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Christians say that God speaks to every generation, but what happens when other voices are trying to drown him out? Stories of teenagers courageously facing a post-Christian culture, a global pandemic, and the threat living in their pockets.



#80: Where the Gospel Meets Teenagers

Note: The Love Thy Neighborhood podcast is made for the ear, and not the eye. We would encourage you to listen to the audio for the full emotional emphasis of this episode. The following transcription may contain errors. Please refer to the audio before quoting any content from this episode. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, hey everybody, it is Jesse. We have a limited time opportunity, and we need your help. God is doing incredible things through the ministry of Love Thy Neighborhood. Since 2014, over 350 young adults have served as urban missionaries. They have actually given over 15,000 hours of volunteer service to people and organizations in need. Each one of these young adults dedicated 15 hours a week to their own personal growth and discipleship. In addition to all of that, we’ve actually released hundreds of hours of podcast content and a growing library of free resources to help people follow Jesus in modern culture. So, here is why we need your help. Some donors have come together and offered to match every donation given to our ministry between now and the end of the year. This opportunity is a big deal for us as a ministry, but we can only succeed with your help. Every dollar you give will automatically be doubled. I know that it is easy to think that someone else is going to step up and give help to us, but I am here asking you to be that person. Whether you give five dollars, 25 dollars, 100 dollars, your generosity is going to make a big difference in our ministry. To give, simply look in the episode description in your podcast app and click on the “Donate” link. Everything you give between now and the end of the year is going to be matched. Again, you can be our hero and make a real impact with the gospel by picking up your phone right now, clicking on the “Donate” link in the episode description, and giving a gift. Your generosity is going to make a real difference in the lives of young adults, their urban neighbors, the ministries that we serve, and future listeners of this podcast. We cannot do this without you. Thank you for all your support. Okay, onto the episode.


AUDIO CLIPS: Love Thy Neighborhood… Discipleship and missions for modern times.

ANNA TRAN: Okay, Jesse, let me introduce you to someone. 


ELLORY COFFEY: Hello, my name is Ellory Coffey. 

JESSE EUBANKS: That’s Ellory. That’s, uh, Lachlan’s daughter. 

ANNA TRAN: Right. Ellory Coffey is the daughter of Lachlan Coffey. 

LACHLAN COFFEY AUDIO CLIP: And I’m Lachlan Coffey. Every episode we hear stories of social action and Christian community. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Lachlan has co-hosted quite a few episodes of the LTN Podcast.

ANNA TRAN: Right, he’s made some appearances. So, a couple weeks ago, I gave Ellory a portable audio recorder, and one of the questions I told her to ask her friends and her classmates was – What were you like in middle school? 

JESSE EUBANKS: (laughs) What a good question. 

ANNA TRAN: Here’s what they said. 

AUDIO CLIPS: Um… Uh… Oh… Uh… Well, uh… Oh man, I was, I was very shy, I feel like… I was kind of a bad kid, I can’t lie. Like, it was a rough time. I played, like, Roblox every night… My teeth were really crooked, still haven’t had braces… Oh gosh, I was cringy, I wore unicorn horn… Kinda short and awkward… Weird, I’ll just say that… I was a little bit of a weird kid… I was definitely weird… I kept the same friend group, but I like never talked to anybody else… Um, fifth grade I made the tragic decision to get a bob. Yeah, I will never go back. Hey Ronald, what were you like in middle school?… I don’t know. I was – like, I was a lot more outgoing… Mm-hmm, okay, that’s all. That’s all, bye…

ANNA TRAN: (laughter) Isn’t that funny? 

JESSE EUBANKS: I love, like, when you first ask the question, they all just go, “Uhhh.” 

ANNA TRAN: Oooh, big cringe. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Like, everybody, everybody just feels like, “We’re going into bad territory here.”

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, it’s like a punch to your soul. (laugh) I think many of us cringe when we remember our middle school days, right? What was it like for you?

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. I mean, I would say, like, everything that these kids said – like, I was weird, it was awkward, I felt so out of place. Like, middle school is, like, just the definition of awkwardness in life.

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, this middle school age range, it marks the beginning of this really weird transition between childhood to adulthood. You’re not a kid anymore, but you’re also not quite an adult. You’re just a teenager.


JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. I’m Jesse Eubanks. 

ANNA TRAN: And I’m Anna Tran. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Today’s episode – “Where the Gospel Meets Teenagers.” We’ll be exploring the questions – what’s it like for a teenager growing up in a post-Christian culture?

ANNA TRAN: How has the pandemic affected teenagers?

JESSE EUBANKS: And – how are screens shaping their lives? Welcome to our corner of the urban universe.


ANNA TRAN: Okay. Jesse, you know it’s old news that religious affiliation in the U.S. has decreased significantly over the previous decades, right? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, I heard this before. 2022 study from Pew Research. Okay, in the 1970s, only 5 percent of people surveyed identified as religiously unaffiliated, compared to 2021 where 29 percent consider themselves unaffiliated. So that’s a 24 percent increase in just 50 years. 

