines brighter. We talk a lot about darkness and light, and just like good listening stands out like a spotlight.

Modeling the fruits of the Spirit stands out like a spotlight when there’s so much anxiety and fear around us. So I love what you mentioned there with that exposure, really,  being careful about what they hear and see. I mean, I was, as you were saying that, I was thinking about my daughter last night. I was listening to a voice message privately, and then she had snuck up behind me and she’s like, what are you doing? What are you doing on Friday? And I’m like, excuse me. Thankfully it wasn’t anything private, but they’re, they’re listening and they’re watching, so so exposure. You mentioned modeling and I like within that modeling, I think there’s the piece of modeling the who we are and then there’s the modeling, the way we communicate, which you really touched on a little bit there.

Like what am I posting? What angry emotions or mean things am I saying that are harsh, that we think are justice, but they’re actually sometimes. Cruel or isolating. There’s a way to fight for justice. And there is a way to do it that’s right. And there’s a way to do it. That is, um. Cruel and we might know, know what it is, but the kids are gonna pick up on what it is.

[00:29:10] Jolene: Yes.

[00:29:11] Stephanie: Those are two such really important points I think when talking about those glasses.

If we were to switch, for just a little bit there, we’ve talked about, you know, some heavy things, which I think are so important. I’d love to just talk for a second about what some of the strengths are about Gen Alpha. What do we have to learn from them?

[00:29:30] Jolene: Well, I think one is just the awareness. I’m just constantly amazed at how aware. This younger generation is, and part of it, I think is just their exposure to so much there is a benefit to it. So, I mean, even my daughters and some of their friends, I mean they did, they have done lemonade stands for Afghan refugees for Ukrainian medical clinics.

You know, because they see these things going on in the world and their hearts are being stirred at a very young age, and so I think there is this amazing awareness of what’s going on in the world and empathy for other people.

I know when I talk to, sometimes like global partners, they’ll say they love working with Gen Zers, ’cause Gen Zers just come in very open-minded, wanting to learn from them, you know, and wanting to understand what they have to, to offer. And so I think there is this just empathy and this awareness that we’re seeing in the younger, younger people. And I mean, I see it in small kids. That’s really amazing that God can, I think, really cultivate and use in a powerful way. The other thing that we’re seeing with younger generations  is they’re really tuned into people’s emotions more so than older generations . 

You know, even I’ve been reading some old stories to my kids, you know, where they’re telling kids, children are to be seen and not heard. And it was very, you know, rigid. Whereas young people today are being encouraged to express their emotions, you know, and to express their feelings. And as a result of that, they’re often very tapped into other people’s feelings and emotions as well, which I think sometimes me and my busy life can kind of fly past. 

I find my daughters, for example, are very discerning. They just have such a high sense of discernment. There’s been, I mean, we were sitting the other day at a restaurant and my daughter’s like, is the owner of this restaurant a Christian? And my husband’s like, well, I don’t know. I haven’t met the owner. She’s like, he is, I can feel, I can feel this, the presence of God in this place. You know, and it’s just like they have this sensitivity that I think if we pause and listen to it, there’s much for us to learn.

Just they are very aware, and as a result, I see them very empathetic and very tapped into their feelings, which can be a detrimental at times, but I think there’s a lot of positives if. That those feelings are, you know, we’re teaching them to listen to the Holy Spirit and let the Holy Spirit guide them. So those are the things that I see as just some really positives. The other thing is, this is a generation that is gonna grow up with AI as just a net normal part of life.

Oh gosh. So they’re used to asking Siri or Alexa for answer to their homework. I mean, this is just a part of their life. And as a result of that, what I see is young Gen Zers and Gen Alpha, they just see possibilities often that we don’t see because I. AI is not scary to them. I mean, it’s often their friend, which can be terrifying to those of us who are older adults, but they see that these things could help us address issues, solve problems. 

I often hear young people asking how, when older generations are saying can’t. Older generations are saying, we can’t do this. Younger generations are saying, how do we do this? And I see that with Gen Alpha, like that is still a part of what’s bubbling up in them. 

So I think encouraging them and God does say how. How by God’s Spirit, can we solve these problems? How can God use the resources he’s putting into the world or that are coming into the world at the time that you are here? How can he use them for his kingdom? Or is he wanting to use them for his kingdom and really just coming alongside them as they’re navigating truly uncharted territory?

[00:33:33] I think that’s the other thing I talked about in my Daniel Generation book. You know, Daniel found himself in Nebuchadnezzar’s Palace in Babylon. All of his mentors, parents, leaders. From Judah and they had grown up in Judah in Jerusalem. That’s all they knew. And suddenly Daniel found himself in a place where his training had not prepared him to be there.

He was navigating unprecedented things. And when I look at Gen Alpha, they also are navigating unprecedented things that those of us who are their parents and teachers have not experienced. Right? So we can come alongside them though, and walk with them and say, okay, how does God’s Spirit guide us? The age of emo artificial intelligence, you know, how can God’s Spirit guide us in whatever is gonna be a part of your life going forward And finding, encouraging them to find how the Spirit of God is working in the midst of what’s occurring,  in culture around them, I think is, is really powerful. This is a generation that we don’t know what they’re gonna see in their lifetime.

 My daughters and I were listening to The Last Battle by CS Lewis this past week, and. The world is so dark in Narnia. In that book, Narnia is coming to an end. The people who are evil seem to be winning the last battle in Narnia, and yet Aslan. This country was there waiting for them. Aslan’s purpose was there being accomplished. 

