I once heard someone say that the church is only as healthy as the young people in it because they are the future of the church. I couldn’t agree more! Gen Z is the uprising generation of Americans who were born between 1995-2010. This generation has often been called the first post-Christian generation and are often defined by Christians as a generation that has fallen away from Christianity and the church in droves.
I beg to differ! I am part of Gen Z, and while my generation has its shortcomings and struggles, please do not count us out or look down on us because we have so much to offer. I would suggest that my generation is unlike any generation before it due to the fact that we have grown up being connected to the world in a way that has never been possible before due to the advancement of technology.
Gen Z is the largest generation in America and has so much potential to impact the world for Jesus. The church needs to be able to engage with Gen Z and encourage them in their faith because if they don’t, churches will have missed a big opportunity to speak godly advice (that is so desperately needed) into this generation. As a 19-year-old member of Gen Z, I have insight into what my generation looks for in a church and how your church can effectively encourage this generation in the Lord.
So here we go… Here are three things that Gen Z looks for in a church.
We Want The Church To Be Culturally Relevant.
The first question I ask when looking for a church is: Is this church talking about the hard topics that are facing my generation and giving godly direction about those topics?
I feel like sometimes churches are scared to speak into the relevant issues of today because they are “divisive”. But was Jesus scared to speak into the relevant issues of His day because it would be “divisive”? I don’t think so.
My generation needs the leaders in the church to step up and talk about things we are currently facing because if we are not getting biblical advice and counsel from the church and/or godly parents, my generation will get their direction and theology from movies, social media and celebrities.
I would dare to say that in certain areas the church struggles to engage in culture the way that Jesus did. This is what Gen Z craves! We see less of a divide between the sacred and the secular and see everything as ministry, but often times the church does not equip us with practical tools and advice to live for Jesus in this culture.
If you are an older pastor or ministry leader you might be asking yourself, “what topics are relevant that this generation is facing that I could speak into?” There are so many examples that I could give that my generation is craving for the church to speak into, but I think the best approach if you are struggling to relate to Gen Z is to ask the people in your church what they are struggling with or what topics they would like for you to speak into. I know that they would be more than happy to give you ideas, it’s just that oftentimes older people don’t ask what we need them to speak into or they just give up because they don’t know.
I want to share one last thing when it comes to the church engaging culture that I believe is VERY important!
For me a church engaging with culture starts with speaking God’s word over relevant issues, but it must not stop there. I want a church that both talks about engaging culture and ACTUALLY DOES THAT. I look for a church that goes out into the world like Jesus commanded us and loves others in practical and tangible ways. I look for a church that is generous in giving to those in need, is invested in sharing Jesus with both the nations and their community. I believe we are here on this earth to love Jesus and love others and point them to Jesus. I want my church to be doing that and supporting those who are doing that every single day.
We Want Authenticity.
Let’s face it, my generation lives in a world of instagram feeds with perfectly filtered, edited photos and false images of perfection everywhere. Since we are so bombarded with this perfect life in so many aspects of our lives, we crave authenticity. We also crave authenticity in the church. I cannot tell you how many more times I have connected with someone over a struggle or so-called imperfection more so than I have with people who try to act like they have everything together. We can relate with real, we can’t relate with perfect.
Living as a follower of Jesus is not always easy. Yes, we have redemption in Christ, but all of us still struggle with sin and issues. Often people and leaders in the church act like they are doing great or are too embarrassed to talk about real struggles and hurts. I am guilty of this also, but I would call upon the church to be real because when things are brought to light and you realize that you are not alone in struggles there is freedom and healing. I believe that is Christ’s heart for the church that we “carry each other’s burdens” and that is what this generation craves. I know it is hard to be vulnerable and talk about personal struggles, but it is one of the most encouraging things for people my age see older people talk about real stuff and be authentic in life and in faith.
We Want to be a Part of Something.
Gen Z might be the youngest generation, but we want to feel a part of the church and valued in it. I personally want to walk into a church and feel welcomed and like I can make friendships and relationships within that church. I want to be a part of the body of Christ and be able to encourage my brothers and sisters, even if I might be younger than them.
My generation wants to serve in the church and be a part of something bigger than themselves. If I had to describe my generation in two words it would be passionate and cause-driven. We are an extremely passionate generation and if I really believe in something I want to contribute to it. My generation is so willing to serve in the church and contribute, but we want to feel welcome in serving and not like we are incapable. We are also very cause-driven and we want to help others in the church.
I find it so refreshing when I walk into a church and that church values their young people, lets them serve, acknowledges their ideas, and values their efforts and contribution. We might need direction, but we are motivated and passionate to love and serve the Lord, the church, those in it, and the community.
A healthy church needs to know how to engage and minister to Gen Z. Gen Z is a very complex generation that is facing complex problems, but we are a generation with a hunger and a thirst to serve the Lord and grow in our faith.
Even though Gen Z has very specific characteristics, the needs that they have, the questions that they ask and the challenges that they face have more in common with a church that is made up of multiple generations. You might be surprised how much you can relate to this generation. We need the church, we need people who love Jesus in the church, and we need people who are willing to listen and relate to us.
I hope that this post has given you a little insight into how to serve Gen Z in your church. Know that we see all of the hard work that comes with ministry and want to be able to serve and encourage the leaders of the church who serve the Lord so faithfully.
Izabelle Gurley is a Junior at Grand Canyon University (Lopes Up!) in Phoenix, AZ studying communications with a minor in marketing. She is an intern in the marketing department at Outreach this summer. She loves working with social media, going on adventures and being back home in beautiful Colorado for the summer.