One of the most troubling data points featured in The State of the Great Commission report, from the “What is the source of hope?” section, is a graph that shows the focus of global attention as calculated through Google search volume.

Pornography holds the lead when it comes to the focus of global attention. Compared to that, searches on “Jesus” and “Christianity” are far lower. The key headline finding in this section comes as little surprise then, that digital interest in Christianity is meagre as compared to sex, money and entertainment.

These findings resonate with what we’re seeing here locally. Back in 2016, a survey conducted by Touch Cyber Wellness showed that 50% of teenagers in Singapore were exposed to pornography, “with some as young as seven when they were first exposed to it”.

It is relevant to point out that the sexual crime rate in 2023 (committed by youths 19 years old and below) rose to 30% from 2022; early exposure to porn is seen as one of the primary factors contributing to this increase. 

Considering figures like these, we have to reckon with the uneasy truth the things of the world are currently attracting more attention than the Gospel.

The report also forecasts that the Secular Revival will see some 66 million Christians becoming unaffiliated with religion by 2050. This decline will no doubt be due to distractions as well as a lack of personal faith conviction, and is a problem that needs to be looked into with urgency.

So how do we win the youths over? There are four practical ways we might start, right where we are.

Adapt to youth culture and interests

When it comes to Gen Z, what may have worked in the past may not work the same now. If we are older than them, we need to identify their interests and learn to relate to them with adaptability.

In 1 Corinthians 9:20-22, Paul exemplifies what it means to cater to the interest of others without compromising on Christian conviction. While he relates to people of different backgrounds and cultures, he does not “take on their way of life”.

Being set apart does not mean that we lose our ability to relate to pre-believers. It is through understanding them as people and sharing the Gospel right where they are that we might reveal how personal the love of God can be.

May God give us creativity and wisdom to meet people where they are without compromising on the standards of God.

Provide a safe space for youths to speak up

Youths have sensitive questions and matters that have to be properly discussed. The Church must not escape from addressing important concerns such as mental health, LGBT and relationship issues.

Our youths need to understand what God says about all issues of life so that they can develop a biblical worldview. If we will not disciple our youths — the world will!

Instead of shunning these issues or being touch-and-go about them, we need to be bold to confront tricky topics by creating a space for youths to raise their concerns and questions with the assurance that they are genuinely heard.

Meaningfully engaging with the issues that are on their hearts will help our youths form stronger convictions as they journey through life. We must impart biblical wisdom from one generation to the next.

Invest in personal relationships and forming communities 

COVID-19 taught us one key lesson: we must not rely on activities to sustain the faith of our youths.

The sad reality is that some believers fell away from the faith during the pandemic due to the disruption of church gatherings. 

We need to build relationships that go beyond activities and programmes, and this is especially true for our youths.

Activities and programmes can only go so far. Our focus shouldn’t be to measure up to the hype of the world, it should be making sure our young people encounter God for themselves and become disciples of Jesus.

That is why investing time in forming deep and meaningful relationships brings us much further when it comes to disciple-making. We are offering God’s love and influence, and that’s something that the world can never give.

Believe in the youths and empower them

Looking at how Paul guides Timothy, I learnt the importance of empowering youths to give their best to God. They are not too young to be used by God, they are full of potential.

As young as they are, God has called our youths to be an example to believers (1 Timothy 4:12); every youth has talents that can be used to serve God.

Will we believe in our young people and give them the space and opportunity to play their part for the Kingdom as we walk alongside and equip them?

With all the changes and challenges ahead, we need to see the urgency in this ongoing battle to win souls. It’s time to take our place, and play out part to turn generations to Jesus.