I am always impressed by optimistic, joyful, positive people. They stand out to me. They inspire me to be better in my outlook, be more optimistic in my ministry, and be joyful in all circumstances. Too often we see the outlook and actions of people being dictated by situations, and so when trials come, discouragement, hopelessness, and lack of productivity can come all too easy.
Today’s generation of young people has to deal with so many negative situations and life circumstances! Dr. Tim Elmore, in his recent book, The Pandemic Population, points out that there are many complicated situations facing this generation, but he also notes that today’s issues are even more difficult to deal with because not only are they complicated, they are complex. Elmore’s definition of complex is that it is still a difficult situation but it is constantly evolving. So, when a pandemic overtakes our planet, shuts things down for a while, and alters life in a myriad of ways, it has the potential to cultivate within generation Z a sense of frustration, hopelessness, and despair. The need to coach and mentor today’s young people must be done in a manner that displays optimism, positivity, and joy. At the very least, we need to impress upon today’s youth the need to meet the challenges that face them head on and overcome them through a positive outlook. Elmore has spent the majority of his career honing in on the things that adults can do to help shape youth into optimistic, competent, confident, and productive leaders of the future. After all, is that not what all parents, teachers, and youth leaders want—to give young people hope and inspire confidence? It is an important job and it must be done consistently and intentionally by those of us who lead youth and teens.
As mentioned earlier, there are many challenges facing today’s youth, but the Covid pandemic stands out right now. It is imperative that we rally in an all-out effort to help today’s youth overcome this challenge and be better for having gone through it.
In the book The Pandemic Population Elmore writes, “If the pandemic population will rise from the ashes of this health hazard and economic downturn, they will need to become practiced in the art of resilience.”
A friend of mine, after losing his job due to corporate restructuring, simply said to me that he was “given the opportunity to pursue a new position.” We chuckled at that explanation, but it was and is a profoundly correct outlook. When our lives encounter trouble and obstacles, we can either view them in a negative and even bitter way—which always leads to frustration and even hopelessness—or we can simply meet the challenge head on with confidence and optimism that God has a better plan for us. That is the attitude that adults have the opportunity to instill in youth. In fact, we must model 1 Thessalonians 5:1–18, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
According to Elmore, “When an adult is both supportive and demanding, it accomplishes something amazing. The recipient of this style of leadership begins to believe in themselves, because their leader believed in them first.” So today’s youth need to be given challenges to overcome, expectations to be met, and the encouragement to do it. The challenges come at them left and right, and that is why parents, teachers, and leaders of youth must be intentional about letting kids know that they believe in them, thereby allowing kids to be confident in their ability to overcome challenges and meet expectations.
In order to expect positivity and joy in generation Z, we must demonstrate those qualities ourselves. Elmore points out eight strategies in The Pandemic Population that we can employ in order to lead generation Z through the current pandemic. These strategies are all steeped in optimism and positive affirmation. Elmore will be presenting these strategies for adults to use when mentoring young people in order to help them maintain a positive outlook, rediscover hope, and thrive in life. He will be speaking at Our Savior Lutheran Church on Saturday, March 19, from 9a.m.–12p.m. For more information or to register for this event, go to the following link: https://www.oursaviorlansing.org/elmore/
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