What Every Church Needs To Know About Generation Z
Well for starters, it’s ‘Gen-Z’. That’s right. Everything is shortened or abbreviated. If you thought ‘LOL’ was hard, just wait until you get hit with some ‘irl’ and ‘imo’. Those last two were not abbreviations for types of retirement accounts and if you want to know all that you need to know about Gen-Z, then you’ve come to the right place.
Try not to be discouraged. Every generation has its own quirks, characteristics, and challenges that makes church an ever-changing operation to get young people in its doors. Generation Z, born between the late 1990s to the early 2010s, is the younger generation after millennials. Some people think that the relationship between Generation Z and the church looks different than it did with previous generations but the truth is, Gen-Zers have a lot more in common with you than you might be thinking.
Habits of Generation Z
Really take a moment to stop and think—what were you like in those awkward and seemingly unending teenage years? The habits of your average Gen-Z young person are similar to what you and I may have gone through. Take a look at this list of Generation Z habits and tell me your 13 year-old self couldn’t relate:
Sometimes private and unwilling to share their thoughts on things like faith, and relationships.
- Intrigued by views that differ from what they may be hearing at home, and more willing to accept the new and exciting thing.
- Success oriented.
- Short attention span, and eager to experience the next fun thing.
- Values individual expression, and often willing to be confrontational about protecting this right.
Sound familiar? Being a teenager has not changed much. What has changed are the mediums and modes with which teens express themselves.
When it comes to Generation Z, one major challenge that the church is face with is influence. Much like you and I, your Gen-Z students are being pulled in so many directions as they form their thoughts and opinions. However, you and I didn’t have smartphones and the internet. Now, more than ever, young people are intrigued by spiritual experiences that go beyond the church building. Strengthen your relationship with Gen-Zers at your church by:
- Acknowledging the world around them. There’s a lot going on and they’re smart enough to see it. So should you.
- Initiate and facilitate the hot topics that pique their interests. (Yes. Those topics)
- Create more bridges, and less barriers. How easy is it for young people to be seen and heard at your church?
- Get online! That’s where your students spend most of their time. When left unmanaged, social media can leave one feeling isolated, depressed, and unseen in the real world. Help them navigate this powerful tool so that they are more inclined to trust and believe that you care.
Starting with Parents
Remember how you seldom looked to your caregivers for direction on behavior, lifestyle, sense of self, or spirituality? Yeah, that hasn’t changed. And while the language has changed, the sentiment is still the same. This does not mean that family is not important to Gen-Zers. Instead, it means that this next generation has created new ways to converse about how parents just don’t get it. And that’s okay. Don’t fight this—in fact, go with it!
Encourage the parents of your students to immerse themselves in the culture. Yes they look silly, and no they won’t get the new TikTok dance down. But if nothing else, they will be informed. The days of bring cool are in the rearview mirror. Parents will want to be informed more than they are influential.
Gathering Young People
Uh . . . not at your hour-long service, that’s for sure. Okay, that may have struck a nerve but let’s face it, app developers have discovered that they have about seven seconds before a Gen-Z user scrolls to the next picture, video or ad. Seven seconds. That’s how long you have before your young people decide that they’re checking out on what you have to say. How do you compete with something like that? Easy: you listen.
Generation Z craves spaces where they can ask big questions, express their doubts, share their thoughts openly, and build authentic relationships. Start by building relationships with some young people you already know. Gain their trust by listening, answering any questions they might have, and by having fun together! This gives churches ministering to Generation Z an opportunity to work alongside and empower parents to learn more about what is important to their children. The relationship between Generation Z and the church should be fun, open, and a safe space to build real connection.
Challenges in Communication
So you’ve figured out how to get your young people talking. But now you’re probably thinking you’ve gotta learn a new language? Well, maybe you don’t… Let young leaders in your church take charge on social media to best communicate with Gen-Z. With a little guidance, and some spiritual direction, you can entrust leaders who look and sound like the young people you’ve been tasked with leading. It’s okay to rely on young people to create authentic and engaging content regularly in order to connect Generation Z and the church.
Maybe our side hustles inadvertently taught this next generation to glorify success. Perhaps they learned it from toddlers who gross well over six figures by posting YouTube videos (I’m not upset, you are). Either way, Gen-Zers don’t want to fall into lack and have placed a huge emphasis on financial security. They’re not entirely wrong for wanting to be successful in their endeavors, but it’s our job to provide mentorship and discipleship that helps the next generation to see that the security they seek can be found in their relationship with God. Lean into the professionals at your church who have found success in their fields, but have also built strong relationships with Jesus. Building this bridge will ensure that Generation Z is a generation that trusts in God for all their needs.
Being the most diverse generation in American history, Gen-Z teaches the world that diversity is to be celebrated. Most people in this generation are comfortable conversing with those who have different lifestyles, opinions, and backgrounds. Inclusion, unity, and acceptance are all values that Gen-Z strive to find in their friend groups, workplaces, and other social gatherings.
If church doesn’t look diverse, Gen-Z is less likely to attend. Your young people want to celebrate differences in spaces that inclusive! Generation Z and the church can work together to educate themselves and their congregation about diverse groups, historical wrongdoings, and ways to better love and include all people.
The church has an awesome opportunity to shift and adapt ministry strategies to better connect with Gen-Z, but it will take work to create authentic relationships between the next generation and the church! Our young people live on social media, value diversity and inclusion, and are success oriented. If you’re willing to create safe spaces for the next generation by acknowledging their technological habits, and understanding their world view, your church is sure to build strong relationships with young people.
We created Grow Curriculum — because we know goals aren’t easy to set or achieve without some help. The Grow Curriculum and Annual Strategy (now available for kids, students, or adult small groups) is designed specifically to help you set and achieve your ministry goals and more by giving you all of the tools, teaching material, discipleship activities, volunteer training, family resources, and planning assistance that you need.
The Grow Team
A team packed with pastors, ministry leaders, writers, editors, designers, project managers, app developers, and more! The Grow Team works to bring curriculum and ministry strategy to church leaders everywhere.