ANNA TRAN: That’s pretty significant. And at the same time, in a different survey from Pew, it said that U.S. teens are less likely to rate religion as a priority in their lives compared to their parents, who also took the survey. And this trend is something that many media outlets are picking up on.

AUDIO CLIPS: Data shows that more and more young people are leaving organized religion each year… I think it shows how the grip of faith has loosened over time and how organized religion itself is no longer seen as useful for young people whose lives have been upended by conservative beliefs… 

ANNA TRAN: You know, when I hear that, I sometimes feel pretty discouraged each time I hear about those trends. I think about teenagers that I know and wonder if they’re also on that same trajectory of, you know, rejecting God or religion not really being a big part of their lives.

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, listen, I get that, but I think we need to slow our roll because when we look in the Bible we clearly see that God loves teenagers and he has a vision for their lives.

So, in the book of 1 Samuel, God sends a prophet to anoint a teenager named David, and he’s gonna become the future king of Israel. So, David goes on, he defeats Goliath, the enemy of the Israelites, and it’s estimated that David was around 16 when all of this happened. 

ANNA TRAN: Oh, gosh, the only thing I remember being worried about was, like, marching band competitions or something.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, I was just trying to, like, get my driver’s license, you know? 

ANNA TRAN: Right. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And then, of course, fast forward, and we come across Mary, the mother of Jesus. You know, scholars estimate that she was around 15 years old when she gave birth to Jesus.

ANNA TRAN: That’s just wild. I mean, just imagine God giving a teenager the responsibility to raise a child who’s destined to save the world from sin.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, I, I really struggle to imagine, like, there’s a lot of 15-year-old girls that are like, “Yeah, sign me up!”

ANNA TRAN: Right. Okay, so it’s not common these days for teenagers to slay giants in war or give birth to the Messiah, but I do believe that God engages directly with teenagers today and in particular a lot of teenagers who are growing up in this post-Christian culture. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So when you say post-Christian culture, what do you mean?

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so the definition that I’m working with is that it’s an environment where Christianity has stopped being the main religion. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard as well, and I’ve also heard that in post-Christian cultures there’s a sense in which the culture is only taking forward aspects of the Christian faith that they prefer, that they enjoy, they appreciate, but that there’s a lot in this new emerging culture that’s reacting against the Christian faith that came before it.

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, so that means that Christian faith and Christianity would have been, you know, popular, highly valued before this era. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, but then now it’s being looked down on in some way. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, gotcha. So, to help us work through this, I’m gonna bring us back to Ellory, who we heard from earlier. 

ELLORY COFFEY: Mom, what do we do every single Wednesday night at promptly 8 p.m.?… 

Not at promptly 8 (indistinct) … 

Answer the question… 

Oh, oh, oh. Survivor. Survivor. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so Ellory – she’s a junior in high school. The other voice you just heard was Ellory’s mom. Ellory grew up in a Christian home, both parents are Christian, and it was honestly pretty easy to accept all those beliefs about Christianity that her parents taught her because she really trusted them. But that took a quick turn in sixth grade when she started having these conscious questions about the faith she grew up learning about, which was pretty concerning for her. 

ELLORY COFFEY: I was so afraid that I was living out, like, my parents’ faith of like, “Oh my parents are Christian, now I have to be Christian,” and I’m like, “Okay, well, do I actually believe that?” 

ANNA TRAN: So, Ellory has her sixth grade mid-life crisis, and eventually, by the time she was in middle school, she came to accept Jesus for herself.

ELLORY COFFEY: I am definitely Christian. This is a part of me. 

ANNA TRAN: And so it’s important to note that Ellory – she goes to public school, and for Ellory’s parents, that was an intentional decision.

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, yeah, yeah. I mean, public school – really diverse, not only Christian families, lots of world views. 

ANNA TRAN: Right. So Ellory has gone from a childhood where she’s surrounded by all these Christian influences, she then chooses to follow Jesus for herself as she enters middle school, and now as she’s in high school where there’s so many diverse influences all around her – what’s it like navigating this world outside of her Christian bubble? Well, like I said, a few weeks ago I had Ellory bring an audio recorder with her into school to record some of her life. 

ELLORY COFFEY: I’m kind of embarrassed to take this around school, but we’ll see what happens. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, here we go. This is a snapshot into Ellory’s world, navigating her teenage life as a Christian.

ELLERY COFFEY AUDIO CLIP: Good morning. It is Monday morning, too early. 

ANNA TRAN: Like any typical school day, after she wakes up and gets to school, Ellory goes from one class –

ELLERY COFFEY AUDIO CLIP: Currently in our Spanish class right now. Jesus es magnifica. 

ANNA TRAN: To another class –

ELLERY COFFEY AUDIO CLIP: I’m Aubrey. We’re in English. Yeah, we just did our space cat and turned in our homework.

ANNA TRAN: To another class –

ELLERY COFFEY AUDIO CLIP: Yeah, and then you take the derivative of the in-sine functions, then it’d be 4x cubed minus 32x. 

