Can missions transform the lives of Gen Z?

Lauren Cartwright
Group of Gen Z girls pose for picture while giving thumbs up

Missions is a term we hear so regularly, it often loses depth of meaning. Similar to a “coffee mug” verse, Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 46:10, 1 Corinthians 13:13. You see and hear these verses so often, the impact they have on you can be significantly less than the first few times you read them. Similarly, the word “missions” is used so frequently, each of our minds immediately jumps to a preconceived understanding, be it personal experiences or depth of knowledge. Today, let’s set those preconceived notions aside and dive into why we can and should mobilize college students with the Gospel, to the ends of the earth.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20 

Gen Z

Gen Z represents a unique generation of students. Many say they are the #revivalgeneration. Whether you believe that or not, we can all agree there is something special about this generation. They are eager to engage with the Gospel, investigate Jesus and go deeper into a relationship with Him. However, the pandemic struck during a season of psychological and social development so crucial to their discovery of identity, independence and extended community, that they have been significantly impacted.

This is why we see our students struggling to look beyond their own fears, discomforts and desires. So, how do we help them transition to a biblical perspective of independence and identity? A viewpoint where they look to God and begin to see the people surrounding them. One…simple…word: Missions. A mobilization experience engages student development in three stages; prayer cultivates a heart for the lost, the experience catalyzes an eternal perspective and it propels students to pursue God-given passions to expand His Kingdom! 

Cultivating Hearts

Think back to the first time you heard the word “missions”. What was your immediate response? Now, think back to the first time you were challenged to pray for a missionary or global missions. Different response? 

As we pray for the lost; God cultivates a heart for the nations in us. Mobilizing students begins with cultivating their hearts for the lost in such a way that it challenges them to see beyond their own anxieties and discomforts. A curiosity develops that can’t be ignored. Perhaps you could challenge your students to set an alarm on their phones to pray daily at 10:02 AM (Luke 10:2) that God would send more laborers to the harvest.

Once that curiosity develops, we must give them an opportunity to serve, something that doesn’t require a great commitment but does require action. We often serve pizza at student events. Following each event, I take a few students and we deliver the leftover pizza to the homeless. This opens their eyes to the extensive needs of those around them and opens their heart to a desire to serve in other capacities.

Catalyzing Perspective

As students answer the call to “Go”, their perspective begins to shift. Rather than a partial intrinsic, temporal, perspective, the lens with which they see the world shifts to one of eternal value and eternal impact. Last Spring Break, we mobilized students to serve through Beach Reach. As we prayed and trained, students began cultivating a heart for the lost we would encounter. However, they still struggled to complete weekly challenges to utilize the tools they were being equipped with to share the Gospel with those around them. Then, we went. Within the first 24 hours, students’ perspectives began to radically shift. Rather than thinking about their own desires or comforts, they desired for others to hear and respond to Christ’s love for them. Sharing the Gospel transformed, in their minds, from something we “should” do, to something we “must” do.

Passion + Purpose

Mobilizing students is more than a singular experience or attending trips. It becomes a daily lifestyle of Great Commission living. No matter where we are, no matter what we are doing, we are an ambassador for Christ. As students return from a missions experience, they see their lives through an eternal perspective. Instead of pursuing self, they have a deep desire to see and serve the world around them. This propels a desire to discover more about their own identity in Christ and how He has divinely designed them; their personality, strengths and weaknesses, spiritual giftings, etc. 

Provide your students intentional, targeted, resources to help them on this journey. In this process, God provides passion and purpose. Students will root their identity in who Christ designed them to be and pursue the purpose of bringing God glory through sharing His Gospel . This is how we mobilize Gen Z. This is how we reach the lost and hurting on our campuses. This is how we take the Gospel to the ends of the earth!

Close + Challenge

As you’re reading this, you may be thinking, we just aren’t there yet. I hear you and greatly respect your circumstances. I serve as the Collegiate Missions & Mobilization Coordinator for the least churched state in the nation. Our campus percentages are 99.5% lost. Let me be an encouragement to you. 

Last year, we had 2 student leaders and a campus ministry reach of less than 12 students, total, on two campuses. We prayerfully decided to provide a Spring Break missions opportunity. 3 students went to Beach Reach and it changed their lives forever. One of our students was saved just before going and was baptized, in the ocean, on our trip! Today, we have 3 student leaders and are reaching over 30 students on three campuses. 

“You shall be my disciples in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 

Students’ lives will be transformed, their walk of faith will be expounded upon and their passion and purpose will be emboldened as they are mobilized with the Gospel, to your campus, in your city, in our nation and across the globe!

Lauren Cartwright is the Missions and Mobilization Coordinator for The Vine Campus Ministries. You can follow the ministry on Instagram @thevineuvm.

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