I’ve recently taken on the role of teaching a cultural theology and biblical worldview class for high school juniors at a private school in my new hometown. Surprisingly, I’ve found that I’m learning just as much from them during our discussions, whether in class sessions or through our private conversations.
When it comes to discussing generations, it’s tempting to use broad strokes and adopt a discouraging tone. As a millennial, I vividly remember headlines branding my generation with labels of entitlement and laziness. Reflecting on this, it serves as a reminder of the importance of discerning where God is actively working and mobilizing different generations in innovative and impactful ways.
As church leaders mobilizing people of all ages, we must recognize and appreciate the unique qualities of each generation. In today’s ever-evolving landscape, Generation Z, born roughly between the mid-1990s and early 2010s, is making its mark on society, and we can learn a lot from them.
Gen Z stands out as the most diverse generation, appreciating the richness of various cultural backgrounds and communities. Whether they’re spending weekends at the mall or sitting in classrooms alongside second-generation immigrant classmates, their daily interactions naturally expose them to a wide array of stories and experiences, fostering a culture of inclusivity. Unfortunately, our churches can lag behind in engaging different cultures, leading to a gap between what our students experience all week long in their daily interactions compared to what is experienced within the church walls. We can learn from this by fostering an environment that embraces diversity, ensuring that everyone feels welcome and valued within the church community. It’s also crucial to take intentional steps in our mission both to our neighborhoods and around the world, aligning with how God has called us to reach all people groups with the gospel.
Cell phones, laptops, TikTok, and more are buzzing through their fingers throughout the day. Growing up in the age of technology, Gen Z seamlessly moves between a world of digital content to face-to-face interactions. In a matter of seconds, they can be pushed to purchase the newest makeup item or watch highlights of their most admired athletes and heroes. They know how to create engaging, fun, and interactive content for your church and ministry. Allow them to help bridge the gap for you with digital resources to connect with the congregation. Embracing technology facilitates better communication, community building, and outreach efforts.
Gen Z has a keen sense of empathy and values transparency. Many of the conversations I’m having about the Church and the gospel hinge on the idea that our orthopraxy has swallowed our orthodoxy. How we speak the truth in love matters deeply and can often be the very thing that turns them against what we have to say. In our class, we’ve been exploring the concept of engaging with culture, delving into the significance of our approach and how our posture during these interactions serves as the initial platform for our gospel witness. Humility to show where we don’t have it all figured out, met with grace and truth, fosters trust and connection. Share personal stories, struggles, and triumphs to demonstrate that faith isn’t easy and that we don’t always get it right. Sharing that God is faithful and good helps model a faith journey alongside them that they too can resonate with and follow.
What Gen Z Needs From Us:
Gen Z is longing for men and women like you and me to commit to the long, steady work of a relationship. They aren’t looking for quick fixes and right answers as much as they want someone to be able to ask the hard questions and wrestle through their doubts and frustrations. A key statement from the 3 Questions Curriculum at Fuller Youth Institute stated that students were frustrated that we were giving answers to questions that they weren’t asking. Steady, faithful, patient relationships with parents, coaches, ministry leaders, and teachers give safety, trust, and confidence in a chaotic world.
In a world where information bombards young minds from every angle—thanks to influencers, media, and peers—it’s no surprise they end up with a mishmash of beliefs. To cut through the noise, we need to communicate clearly about what a biblical worldview is and how it relates to the current issues. Offering this guidance with grace becomes crucial in helping them navigate through the clutter and form a solid understanding of their faith and values. It should also be noted that it can be intimidating to approach hard topics with a fear of not knowing what to say or having the ‘right’ answer, but some of the most treasured moments come from simply saying “I don’t know, let’s search the Bible together.”
Community & Kingdom Impact
Driven by empathy and a desire for social justice, Gen Z wants to make a difference. When we are able to connect them with the mission of the gospel, we are inviting them to connect their heart for engagement with the heart of the gospel. Weekend trips to a homeless shelter to give a meal, packing Operation Christmas Boxes, or serving in your church’s nursery on Sunday mornings are easy and approachable ways to connect them with the mission of God and their heart for others.
In navigating the ever-changing landscape of ministry, church leaders and ministry workers need to appreciate and champion the strengths and presence of each generation. Gen Z brings valuable perspectives that can enrich and reawaken the church community. By embracing diversity, prioritizing authenticity and relationships, and navigating hard issues with grace and consistency, church leaders can create a more inclusive and dynamic ministry environment.
This article first appeared at Church Answers.