ANNA TRAN: And, you know, all these classes are pretty routine. But at the same time, there are moments where it’s very obvious that Ellory’s beliefs are at odds with the beliefs of her classmates all around her. For example –

ELLORY COFFEY: In whatever, like my fifth period, we were talking about abortions and like we were asked our opinions and I had spoken my thoughts on it, said that I didn’t think that we should get abortions. 

ANNA TRAN: And so, after Ellory spoke, one of her classmates actually responded to her in front of the whole class.

ELLORY COFFEY: Very passionate and was like, “You don’t know anything you’re talking about and you hate women and – “

ANNA TRAN: And, of course, this really caught Ellory off guard. 

ELLORY COFFEY: But I was like, “Oh, um, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what you want me to say back.”

ANNA TRAN: So, her classmate finishes expressing her opinions, and class continues on as normal. So this might seem like a small situation, but it’s interactions like that between peers where Ellory sees in real time how others respond to her beliefs. And she’s not ignorant of the stereotypes that come alongside with being a Christian. 

ELLORY COFFEY: When I wanna voice an opinion, I am, like, put in this, like, box of Christianity as, like, an old, white, evangelical guy. 

ANNA TRAN: And at this age, she’s navigating a lot of normal things a teenage girl cares about – wanting to be accepted by her friends, receiving positive affirmation from her peers. I can see how being put in this stereotypical white American Christian box just feels like she’s being misrepresented.

ELLORY COFFEY: I am the biggest people pleaser you will ever meet, and so I’m like, “I don’t wanna hurt anyone’s feelings, and what if they hate me if I say anything?”

ANNA TRAN: So, from talking with Ellory, it seems like a pretty normal thing for her to make almost, like, these social calculations when it comes to her faith and her social life.

JESSE EUBANKS: I mean, yeah, that makes sense. Like, you misstep in high school, and the consequences will haunt you for a long time. 


JESSE EUBANKS: And, you know, having a minority opinion in high school is very risky. 

ANNA TRAN: But, you know, as the school day goes on, Ellory makes it to lunch – 

ELLERY COFFEY AUDIO CLIP: Hopefully no one steals our seats again. Agreed. We keep getting our seats stolen.

ANNA TRAN: There’s the typical lunchroom chatter, like complaining about classes –

ELLERY COFFEY AUDIO CLIP: We have to read 50 frickin pages for stupid English. 

ANNA TRAN: Talking about videos from social media – 

ELLERY COFFEY AUDIO CLIP: This is like a month ago. I saw a TikTok, and it was like “me when Jesus was walking around with the knowledge that Chick-fil-A was going to be a thing.” How did he not tell people? Oh my gosh, yeah. 

ANNA TRAN: And so Ellory wraps up her classes for the day, school is over, and you’d think it’s time to go home. But for Ellory, she actually has after school activities. And today, that means she’s going to theater. 

ELLERY COFFEY AUDIO CLIP: We’re going to rehearsal, which is forever flipping long. It’s like three and a half hours, I wanna say, today.

ANNA TRAN: For her school’s theater production, Ellory is the stage manager. 

ELLERY COFFEY AUDIO CLIP: My setup for, like, my stage management area is literally, like, two different computers, a ginormous script. I look like I’m doing some, like, investigation.

ANNA TRAN: The days are always full during Ellory’s week. So, she starts at home, she goes to school, after school activities, even dance class, comes home, and does it all over again.

JESSE EUBANKS: Gosh, this reminds me so much of my teenage years. 


JESSE EUBANKS: Like, it is, like, you start at, like, 6:30 in the morning and you go to, like, 10:30 at night. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, that’s your life. It’s pretty routine. Home, school, theater, dance, home, repeat. But, you know, things come up during that routine life. And especially for Ellory, things that reinforce those Christian stereotypes that she comes up against at school. Another example is a conversation Ellory had with one of her classmates. 

ELLORY COFFEY: I had a guy who was gay, and I was just, like, talking. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so Ellory is talking with her classmate, and eventually they start talking about Ellory’s brother ’cause this other kid knows him. 

ELLORY COFFEY: He was like, “I don’t like your brother.” So, my brother is literally 11. And I was like, “Okay, why?” And he was like, “Well, I don’t know. I’m just am not really a big fan of you.”

ANNA TRAN: Obviously, that makes Ellory more curious, and so she continues to ask him questions. 

ELLORY COFFEY: And I was like, “Oh, okay. Why don’t you like me?” And he was like, “Well, I just don’t like Christians.” And I’m like, “Hmm, okay.” And I was like, “Why do you feel that way?” And he’s like, “Well, ’cause I’m gay and you’re Christian, so we automatically don’t mix.”

JESSE EUBANKS: Gosh, it, it’s fascinating to hear how fast things heat up in both of these situations. Like, I’m thinking about her in class and the topic is abortion. So she says, “Oh, well, here’s my thoughts,” and it went sideways on her pretty fast. And then in this other scenario – you know, I’m sure there’s lots of gay students at her school, but this guy in particular is, like, coming with all these stereotypes about her instead of actually engaging with her and knowing her personally and, like, it’s easy to see, like, how many assumptions are being made by these other students about Ellory and about her beliefs and the way she would even approach those beliefs without even knowing her.

ANNA TRAN: Right. 

