If you live outside the city, are over the age of 30, or never turn on your car radio, you might not be aware of some of the cultural shifts happening today. For example, did you know that hip-hop has overtaken rock and roll as the #1 music genre? Today’s culture is moving fast, and unless we take our cues from those pushing it forward, the church could get stuck at a standstill.
On today’s episode of The Pod, we interview Joseph Sojourner, hip-hop artist and culture expert, on how the church can lean in and think creatively to engage the Generation Z and Millennial generations. From our conversation, we see that one of the best ways to connect with the next generation is to truly listen to “their story told in their way.”
Welcome to Episode 67 of the Think Orange Podcast!
Interview with Joseph Sojourner (5:10)
Joseph’s explanation of hip-hop culture as a lifestyle (8:23)
Hip hop is “their story told in their way” and the church must listen (9:40)
We can lean into a fast-moving culture by letting go of perfect (11:33)
Many successful churches are carving out time for creative thinking (15:28)
Potential obstacles to creativity within the church and how to ask for help (17:51)
Every mature Christian wants to be able to say their church is relatable to the next generation (23:28)
Every generation is different, yet should be valued equally (25:29)
What the business world can teach us about being people-focused, not building-centric (27:48)
Practical things leaders can do to leverage creativity that reflects culture (33:15)
- Be aware of shifts within culture
- Make sure small group leaders and parents are in-the-know about local events and opportunities
- Ask questions like “What are you listening to?” and “What are your watching?”—then go listen to/watch that thing and follow up with them
- Explore the felt needs within your community
- Use social media to engage in authentic ways
The need for more hip-hop worship in the church (39:29)
Dave and Ashley’s final thoughts (44:24)
Hip-hop has overtaken rock and roll as the dominant music genre in the world (44:44)
Social media can be a thumbnail of how far behind we are culturally—stop inviting people to events, and invite them into conversations instead (45:32)
Updates coming to The Think Orange Podcast (47:13)
People, Places & Helpful Resources
Atlanta’s Sojourner aka Sojo has emerged as one of the most promising voices in hip-hop. His passionate message of being a generation of people “fighting for others instead of fighting against others” won the hearts of fans young and old.
In addition to music, Sojo continues to speak to students and young adults, serves as a creative director to Bigstuf Camps, is the emcee at Catalyst Conferences, and also continues to communicate throughout the six churches of North Point Ministries. Joseph has a passion for creatively engaging the next generation of leaders in the church and culture.
Quotes from This Episode
Ideas to Influence the Next Generation
The majority of Christian leaders would say they have a desire to reach the next generation. Even if it’s not their primary focus, they would agree that the hearts of those in the Millennial and Generation Z generations matter. So why is it that oftentimes these groups go unnoticed in our churches?
Anyone who has spent time around their church’s resident curmudgeon has heard the rants about “lack of respect” and “kids these days.” But the reality is that the average church leader who hasn’t yet engaged a younger crowd isn’t neglecting to do so because they’re grumpy. It might just be that they’re afraid, confused, or don’t know where to begin. These discomforts are all too common, but they don’t have to hold us back. Here are just a few tips to keep in mind when it comes to engaging with the next generation.
It doesn’t mean you have to talk like them.
In today’s episode, Joseph described hip-hop as “their story in their words”—with the emphasis on “their.” Culture is constantly moving forward, and as it does, so does its language. It’s natural to wonder if you can keep up with the conversation. The answer is probably not, and that’s okay! Paying attention to context and a quick Google search will go a long way. And if you don’t know what a word or phrase means, just ask. Doing so shows you’re invested and care about learning more about their world and its native tongue.
It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them.
Dave’s mother-in-law couldn’t have said it any better: The goal of every church should be to provide their worldview without disqualifying the worldview of others. Chances are high that as you engage with the next generation, you’ll hear some things that shock you or that you don’t agree with. Depending on your personality type, this can be difficult to do, but your goal shouldn’t be to correct, squash, or belittle another person’s ideas. Sometimes the words that most reflect the heart of Jesus are phrases like, “Thank you for sharing that with me,” or, “I love hearing your unique perspective.”
It does mean you have to take action.
As you discover more about the culture around you, it’s time to do something about it. If a student you mentor tells you about a new TV show they’re watching, check it out and get back to them about what you thought. If you notice nobody wants to sing that chorus you loved when you were in high school, consider pulling it from future worship set lists. Keep in mind: You won’t be able to chase every idea or tip that comes your way, but zeroing in on a few strategic ones will speak volumes.
Conversation Starters For Your Church
When was the last time I sat down and had a 20-minute conversation with someone who is at least 10 years younger than me?
As a church staff, how much time do we allow on a weekly basis for creativity?
What are the specific discomforts we face that stifle our ability to try something new?
What outlets do we provide teenagers and 20-somethings to provide their feedback and ideas?
When he’s not working as a pastor at North Point Ministries in Atlanta, Dave is usually making his family cross their arms, roll their eyes, and tap their feet while he takes “just one more quick photo” on family outings. You’ll also often find him up to his neck in “Jewish stuff” as he researches the cultural context of Jesus for his daily Instagram devotions. Learn more about Dave at daveadamson.tv.
Ashley serves as the Director of Middle School Strategy at Orange and the USA Director of Carry 117. She has worked with students in public education, athletic and ministry settings for the last 12 years. She is most passionate about resourcing the local church, communicating on stage, developing leaders, working with students and world missions. In her downtime, you’ll find her watching Friends, cheering on the Cleveland Cavaliers, traveling, reading, or on one of her Fairytale Friday Adventures.
Join Us Next Week
Thank you for listening to the Think Orange Podcast.
We hope you’ll join us for next week’s episode. More importantly, we hope that when you think next generation, you think Orange.