During one of the programs we discussed the moral compass of the current generation. There have always been sorrows when it comes to young people. Yet it is different now, according to Josh Patty, regional director of Josiah Venture. The current young people, whom we call the IGen’s, deal very differently with questions about ‘right and wrong’, they have a different way of dealing with morality. Josh relied on, among other things, a study by the Barna Group and he distinguished a number of generations:

  • Modern Generation: they have an absolute picture of good and evil
  • Postmodern Generation X: morality depends on the situation
  • Millenial Generation Y: morality depends on the person
  • iGen Generation Z: can deal with various conflicting moralities

The GenZ perspective was explained from a blog by a teenager who had questions with a number of moral issues because she had never received an honest answer to the ‘why’. Questions about ethics such as sexuality and abortion were often answered with ‘that we believe’, which led her to conclude: I am really for faith but not for religious groups. It is striking that this was immediately recognized for colleagues at my table, both in secularized Netherlands and in Romania, Germany and Latvia. Where the church was for centuries the authority in the field of ethics and morality, the church is now suspicious and hypocritical in the eyes of GenZ. Young people certainly do not consult the church anymore but use their own moral code;

  • Do not harm
  • Do not offend
  • Do not judge

And in view of this moral code, there is often a communication gap with other generations that think from a clear difference between good and evil. In addition to the cultural shift in ethical thinking, I suspect that we ourselves have contributed to a somewhat limited ethics. All too often, as youth workers, we have emphasized the love of God, and rightly so. But from our own biography or frustrations about our upbringing, we have often been silent about rules. Or we have wrongly created the image that it is a transaction; if you do this, then it goes well. The question is how the Bible talks about ethics and lifestyle. From Deuteronomy 30: 11-20, Josh showed us what God’s lessons are about ethics.

  1. The lessons of God are realistic, the principles are feasible for us as people (vs11)
  2. We do not start at 0 in learning these rules, they are already in our hearts (vs14)
  3. You get your own choice but it does have consequences, so think carefully (vs15)
  4. It is a blessing (or curse) for yourself but also for future generations (19b)
  5. It is ultimately a relational choice, relationship with God (vs20)

And if you look at this section a bit further you will see that there are three aspects:

  • Rule in Law: Rules from the law of God
  • Relationship in Love: relationship based on love
  • Reward in Life: The promise of God that you will live

As youthleaders we will have to be aware of the different perspectives when it comes to ethics and lifestyle. And from these differences share Biblical words and principles with a new generation in which we keep the balance between Rule, Relation and Reward.

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