ELLORY COFFEY: I’ve had multiple encounters like that of like, “Oh, like, you’re a Christian, then we can’t be friends.” 

ANNA TRAN: And, of course, Ellory’s got plenty of friends who are not Christians. They accept her. They enjoy spending time with her. But she does feel a special relationship with other teenagers who are Christians. For example, her friend Lila. When Ellory asked Lila her thoughts on being a Christian in public school, Lila said –

ELLORY COFFEY: With most people at public school, many people will mock the Bible and it’s really hard to sit through that. But it’s also hard to say something because then you don’t wanna lose a friend. If you say you’re a Christian, they don’t wanna, like, approach you in any sort of, I don’t know, fun way. They just think, “Oh, she won’t wanna go hang out with us. She’s a Christian.”

JESSE EUBANKS: And so of course, like, all this stuff that Ellory’s talking about, that her friend Lila’s talking about – again, Pew Research showed that between 2007 and 2019 there was a 12 percent decrease overall in America of people identifying as Christians. This general distrust of Christian faith – like, it is growing, and the truth is that it did not come out of nowhere. 

BRAD GRIFFIN: You know, the trust gap across generations has never been greater, and young people today trust adults less, trust institutions less, and specifically trust the church less than prior generations. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay. This is Brad Griffin. 

BRAD GRIFFIN: I am the Senior Director of Content and Research for the Fuller Youth Institute.

JESSE EUBANKS: So, Brad and the team at Fuller Youth Institute – they actually collect a lot of data about teenagers and young adults as it relates to Christian faith. And Brad has said that this lack of trust – it is not a new thing. 

BRAD GRIFFIN: The patterns seem to indicate that those trust levels do drop by generation. You know, certainly Gen Xers, millennials (laughs) have led the way in distrusting institutions.

JESSE EUBANKS: I mean, I’m in my 40s now, and I distinctly remember feeling the angst and the frustration of seeing so much hypocrisy in the church. 

BRAD GRIFFIN: Every time we turn around, we see in the news that there’s a leader with moral failure or stories about cover-ups in the church of abuse and, and on and on, and Gen Z are kind of finding themselves in the midst of it and they’re listening in on it.

JESSE EUBANKS: And so it makes sense that a teenager today is growing up and absorbing the distrust that has been passed down to them.

BRAD GRIFFIN: They’re just trying to survive and navigate the world we’ve given them. 

ANNA TRAN: So, I think about how this post-Christian context has already existed before Ellory and the kids in her generation, and sometimes I’m tempted to be fatalistic and to think that teenagers have been dealt a bad hand and that they’re working uphill “against the culture,” quote unquote. But something I also found encouraging is that, although there are things that are really difficult and frustrating about being a Christian and a teenager these days, for Ellory, she also sees that there’s opportunities to talk about her faith with people who really don’t know much about Christianity.

ELLORY COFFEY: And I think I was put into public high school as a Christian to be able to spread the gospel to those people because a lot of them do not have access to that and I want to be the one who can give that to them.

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so that is a look behind the scenes of a teenager today. So, there’s another angle we need to look at – how did a global pandemic affect the lives of these teenagers? 

HOLDEN FAITH: There was this point where I texted all my friends at the time and I was like, “Can you tell me what I did wrong so I can fix it?”

ANNA TRAN: Stay with us.


JESSE EUBANKS: Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. Jesse Eubanks. 

ANNA TRAN: Anna Tran. Today’s episode – “Where the Gospel Meets Teenagers.” 

JESSE EUBANKS: We’ve just heard the story of Ellory Coffey, a 16-year-old junior in high school. She’s a Christian, and Anna just gave us a snapshot of what it’s like for Ellory navigating life in a post-Christian context. 

ANNA TRAN: Right, and while a post-Christian context may not be something every teenager can relate to, a global pandemic is definitely relatable.

HOLDEN FAITH: And I remember I heard something about, like, this coronavirus over in Asia, and I was like, “Huh. That’s really weird. Good thing it’s not here.” And then, like, a month later we got shut down, and I was like, “Oh, okay.” 

ANNA TRAN: Alright, let me introduce you to –

HOLDEN FAITH: Hi. My name is Holden Faith. Um, I’m really into theater. I really like movies. I’m a pretty big movie buff. 

ANNA TRAN: So, in seventh grade, Holden, his mom, his aunt, his two little cousins had just moved in with his grandparents.

HOLDEN FAITH: At the time, that was when my grandpa’s, um, Alzheimer’s was getting kind of bad. 

ANNA TRAN: They moved in to help his grandmother care for his grandfather. The house that they moved into wasn’t tiny or huge. It was honestly pretty average.

HOLDEN FAITH: It was one floor. I had a bedroom, my mom had her bedroom, and then my grandparents had a room.

ANNA TRAN: His aunt and baby cousin would sleep on the couch a lot. 

HOLDEN FAITH: We would put the two sofas together or she would sleep in the recliner and we would all just kind of find places around the house to sleep. 

ANNA TRAN: So with four adults and three kids, it was pretty cozy. But, when the pandemic lockdown began, there was definitely no wiggle room.

