By Rob Hoskins, OneHope President
I’m excited about this generation. Even more so since becoming a grandpa. When I found out I was becoming a grandparent, everything changed . . . and yet nothing changed.
Everything changed in that what I’ve been doing for the entirety of my life and ministry—reaching children and youth with the truth of God’s Word—became deeply personal. Now I wake up at night not only thinking about the 113 million children and youth we’re reaching this year through OneHope, but also thinking about the world my granddaughter is going to grow up in.
As I step into this new responsibility as a grandparent to help my baby granddaughter become ready to face that world, three things stand out to me from Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan river that prepared him to go out and start his ministry.
At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
(Matt. 3:16–17, NIV)
Our job as guides to the next generation is to endow our young people with:
- IDENTITY (“This is my son”) so they know who they are in Christ.
- AFFIRMATION (“whom I love, with him I am well pleased”) of who they are becoming, being in close proximity and relationship so we can be their biggest cheerleaders and know what’s important to them, encouraging and affirming decisions in their life.
- LOVE FOR GOD’S WORD (“It is written”) so that when they are tempted by the world, like Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert, they respond grounded in the truth of God’s Word.
Pastors, leaders, teachers, parents: We are to help young people establish their divine identity in Christ, surround them with a community that builds authentic relationships and help them hide God’s Word in their hearts. Then, no matter what life throws their way, they will be rooted and will know where to turn for truth, answers, support and encouragement.
While becoming a grandpa changed something in me, what didn’t change is my calling. We as parents, grandparents, children’s pastors, youth leaders and teachers have a tremendous responsibility. It’s the same responsibility we’ve always had in every generation:
And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Yes, we are facing unique challenges. But we also have access to amazing new tools and opportunities. I truly believe that this is a great day for us to engage young people with God’s Word in new ways.
Toddlers and teens have ubiquitous access to information, but they still need adults to help them translate knowledge into wisdom. We are to be the guardrails helping the next generation navigate this knowledge-rich world and the struggles that come with growing up. Scripture engagement, faith community and positive family experiences work together to develop spiritually vibrant children with resilient faith.
The need for Scripture engagement in the upbringing of today’s youth hasn’t changed; how they can access and experience the story for themselves has. We’ve seen an overwhelming response to digital Scripture-engagement tools like the Bible App for Kids and other programs. It’s our job to fully leverage all the great tools we have, once we know where our children and youth are, and meet them there.
To help with that, we believe research is revelatory. It holds up a mirror that allows us to understand our times and either reinforces that we are doing good, effective, fruitful ministry in the reality in which we are living—or lets us know what needs to change.
What you will find in the pages of this report is meant to give a glimpse into the current reality of the new generation, to identify gaps and to celebrate areas of growth. We are excited to share research that will prompt conversations around the most influencing factors in the lives of young people so that pastors, leaders, teachers and parents can unite and work together to nurture a deep, robust and lasting faith in the next generation.
O my people, listen to my instructions. Open your ears to what I am saying . . . We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord . . . so the next generation might know them— even the children not yet born— and they in turn will teach their own children. So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands.
(Ps. 78:1, 4, 6–7)