And so, I mean, we just paused the audiobook and I said to my daughters, there’s gonna be times where the world is gonna look so dark. It’s gonna seem like the people who are evil are winning on every front. But behind the door of the stable is Aslan’s country. And there’s hope and there’s light and there’s life, and that’s what you belong to. You belong to that kingdom. 

And so to be able to just put in them the how, how is God working in the midst of whatever is gonna come on their watch? How is God working? And not saying to them, we can’t do that, we can’t do that. We can’t ask that question. We can’t behave that way. We can’t talk that way. But leaning into it and helping them figure out how God is working and what God is calling them to in the midst of it, I think is powerful.

[00:35:52] Stephanie: Oh, that was so good, Jolene. I feel inspired. That was like a bit of a preach there for a moment. And it got me, it got me, ’cause you’re right, I love that hopefulness that you brought in. Especially again, with a generation that’s experiencing a lot of anxiety, I think, and fear is reminding them of that hope and tapping into the hope that they have in them.

That’s so good.

[00:36:16] Jolene: I do feel like sometimes when you look back at history, even, you could maybe say this about today, but there often it is hardest. Life has been very hard for the generations that have a significant role to play. I mean, even just think of Moses’ generation. Jesus’ generation, right? 

But you look back, you know, my daughters and I, we’ve been reading about World War II, but it was the children of World War I who fought in World War II. You know, there’s just these things that can be so significant in a generation that. That helps form them for what God and when the darkness seems to be coming against them the hardest. It’s often because God is gonna birth a great light through them. You know, he’s gonna let his light shine through them in a powerful way.

And I believe that with Gen Alpha and Gen Z today, like there’s so much with the anxiety, the broken families. Depression, the tech addiction, the just the world, just feeling like it’s coming off its wheels sometimes when we’re watching it, everything going on globally 24/7. There’s so much that is coming against them and I just believe there’s a great opportunity that God is wanting to just birth his light through them. 

And I think one of the questions I’m always asking myself is, how do we steward this? Well, that’s become one of my favorite questions. How do I steward these young people? Well, God has entrusted them to me in whatever capacity they are, and I need to steward them for God’s purposes,  because I think there is so much coming against them.

And there’s a reason for that. The darkness does not want the light to shine, and God wants to use them in a powerful way to shine his light. So how do we steward that,  in them for the future? So that makes me excited when I frame it that way, to think about this opportunity we have.

[00:38:05] Stephanie: What an opportunity and we, we have to have that learner mindset as we go into it. To your point, if we go in thinking we can solve all their problems or tell them what to do or talk down to them, that’s ridiculous because we don’t even know what it is that they’re gonna be up against or, or understand some of the challenges they’re facing.

So, and that’s not to say we don’t teach ’em anything. It’s not to abdicate our, our responsibility, God’s given us to be those. Loving, encouraging mentors in their lives, but how can I teach you the timeless principles that, that God has while at the same time learning alongside you and asking you questions?

So how can we empower, like you said, this next, these next generations? I sense what you do. I sense that, that something. Coming not in a fearful way, but things are happening and things are changing, and I think God has chosen them for a specific purpose. So what an honor we have as the generations that proceed them to get to be the people on, on whose shoulders they stand.

[00:39:05] Jolene: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that one of the powerful ways is for us to even just. The very thing that we would do on our own to do it alongside them, you know, so I even think about when a question comes up about something like AI or cyber bullying or whatever it is that might be impacting them differently than it impacted me at their age to be able to say, let’s go to scripture together.

Like, let’s figure out what Scripture says about this. You tell me what you think, you know, we’re gonna read some scriptures and you tell me what you think. I’m gonna share what I think. Um. 

In my, my book, Mobilizing Gen Z, we have a whole section on coaching, which really just comes down to asking really good questions and actively listening. And what we find is because young people today are absorbing so much information, they need time and space to process. And so when we can just come, be present, like we’ve talked about, ask really good questions and actively listen. So much learning occurs just as a Holy Spirit guides those conversations. I often have people ask me, well, how do I help this young person understand this is truth? I’m like, you can’t. That is the Holy Spirit’s job, right? He is the one who leads and guides into all truth, but we can be a part of that process when we come alongside them and just really use that coach approach, which is what we kind of see Jesus do with his disciples, sit around the bonfire, you know, cook some fish, talk, ask some questions, share some stories. I mean, that approach is so effective with these younger generations, and so I think just kind of going back to what Jesus modeled with his disciples is a really powerful example.

[00:40:44] Stephanie: It always comes back to Jesus.

[00:40:46] Jolene: It does. It really does.

[00:40:48] Stephanie: Yeah. Jolene, I cannot thank you enough for coming on and sharing again with us today. I loved this every bit as much as I knew, I would. And you’ve given us not only new ways of looking at this generation, but actually practical steps we can take in engaging them, learning from them, serving them, all of it.

So thank you for joining us again.

[00:41:08] Jolene: Well, thank you. I just love talking about this, so thank you for letting me talk about it.

[00:41:12] Stephanie: Yes, I can tell. Your passion just comes through and that’s what makes it so fun. 

How can people connect with you and learn more?

[00:41:19] Jolene: So my website is leading tomorrow.org. You can also connect with me on social media. I’m on Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn. But otherwise, yeah, my website is a great place, to connect leading tomorrow.org. I also have a podcast, the Leading Tomorrow podcast, where I talk about all these things all the time, so you can check that out as well.

[00:41:38] Stephanie: Wonderful, and we will make sure to post links to all the resources mentioned today as well. Thank you so much again, Jolene, for joining us and for everybody else for being with us, and we look forward to seeing you on our next episode.