HOLDEN FAITH: It got stressful, (laughs) um, just because at least once a week someone would get annoyed or ticked off at somebody else. 

ANNA TRAN: So, Holden goes into eighth grade with everything completely online. He’s trying to do schoolwork from his bedroom, he’s trying to keep up with his friends through FaceTime, and sometimes, you know, during the school day when he’s trying to get work done his grandpa, because of his Alzheimer’s, would sometimes interrupt Holden and his schoolwork.

HOLDEN FAITH: He didn’t know what he was really doing. He would, like, walk in whenever I was doing school every now and then, and I would help him back to the living room. My mom was doing meets with her students online because she teaches second grade. 

ANNA TRAN: And on top of that, his grandmother trained dogs. 

HOLDEN FAITH: They’re all, like, literal dogs. There’d be moments where there’d just be, like, a mass of barking. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Oh my gosh, this is so much stuff – online teaching, online school, grandparents, little cousins, six dogs. 

ANNA TRAN: Right. The only people he hung out with was a girl that he was dating at the time.

HOLDEN FAITH: And then my family, just because those are the only people I got to see.

ANNA TRAN: So, Holden goes through his entire eighth grade year fully online. Month after month passes. He’s not getting to see any of his friends. He doesn’t get to be in any of the theater productions that he loves. He’s isolated. This is not in any way what he hoped his eighth grade year would be like. But then – the world reopens, and that changes all the possibilities of what his freshman year could be like. School opened back up, he got to see all of his friends again, and this is exactly the type of school experience he had been hoping for. And so he decided to go after the things that he loved.

HOLDEN FAITH: I wanted to be a big name, I wanted to be a big actor, I wanted everyone to know me. 

ANNA TRAN: And so Holden tried to make this happen. He actually got the lead in his school’s play. He made a ton of new friends. But he also got into some other things with those friends.

HOLDEN FAITH: Started smoking, uh, weed a lot, and I eventually bought my own stuff. I mean, me and my brother did all the time. 

ANNA TRAN: But, here’s the thing – Holden smoking weed? It didn’t come out of nowhere. There was some stuff actually going on at home because a few months earlier his grandpa actually passed away because of his Alzheimer’s and honestly Holden wasn’t really sure what to do with all those feelings and a lot of those feelings had already started to come out sideways. Because he told me –

HOLDEN FAITH: I was a little bit of a turd. I’m very honest about that. I was not a super nice person freshman year because I wasn’t humble – “I can do this better than this person, that better than that person.”

ANNA TRAN: At one point during his freshman year, his attitude and the way he treated his friends got so bad that almost all of his friends had cut ties with him.

HOLDEN FAITH: There was this point where I texted, like, all my friends at the time and I was like, “Can you tell me what I did wrong so I can fix it?”

ANNA TRAN: And on top of that, shortly after his grandfather died, Holden gets the news that his older cousin Logan had passed away from a drug overdose. 

HOLDEN FAITH: He, um, snorted something, and it had fentanyl in it.

ANNA TRAN: Holden loved Logan. They grew up seeing each other, visiting each other in nearby cities. And even though faith wasn’t a big part of Holden’s life, he saw how important faith in God was to Logan. Anytime Holden saw Logan or when Logan would meet other people, there would always be friendly greetings. 

HOLDEN FAITH: “How’ve you been? What’s new? Tell me about how you’re going.” And then, he would, in one way, shape, or another, try and implement Jesus. 

ANNA TRAN: Holden said that Logan talked about Jesus all the time. Even with the struggles he wrestled with, Holden knew that Logan wanted to know God and be with God forever. 

HOLDEN FAITH: Got baptized three times. He said in his own words, “I don’t wanna make sure there’s any room for misunderstanding of where I’m supposed to be.” 

ANNA TRAN: At the funeral, Holden got to know people from Logan’s church. He heard stories about Logan. 

HOLDEN FAITH: It was kind of cool to see that my cousin had made such an impact on everybody that I didn’t even know about, like friends and family, people from the church that were either like his age or 50 years older. He was constantly trying to help people. 

ANNA TRAN: And remember, all of this is happening while the pandemic is still going on. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Oh my gosh, it’s just so much for a young guy to have to deal with. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, it’s a lot of transition. And so while Holden was really shaken by Logan’s death, he also saw the type of community that surrounded his cousin, people who deeply cared for him despite the struggles that Logan faced. He saw how deeply committed Logan was to his faith and to his community and how his community were committed to Logan. This actually made Holden open to something new, and that new thing was going to a summer church camp with a friend.

HOLDEN FAITH: He would constantly text me, “Hey, signed up for camp? Hey, signed up for camp yet? Hey, you wanna do camp?” And so I was like, “Fine, fine, fine, I’ll do camp, I’ll do camp.”

ANNA TRAN: And so Holden goes to the summer camp, not really expecting much. He was actually pretty closed off at first. But, as the week goes on, he gets to know people and starts hearing their stories.

HOLDEN FAITH: For instance, my buddy Colin – he was in a tornado, like, he was in a trailer with his family, and their trailer got picked up and threw hundreds of thousands of feet while they were in the house. 

