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Relationships (Part 1)

Relationships (Part 1)


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Episode Overview

Technology has changed relationships and how we interact with others. We’ll dive into what that looks like and some of the impacts this is having on Gen Z on this episode of The Approach. As you walk with the Gen Zer in your life, we hope this conversation and time of prayer will provide you with some ideas of how to model biblical relationships.


Jeff and Christine Stanfield served as missionaries in Africa for over thirty years. In 2019, they joined the Member Health team at WGM, where they are pastors to missionaries. They coordinate Member Health initiatives in the Africa region of WGM. They also assist in equipping missionaries to fulfill their call to advance God’s kingdom by supporting them spiritually and emotionally to minister in creative and life-transforming ways. This includes the ministries of presence, caring, encouraging, and training. The Stanfields use the power of relationships to impact missionaries all throughout Africa.

Show Notes
Read the Script

Connor: Welcome to The Approach, where we help you walk with the next generation as they seek to use their gifts, talents, and experiences to journey with Jesus and participate in the Great Commission. My name's Connor Owen, and I'm joined, as always, by John Rinehimer. We both serve on staff at World Gospel Mission. And John is also a knee deep in his PhD, where he's studying spiritual formation and Gen Z. So he has a lot to offer to this conversation. And today we're going to look at the topic of relationships, specifically, some misconceptions about Gen Z and the way that they interact with others and with technology. So John, talk to us a little bit about how relationships have changed for Gen Z.

John: Yeah, well, we're all made for relationship. I think it's a given, but just to clearly get that out there, and there's at least four strategic relationships I think that we really need to focus and cultivate in Gen Z. There's relationship with Jesus, with parents, with mentors or someone discipling you, and friends. And so now, generally speaking, just so you look at all the research across the whole generation, Gen Z feels just increasing lonely and isolated. But the flip paradox of that, I guess, is that they're also extremely hungry for real relationships, yeah, just adept there, but they don't always know how to bridge that or get there. And so how Gen Z builds those relationships, that's significantly changed over the last ten, twenty years for sure.

Connor: I think, John, this shift might have intensified during the pandemic, with this rising feeling of isolation. And this is where we find, we talked about paradoxes of Gen Z. They might enjoy spending time on screens, or they might just spend a lot of time on the screens. So our assumption may be that that's what they want to do. But a study we were just looking at showed that 80% of Gen Z actually prefers face-to-face over digital. So we've seen screen time go up for them. We've seen isolation go up, but this relationship piece that we're talking about that they desire, that's going down.

John: Yeah. And Gen Z, they use the screens to actually foster relationships. And so the problem isn't necessarily technology. It's how we're using it. And it's what we're using it for and what we're viewing, or consuming, if you will. In our world today, it's not uncommon for the next generation to break up via text message or to ghost someone. If you don't know what ghosting is, Connor, it's when I just stop talking to you and returning your messages.

Connor: That sounds like fun because... no, I'm just kidding.

John: That's what I did yesterday. Yeah. And so, I've even heard of some families…I can't imagine this…but they argue through a group chat.

Connor: That'll end well.

John: Yeah, let me record all the things you said about me. Right?

Connor: Read them back.

John: That seems healthy. And Professor Sherry Turkle from MIT, she's done quite a bit of research around these different mediums that people communicate through. And she says at first glance, it feels easier to communicate this way because you don't have to see the person's face and see their emotion or hear the tone of their voice. But her research goes on to find that just technology has really redefined and shaped Gen Z because they're less empathetic because of having relationship in those ways to an extreme. So it's changed compared to previous generations and not having empathy for people that, it's not a great recipe for a good relationship.

Connor: Right, yeah. It makes me think about when I first met my wife. We developed our relationship through in-person dates or meals or just hanging out together, and then what we would do is use the digital side of the communication—so texting or FaceTime or Skype, whatever—we used that to complement the in-person relationship. Not the other way around, though.

John: Yeah. So imagine you're on one of those first dates.

Connor: Okay.

John: And you let technology get in the way. So if all of a sudden you're talking and you're like, "Hold on." You get your phone out and you replied to a text, and maybe she lets it go once. But then it happens again. "Let me text my friend back." And then again and again. Just hypothetically, how do you think that would've gone, Connor?

Connor: Well, I'm going to think I would end the meal possibly alone. Maybe have just then stayed single for a while or thumbless—maybe my fingers got cut off.

John: Probably not going to tolerate that, right?

Connor: Rightfully so.

