I recently wrapped up recordings for Season 1 of our Church Answer’s Women Podcast, At The Table, with two interviews highlighting the joy and need of coming alongside Gen Z that will release on April 14th and 21st. Like every generation, they are often marked by negative stereotypes such as tech obsessed or anti-social and again like every generation there is so much more than what is perceived or talked about on the surface.
I don’t write as a sociologist or a researcher, but as a mom, minister, and leader who truly does want to see Jesus transform the hearts, minds, and souls of this generation coming after me. From the day-to-day conversations at the coffee shop with some of our college students to car rides on the way home from school with my own son, I see so much to celebrate and to encourage, and so many opportunities to call them toward the young men and women they are created to be.
Let’s Celebrate Them
1) They are resilient. The Covid 19 pandemic turned education, extracurriculars, relationships, and dreams upside down. They have had to battle immense pressures to catch up in their studies and re-engage social life in new ways. Statistics tell us they are battling mental health struggles more than ever and yet they are taking courageous steps in talking about their struggles, getting help, and encouraging others to seek help.
2) They are adaptable and creative. They are so familiar with technology and the new innovations of the day that they are quick to problem solve and figure out new technology as well as have new ideas for old problems. When given a problem they are quick to think through ways to tackle it that we would consider outside of the box.
3) They teach us how to engage differences. Unlike earlier generations, they do an incredible job of having conversations across differences. Whether over politics, race, or religion, they find themselves voicing their viewpoints and opinions and listening well to one another. They have deep empathy for people and want others to feel heard and valued.
4) They care about justice. This is one of the things I love most about them and watching God work through them. They care deeply about big and heavy topics and want to make a difference on things that matter.
I love how Roberta Katz describes Gen Z: “a typical Gen Zer is a self-driver who deeply cares about others, strives for a diverse community, is highly collaborative and social, values flexibility, relevance, authenticity and non-hierarchical leadership, and, while dismayed about inherited issues like climate change, has a pragmatic attitude about the work that has to be done to address those issues.”
A study from Barna concluded that “Curiosity about Jesus is widespread in the open generation. Teens in the U.S. are far more intrigued than their global peers, with 77 percent being at least somewhat motivated to keep learning about Jesus throughout their lives.”
When I look at Gen Z, I see young people who are hungry for relationship, meaning, and belonging–and possibly now more than ever–they are seeking these out and asking for answers. And the real question to be asked is: are we willing to pause, evaluate, and shift some of our perspectives and practices in order to meet them where they are?
Let’s Reach Them
1) Relationships are key. True life change and investment happens through relationships. Think of how much our church services are siloed into different age groups and gendered activities. Oftentimes the main worship gathering is the only time a church is fully together in one place, yet rarely do we make it a priority to go and say hello to the teen girls huddled together or the boys who are in the lobby waiting to go into service. Our students and young adults will never feel valued and a part of the family if we don’t engage them. Start with a hello. Ask them about their week. Follow up by asking them to grab a smoothie or ice cream sometime–or go to one of their ball games.
2) Don’t be afraid of doubts. Gen Z wrestles through many differing viewpoints, questions, and even doubts about their faith. Although this can be scary not knowing where they will land, it is an opportunity to tackle hard things together. From gender identity to justice issues, to our orthopraxy and traditions, they are asking questions seeking depth and truth. The temptation for us is to feel disrespected or insulted when they ask questions, but what if there is something more? Listening well and learning together are invitations toward connection and growth.
3) What is celebrated is embodied. How you speak about your teen, what you celebrate about your student ministry, and the wisdom you learn from your college students and young adults is noticed by them. If we constantly point to how God is using them and how they are being image bearers in unique and hard ways, they will not only see God, but they will live out who God made them to be. Gen Z (much like all of us) wants to wake up each day with purpose and mission. What an incredible privilege to get to link the creative and unique ways they image God to a broken world and then cheer them on as they take up the mantle to be lights in the midst of darkness–so that right now they will make a difference on their campuses, with their teams, and in their neighborhoods.
Further Resources on Gen Z:
At The Table Podcast episodes 24 and 25
Gen Z Reacts with Sam Rainer
Growing Young Curriculum from Fuller Seminary
Free E-Book The Greatest Decision
Posted on April 7, 2023
Jacki C. King is a respected and popular Bible teacher, conference speaker, and ministry leader. She has a passion for seeing women fall in love with Jesus and His Word while challenging them to be on mission in their homes, workplaces, and communities. Jacki is a native Texan who now lives in Central Arkansas with her husband Josh, who is a Lead Pastor, along with their three boys. Jacki holds a bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies and Ministry to Women from Criswell College and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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