ANNA TRAN: And so, this other teenager – his family miraculously survived getting tossed around by a tornado. And Holden started hearing from other teenagers who were really open with their struggles.

HOLDEN FAITH: I heard the different abuse or drug struggles or – like honestly anything that you could probably struggle with one of them said it in their testimonies, and I was like, “Whoa, okay, so I am not the only one like this.”

ANNA TRAN: And this openness was something he had never experienced before. It helped him feel safe enough to share his burdens and even share his struggles, especially his grief about the death of his cousin.

HOLDEN FAITH: I shared my, kind of like that part of my story with dozens of guys up there. 

ANNA TRAN: And it was through sharing himself over and over again and being open to hearing from God that, you know, one day in prayer Holden sensed God saying to him –

HOLDEN FAITH: This is God saying, “Hey, you can put him to rest here. You can really just kind of let it go.”

ANNA TRAN: Being in an environment with people who transparently shared their struggles and genuinely wanted to seek God for help – that helped Holden experience the love of God through those people around him, which also led him to decide to want to follow Jesus. So, at the camp, he decides to get baptized.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, so would Holden say that he’s now a Christian? 

ANNA TRAN: For sure. He would say that. But then something really interesting happened. I wanted to ask Holden about his beliefs now that he’s a Christian. And so I tried asking about Jesus and, you know, more like an explicit gospel message, but he actually pivoted over to something else.

HOLDEN FAITH: For me personally – like I said before, I’m a really big music guy – so whenever we do worship, I, I really enjoy it ’cause I like getting to sing at the top of my lungs and I’m just hearing this mass of people in this room I’m in and we’re all singing about the same thing. 

ANNA TRAN: And then he started talking about sharing his faith with other people.

HOLDEN FAITH: I really enjoy sharing my life with them with whatever we’re talking about that day. 

ANNA TRAN: And, I gotta admit, I wasn’t really satisfied with those answers. They felt a little bit shallow, and I was hoping for him to say something like, “You know, Jesus saved me from sin, and now I don’t have to, you know, live in captivity over Satan and stuff.” (laughs)

JESSE EUBANKS: You were, like, you were, like, looking for, like, some good theologically grounded words. 

ANNA TRAN: The reality is that for Holden – he’s young, and he’s learning all of this for the first time.

JESSE EUBANKS: And it’s probably not fair to expect him to have it all worked out yet.

ANNA TRAN: No, absolutely not. You know, for Holden, it seems like he has this real hunger for connection.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, and I don’t think that he’s the only one that has that hunger. Like there was an article that came out in Christianity Today not long ago that showed there are tons of Christian institutions, colleges, universities that are having record enrollment in their freshman classes.

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so how much of an increase are they seeing? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, some of these schools are saying 20 percent or more, and that’s a pretty huge number when you think that there are hundreds or thousands of students coming in as freshmen. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so a lot of people are enrolling. Why do they think that people are coming in so quickly?

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, here, let me actually just read from the article for you. So, “Prospective students are drawn to the community at small Christian schools. The incoming class suffered through the social isolation imposed on them through the pandemic in high school and are now looking for deep connections in college. They place a high value on the very thing that evangelical institutions have always offered – discipleship, relationships, and a place to grow.” 

ANNA TRAN: That makes sense. You know, deep connection is something that’s a big part of Holden’s story. It was genuine connection with other people that opened the door for Holden to experience God.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, and just because Holden isn’t able to precisely articulate all of his beliefs with theological fidelity, that does not mean that his faith is inauthentic. You know, he’s just starting out on his journey and discovering the truth about who God is. And actually, Brad Griffin, he has some really good insight on this.

BRAD GRIFFIN: Getting to truth – it’s more of a process and less of a given for today’s young people. And I think for adults to, to be unafraid of helping young people engage where they are, what they’re taking in, and to walk with them faithfully through that and to ask, “Well, what, what might Scripture say? What might Jesus do if Jesus were walking among us today?” Being faithful to that process – it is so much more appealing to young people than sort of dictating, “Here’s the truth, and we need to attack all forms of untruth.”

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, I think there’s something to be said about honoring the process. You know, Holden has just begun this process of learning about the truth with the help of other Christians.

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so if we’ve got this really beautiful picture of all of these Gen Z Christians that are saying, “We want community. The pandemic has actually opened us up to pursuing faith in God” – what if there’s another threat out there? What if there’s something in their pocket that actually threatens to take that away from them? And we’re gonna talk about that when we come back.


JESSE EUBANKS: Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. Jesse. 

ANNA TRAN: Anna. Before the break, we heard the story of Holden Faith, a 16-year-old junior in high school who, after a lot of life transitions, has just become a Christian, and he’s now learning what it means to follow Jesus as a teenager. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And of course, if we are going to talk about teenagers, there’s a whole other thing that we’ve got to talk about, and that is the relationship between teenagers and technology. Broadly speaking, most of the time when we hear those two topics talked about together, it revolves around screen time –

AUDIO CLIP: And a third of parents and teens say they argue daily about screen time. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Attention span –

AUDIO CLIP: Attention is taken away from face to face interactions, and it’s given over to a device.

