In a polarizing society where truth has become increasingly relative and mental health issues are rampant, Gen Z is “craving” absolute truth, discipleship, and community, Sadie Robertson Huff has said.
Huff on Thursday participated in the “Gen Z” session of the 2020 Q&A: A Virtual Townhall event, hosted by Gabe Lyons. The session focused on a wide range of issues pertinent to older Gen Zers — ages 18 to 23 — including discipleship, mental health, and social media.
The 23-year-old author, who shot to fame on her family’s reality TV show “Duck Dynasty,” said she believes church leaders are asking “too little” of the younger generation and often make “excuses” for them.
“I’ve sat in a room with church leaders who I love and adore. … But there are times where I’ve even heard them say things like, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t do a conference at night because that is the night that college kids like to party.’ And I’m like, ‘That’s why we should do a conference that night, because people are going to party if we expect too little,’” Huff said.
“Let them [decide] if they’re going to go with the world or if they’re going to go with God, because you’ve got to make that decision,” she stressed.
Yet, Huff expressed optimism that, unlike the ’90s and early 2000s, today’s young Christians aren’t “lukewarm.”
“It’s pretty hot or cold because it’s actually really cool to stand for something these days,” she explained. “It’s cool to 100% follow God, and it’s cool to 100% stay in the world. It’s really not cool to be in the middle anymore. And it used to be different.”
“The world is kind of polarizing; it’s either black or white, and so you do have to choose,” Huff added. “I think we do need to say to this generation, ‘choose,’ and let the people who are going to be on fire, be on fire. I think, in that way, we can reach more of the lost than being confused by who’s actually lost.”
Huff, who is pregnant with her first daughter, was joined onstage by Gabrielle Odom and author Grant Skeldon, who moderated the discussion.
“I don’t think the next generation is being asked a lot of clear questions,” Odom, a 19-year-old evangelist, contended.
“I’ve seen a lot of soft doctrines that have broken my heart as it pertains to teaching the next generation,” she said. “I’m begging for clarity. I think that my generation is spiraling and going out of control because there are too many tensions to fight through and no one’s giving clear absolute truth. And I think the next generation is craving clarity because I think there are churches that are starving us of it.”
During the discussion, Huff and Odom discussed social media and how it affects mental health.
Huff, who has opened up about her struggles with anxiety, said that mental health issues are “so common” today that it’s “almost weird if you don’t struggle with mental illness in some capacity on a college campus these days. It’s sad.”
While Huff said she’s a “huge advocate” for social media, explaining that she’s “seen God do incredible things through social media,” the Live Original founder said there’s a “huge negative” side to it too.
“There have been many studies that have shown that the like button is directly impacting people’s mental health because what it’s saying is, ‘This is how liked you are. This is how approved you are,’” she said.
“It’s created this thing for us where we’re always performing; we’re always filtering, we’re always trying to be the best version of ourselves — and not in a good way. And that is mentally exhausting,” Huff added.
She encouraged her peers not to settle for being “liked” but to seek to find their worth and approval in God, stressing that social media “can’t give you what only God can give you.”
Huff also advised her peers to “invite” older Christians to the table and listen to their wisdom.
“Sometimes, our generation is fearful to ask for a mentor or fearful to ask to be discipled, but we crave it,” she said. “And so if you are in the older generation … if you came up to us and said, ‘Can I disciple you?’ I know my answer would be yes every time. And I know a whole lot of people who would agree with me who are my age.”
Odom added that the older generation needs to ask, “Will we fight for Gen Z?”
“There are a lot of people that are fighting for our attention,” she said, specifically mentioning social media, politics, and pornography.
“Will the church also fight for us? Does the church care enough to bring us into the legacy they are creating? There’s a legacy to be built, and the younger generation is going to take up that baton, and so it matters to equip them.”
In an entertainment-driven world constantly vying for young people’s attention, Huff urged her peers to “cultivate a relationship with Jesus,” “be in your prayer closet,” and “be reading your word.”
“There are a lot of people watching Christianity and a lot of people listening to Christianity, but not a lot of people actually dropping their net and following Jesus,” she emphasized. “If that does happen, and that can happen in an instant, then we’re actually going to see an amazing thing happen.”
“In the next year, will we see our young people continue on that path of depression and loneliness and hopelessness? Or are they going to say, ‘What am I going to do with my loneliness? What am I going to do with my hopelessness? And maybe find Jesus in that.”