John: Right. Right. And so technology obviously has its benefits. It could strengthen relationships, but it can also be a huge barrier if done without moderation and some real intentionality. Now here's one surprising thing. At least, it was really surprising to me as I came across, this was one way to overcome this barrier I've been wondering about is maybe the family table, and studies have shown that only 30% of families are regularly having dinner together around the table. That means 70% of families—

Connor: Wow, wow.

John: —they're not eating together. And again, I'm no math scholar here, but—

Connor: But the numbers check out, John.

John: Yeah. They—thank you for verifying. And it's interesting over the course of history when you start thinking about it, right? God, so many times, has used the power of time around the table, the time around a meal as a sacred space where, where biblical truths, they're passed on. And there's this margin, there's this space that's created for intentional conversations to deepen those relationships. Whether with God or with your family or whoever else is around that table. And I think it's an element that is so critical that we're starting to lose in our world today. And so, I love the concept. I mean, I love food, I love my family, I love being around. But, I don't know about you, Connor; I know we’ve got some young kids. And it is a challenge sometimes just to get around the table. But I think it is something that we just absolutely have to lean into and say, "How do we do this?" Well, given the ages of our kids and stages, but we can't give up that fight. We’ve got to invest in relationships.

Connor: Yeah. I mean, we're talking about this. I’ve got three young kids, and dinner can be a challenging moment. So we're not trying to say if you're not meeting every night you're failing as a parent. You're not modeling relationships, give yourself some grace, but it is important to begin to build these rhythms of gathering around the table, technology-free, where you can walk in relationship with one another. So you can pass down those biblical truths and model positive relationships. And the table's a great place to do that.

Well, if you're like me, leading the next generation…it's just something I cannot do on my own. And when I try, it typically doesn't work out that well. So what we do, we talk about all of this, but we know it begins in prayer. So today we've asked two people that we love, Jeff and Christine Stanfield, who served as missionaries in Africa for a few decades. And now they are pastors to missionaries and they use the power of relationships to show Christ's love to our missionaries in Africa, here at WGM. And we're so thankful that Jeff and Christine are going to join us today.

Jeff: Psalm 34:9–14 says, "Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Christine: Father God, thank you that you are the living God, present, active. Thank you that you are faithful to your Word. Thank you that you are faithful to your people. Thank you that your Word tells us that your steadfast love never ceases and that your mercy endures forever. That you are present and active through all generations. So we thank you that we know for sure that you are active in Generation Z. That, God, you love these people. You have given them to us in this world as a sign of your hope that continues through the generations. Oh God, that is good news to us that we have another generation coming after us. Lord Jesus, we want to steward the blessing of Gen Z well. God, as we've heard today, there are things that could be obstacles, that could become barriers between generations or between people within generations.

God, we need your help. We don't want obstacles to become barriers. God, we'd rather view them as hurdles that we can cross together and find our common ground as we keep moving forward together. Jesus, we also know that we have an opposer in this world, and he would love to see the divisiveness just grow; he would love to kill and steal and destroy. But God, you are almighty. You are the One who brings us together. So, Jesus, give us courage together at the table. Bring us first to your table, oh, Christ. You are the One who prepares the feast. You are the One who feeds us, who satisfies us; let us know that and experience that and be with you and know that you are with us always. And God, help us then to carry that into the next generation; help us each one to know, whether we're parents or grandparents, teachers, mentors, coaches, neighbors, friends, how to invite Gen Z to the table. Help us to gather and to speak of you and the things of you and to build one another up and to encourage one another and to listen well.

God, in this way, barriers are broken down. And as conversations take place, relationships are built and we become more like you. The incarnational Christ come to us to dwell with us and be with us. May we be, as you, present with Gen Z. And as we build relationship, and as we meet together, Jesus, give us opportunity to invite them to your table, too. Jesus, we know that you desire to live your life out through your people, that we are chosen to carry your light and your life forward to all generations throughout all generations. Let us be the messengers of your life and your light to Gen Z and invite them to join at the table at the feast of the Lamb. But we can celebrate together that you are our God and we are your people. Keep us from evil, oh God. Put your hand upon us and keep us from evil, that we might join you and enjoy your feast forever more together. In the name of your own Son, Jesus, we pray, Amen.

Connor: Thanks so much, Jeff and Christine, for leading us in that prayer today.

And thanks to all of you for listening and joining us on The Approach, where we help you walk with the next generation as they seek to use their gifts, talents, and experiences to journey with Jesus and participate in the Great Commission. If you're interested in any of the resources we referred to today, and some others we didn't even mention, feel free to check those out on the show notes by going to our website, Please rate and review us, as this is going to help other people join us on this journey, praying for and leading Gen Z. If you have any questions, email us at

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