JESSE EUBANKS: Mental health –

AUDIO CLIP: Rates have risen up to one in every four suffering from clinical depression and one in every five suffering from clinical anxiety. 

JESSE EUBANKS: It seems that technology is this ever-present threat to today’s teenagers, which is why this one teenager –

AMY CROUCH: Hi there, I’m Amy Crouch. 

JESSE EUBANKS: – decided to do something about it. Okay, so Amy is in her early 20s now, but just a few years ago she was still a teenager. One thing to know about Amy is that her dad is an author, a guy named Andy Crouch. He has written a ton of different books, but in 2017 specifically he published a book called The Tech-Wise Family. It was all about making wise decisions around technology usage. And at the time, Amy was 17, she was in high school, and her dad actually asked her if she would write the foreword to the book. So she writes the foreword, the book comes out, and it starts picking up a ton of steam. And as it did, Amy started to notice that –

AMY CROUCH: So much of the conversation around technology is directed at parents. I wasn’t seeing people speaking to my generation with kind of honesty and curiosity and gentleness instead of, like, finger-wagging and saying, “You guys are screen zombies, and you need to fix things.”

JESSE EUBANKS: And because she saw this need that, “Hey, there needs to be a book out there that actually directly helps teenagers have healthier relationships with technology, somebody needs to write that,” and she thought maybe she should be the one to do that. But before she could even kind of get her brain around, “Okay, what habits should we exactly be encouraging teenagers toward?” she first needed to understand the scope of the problem, and that is all about data. And so there’s this question, “Where am I going to get all of this data?” And thankfully, because her dad had just written this book, Amy had access to a ton of data. And part of that data – it revolved around – 

AMY CROUCH: Young people 13 to 21, so mostly teenagers, asked them all kinds of questions around their relationship with technology.

JESSE EUBANKS: And what she found was not encouraging. 

AMY CROUCH: I vividly remember seeing the data for the first time because it was so discouraging. The numbers that stood out to me most were the comparisons between higher tech users and lower tech users. So we partitioned out those with unusually high amounts of screen time, those with average amounts of screen time, and those with lower amounts of screen time, and the correlation between higher screen time and poorer mental health is astronomical. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Now obviously you can’t just look at those two things alone and go, “Okay, that’s causation.” But what was becoming apparent was there is some sort of relationship between bad mental health and lots and lots of screen usage.

AMY CROUCH: It is really sad and frustrating to see that teens with really poor mental health are turning to screens, um, and that there’s a relationship between their device use and their struggles with their mental health. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And from all this data, Amy was actually able to narrow the whole thing down into two categories that are real challenges for her generation.

AMY CROUCH: I think you can sum up the sort of attitude of this group to technology with two words – distraction and loneliness. Ultimately, what technology is really good at is giving us something so interesting and compelling that we’re distracted from the other things we want to do and dividing us from the people that we care about. That is pretty representative of what my generation sees as the challenges of technology. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So Amy takes all of this stuff that she’s been thinking through, and she begins working on drafts of her book. You know, what would be solutions to this huge issue of disconnection and distraction that teenagers are dealing with on a daily basis? She’s processing all of this with her dad, and they end up talking about –

AMY CROUCH: Dad and I have this sense that people think they have to live on default mode. Like, our devices push us towards a specific default way of living – distracted, disconnected, insecure, etc. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And in the midst of all that conversation, she has this moment where she realizes, you know, there’s really one fundamental question that we need to be asking.

AMY CROUCH: What if you don’t have to live that way? We don’t have to compare ourselves. We don’t have to be distracted. We don’t have to be disconnected. What if you can live a different way? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so just one example of this is how social media amplifies the age old struggle of comparison. 

AMY CROUCH: The ability we have to see so many people who are living lives that seem so much better and more beautiful than ours is really devastating to our sense of self and our mental health.

JESSE EUBANKS: So for each chapter, Amy decided to address a pain point of technology like boredom, exhaustion, disconnectedness and at the end of each chapter offer practical but non-prescriptive ways a teenager can push back against all of those things. 

ANNA TRAN: Oh, that sounds pretty cool. Uh, do you have examples of that?

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so her book has so many tips that we could never even begin to, like, touch all of them, but here’s just a couple to give you an idea. Okay, first problem – disconnectedness. Here is Amy’s tip for that. Think about which technology helps you connect most with people and which ones isolate you. So, figure out the physical locations where you spend most of your time. Then, you want to think about how can I shape this space so that technology doesn’t actually draw me away from people. Strategies can include things like charging devices outside of your bedroom. If your TV is in the center of your home, think about moving it to a decentralized space. And keep non-tech activities readily available. If you’re into music, keep musical instruments nearby. If you’re into drawing, keep notebooks nearby. She also challenges readers to rethink the use of technology as primarily a solo activity. So, do you enjoy watching movies? Have some friends over to watch it with you. So, to battle disconnectedness, you don’t wanna let technology trap you into isolation because it will only make it worse. 

ANNA TRAN: Got it. Okay, what’s the next tip?

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so another tip from Amy. 

