Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Time to Play

Written by: on February 8, 2024

“Gone are the days when dumb, insensitive, or offensive teenage mishaps were forgotten or simply disappeared. Their extensive digital record makes Gen Z the most cancelable cohort, and that makes modern adolescence kind of nightmarish. The ever-present threat of being canceled harms friendships, undermines trust, and fosters paranoia. And it’s certainly not helping the record number of young people experiencing anxiety, loneliness, and poor mental health. The result of cancel culture is a self-insulating generation.”  [1]

Within this quote lies a deeply concerning outcome of cancel culture, a self-insulating generation that isolates themselves. According to Forbes contributor, Kian Bakhtiari, in an article written about the loneliness epidemic within Gen Z, young people aged 16 to 24 feel more lonely than any other age group, including people aged 65 and over. 73% of Gen-Z report feeling alone sometimes or always. Loneliness can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. And people who experience social isolation have a 32% higher risk of early death.” [2]

Gen-Z is super connected online but lacks real social connection. The internet, phones, and video games offer lots of new connections, but they don’t replace the need for emotional connections in the real world.  However, in an article from Psychology Today, titled “3 Things Making Gen Z the Loneliest Generation” it is noted that reversing the loneliness trend in Gen Z requires addressing contributors such as the overstimulation that leaves less time to connect.[3]  Likewise, this was noted in the book, The Cancelling of the American Mind by Free Speech Lawyer, Greg Lukianoff and Rikki Schlott. In chapter 10:  Raising Kids Who Are Not Cancelers, the authors present the question:  How can parents keep their kids from getting canceled? How can we raise anti-cancelers? Up to this point in the book,  Lukianoff and Schlott define cancel culture, how cancel culture works, and begin to dive into what to do about it in part three.  After consulting some of the most respected voices on parenting their first admonition to parents is to keep their children off social media for as long as possible. [4].  Postponing the use of social media for children is a difficult approach to take, especially when so many apps have a social media component, with features like push notifications, live chat, ability to stream media, customizable profile, and the ability to content share.  The hot topics often requested by parents for Parent Labs in our church is social media and screen time.  The Parent Labs offer parents a space shared with like-minded families for collaboration, while navigating the challenges of screen time usage and social media. 

Lukianoff and Schlott developed a five step plan to help parents raise anti-cancelers in, as they refer to it, “the age of Cancel Culture.”  The steps included:  1)  Revive the golden rule, 2)  Encourage free, unstructured time, 3)  Emphasize the importance of friendships, 4)  Teach kids about differences,  5)  Practice what you preach. [5]  While I felt like these steps are helpful and are a good starting point, there is so much more to unpack as we train kids to love God, and love all He has created. When reading the five steps something “pinged” within on the importance of play (for kids AND adults).

As a former Kindergarten teacher and mom of three grown children, (and I can’t forget to mention two grandchildren), I can’t emphasize enough the importance of free, unstructured play.  Through play we tap into an aspect of our identity as image bearers, creating like our Creator and enjoying the created. Have you ever taken the time to observe a child engaged in the process of constructing or creating?  Play is the language of children and somewhere in the journey of life many adults have lost the ability to play or rec-create.  The venue of play offers adults and children the opportunity to practice the golden rule, enjoy unstructured, free time, develop friendships, and navigate differences.  Perhaps the one I find most challenging is practicing what I preach. . . meaning setting aside the phone/computer/screen/work to play. Clinical psychologist and chief of the Division of Psychology at Ellis Hospital, Dr. Rudy Nydegger, says there are two basic tenets of play. First, it is something that we do for recreation that is purely for enjoyment and/or entertainment. It is something we do just for fun.  Second, it is something that is intrinsically motivating. In other words, it is something that we want to do and is not something we need to be coerced or ‘bribed’ into doing. It is voluntary; we do it just because we want to. [6]  

As I consider the record number of young people experiencing anxiety, loneliness, and poor mental health resulting in a self-insulating generation, how might we as leaders “play better” as a means for “doing life better” in our communities of faith?

How have you incorporated play into your week?  Let’s share and inspire one another through a Mind Blast Protocol (in the REPLY section) of the ways in which you have incorporated play into your day or week.  Ready, go. . .   

[1] Greg Lukianoff and Rikki Schlott, The Canceling of the American Mind, (New York NY: Simon & Schuster, 2023), 214.



[4] Greg Lukianoff and Rikki Schlott, The Canceling of the American Mind, (New York NY: Simon & Schuster, 2023), 214.

[5] Ibid, 219.



About the Author

Cathy Glei

Cathy Glei brings more than 25 years of experience in teaching, leading and coaching. She currently is an Instructional Coach and loves to support individuals in discovering who God has made them to be, both professionally and personally. She has led a variety of professional development opportunities, trainings and workshops both in the fields of education and ministry. Cathy desires to support individuals in discovering the Creator's design and image within. Cathy and her husband, Steve, live in Michigan with their seven year old Springer, Otis. They have three adult daughters and two son-in-laws. Together, they enjoy the company of friends (both old and new) in their home, as well as cycling, camping, backpacking and hiking. They can be found hiking and enjoying the outdoors with Otis right alongside them.

6 responses to “Time to Play”

  1. mm Russell Chun says:


    Sounds corny, but in our attempts to reduce our weekly food costs, Trudy (my wife) and I go the Air Force commissary. BEFORE we do the hunter gatherer thing, we stop at the bowling alley on the way. Greasy fries, and other unhealthy foods spice up the event, and then we hurl the ball down the lane at unsuspecting pins.

    We just started this and I truly do enjoy it.

    I also Garden, which is tough during the winter, but my out door bulbs and I know the days are getting longer and soon they will be peeking through the soil.

    Thanks for asking.


  2. mm Tim Clark says:

    Free unstructured play. AWESOME. I realize I need that to keep myself happy. Today (my sabbath) my wife and I went to the Apple Store to try out the new Vision Pro. We were there for 3 hours and squealed and laughed while experiencing something new, and in between our appointments walked around the mall browsing. That all sounds silly, but silly is what we needed today. Thanks for the reminder that that is vital!!!

  3. Hello Cathy! Thank you for your well thought through post! It’s so much fun reading your posts. In regard to young people do you sense the young people in your church struggle with this same type of anxiety you mentioned in your post?

    Also, for fun, I love riding my bike on Zwift or outdoors. 😊

    • Cathy Glei says:

      Yes!!! It concerns me. From the youngest ones I work with the anxiety that they express is in correlation to health concerns. . . children as young as age five. The young adults I work with, on my ministry team and in my workplace, much of the anxiety is around balancing work and care for self (the transition into adulthood), acceptance, and approval.

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