AMY CROUCH: What if the first 15 minutes or 30 minutes of your day you did not look at your phone, you didn’t look at any screen, and the last 30 minutes before you went to bed you also didn’t look at a screen? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Amy said that the vast majority of teenagers in their data set say that they look at their phone first thing in the morning and it’s the last thing they do right before they try to fall asleep.

AMY CROUCH: It really changes your day, waking up and not being, like, sort of drawn into the whirlpool of all the notifications you’ve got, everything that everyone is expecting of you. And it makes a huge difference to not be on your phone, absorbing all that blue light, being stressed about, you know, whatever is going on in your life right before you go to bed.

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so Amy writes this book, she publishes it. How do people respond? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, uh, so the book comes out, she starts interacting with other people her age who have read the book, and they’re telling her –

AMY CROUCH: “I knew that I didn’t like our default posture towards technology. I knew that I felt like I was getting distracted from the people I cared about. But I, I thought that I was the only one. I thought that this was just the way that life had to be.”

JESSE EUBANKS: And Amy says like she has a lot of hope for her peers. She said that actually she was surprised to even see some positive effects from the pandemic. 

AMY CROUCH: Yes, there is this kind of trail of destruction and devastation in the wake of the pandemic, but the one point of hope I would have is that I saw in myself, in my friends, and in young people coming out of it saying, “I do not want to live that way. Like, I have realized how hard it is to be so disconnected from the people I love, and I want to intentionally prioritize the people around me.”

ANNA TRAN: Gosh, what I love about Amy’s approach is that it’s not just about fully rejecting technology, it’s not about tossing it out, but it’s about having a healthy lifestyle that emphasizes like really good things, things like human connection, rest, and focus, all of which are things that God says is good.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. Catherine Price – she’s the author of the book, How to Break Up with Your Phone, and she says your life is what you pay attention to. And so much of what I love about Amy’s approach is she’s saying, “Hey, we as teenagers can choose what we pay attention to and we can choose the things that are gonna form us into people that really live life to the fullest with God and with other people. Let’s let technology be something that’s gonna help us pay attention to the right things.” 

So, what do we do with all this? The reality is every generation faces its struggles, its battles, its hardships, its particular moment in time and culture. And this generation, like the ones that have come before it, have their own set of struggles. But as always, Jesus is with you. Jesus is with you with whatever it is that you’re going through in the particularities of your day to day life, and his gospel will always be good news, no matter what your scenario is. And what’s so good about the gospel is that it’s dynamic. It speaks good news to particular people in our particular moment of need. And that is also true for Gen Z. 

BRAD GRIFFIN: What’s good news to the 16 year old right now? Good news might sound like, “You are enough. You know, you’re trying really hard, and you’re struggling to measure up and to, to figure all these things out. And you know what? God says that you are made in the image of God.” And I think figuring out where the good news meets us in our particular moments is so important for coming alongside young people. And, and I would say – you know, even to use the word evangelism here, um – it is proclaiming good news to a young person to tell them they’re made in the image of God. You know, that is an inroad to the gospel, and it might meet a young person at a, at a very particular moment when they feel pressed down and unworthy and like they don’t measure up.

JESSE EUBANKS: So, if you’re listening to this and you’re feeling lost in the journey and alone, just know this – God knows exactly where you are, and you’re not alone. There’s a family of believers eager to come alongside you and walk with you through this journey.


JESSE EUBANKS: If you’ve benefited at all from this podcast, please help us out by leaving a review wherever it is that you listen to podcasts. Your review will help other people discover our show.


JESSE EUBANKS: Special thanks to our interviewees – Ellory Coffey, Holden Faith, Amy Crouch, and Brad Griffin. 

ANNA TRAN: Senior producer and host is Jesse Eubanks. Co-host is me, Anna Tran. 

JESSE EUBANKS: This episode was written by Anna Tran with Jesse Eubanks. Anna Tran is our producer and audio editor. 

ANNA TRAN: Music is from Lee Rosevere, Poddington Bear, Blue Dot Sessions, and Murphy DX.

JESSE EUBANKS: This show is brought to you by Love Thy Neighborhood. If you want a hands-on experience of missions in our modern times, come serve with Love Thy Neighborhood. Love Thy Neighborhood offers summer and year long missions internships for young adults ages 18 to 30. Bring social change with the gospel by working with an innovative nonprofit and serving your urban neighbors.

ANNA TRAN: Experience community like never before as you live and do ministry with other Christian young adults. Grow in your faith by walking in the life and lifestyle of Jesus and being part of a vibrant, healthy church. Apply now at

JESSE EUBANKS: Which of these was a neighbor to the man in need? The one who showed mercy. Jesus tells us, “Go, and do likewise.”


This podcast is only made possible by generous donors like you!


Special thank you to our interviewees Ellory Coffey, Holden Faith, Amy Crouch, and Brad Griffin.
Senior producer and host is Jesse Eubanks. Co-host is Anna Tran.
Episode written by Anna Tran with Jesse Eubanks.
Anna Tran is our producer and audio editor.
Music for this episode comes from Podington Bear, Blue Dot Sessions & Murphy D.X.