Millenials have been all the talk for quite some time. But as time goes by and “Generation Z” is on the rise, many leaders are starting to wonder more about this upcoming generation... What makes Generation Z unique? And how can churches best be reaching them?
Every generation is unique in the way they see the world, the issues they care deeply about, and the questions they’re asking. And Gen Z is no exception.
Gen Z is definitely known for being open to new ideas and questioning everything around them. For older generations, there is a huge opportunity here to be open to change, but to also be present to support and help this new generation learn and understand what Christ and the Church are all about.
As a member of this generation myself, I’ve paid attention to questions I hear my peers voice in relation to Christianity and their perception of church. So here are a few (simplified) questions Generation Z is asking and some tips on how to respond to them:
1) How do Christians believe what they believe?
Whether it’s a struggle to pair Christianity with science or with certain political viewpoints, many in Gen Z find it difficult to understand how Christians believe what they believe.
But much like Millennials, rather than just being told we “should” believe, we want to actually hear and see the things Christ is doing in the lives of those around us in order to believe it for ourselves.
This can be seen as negative to some older generations, but many of us want to make sure our hearts are matching up with our heads (or vice versa) before we confidently claim we know or believe anything.
Share testimonies with us. Tell stories. Use Scripture to show us how our lives and hearts can be changed through Christ. And be available to answer our questions... because we have a lot.
2) Why are so many churches stuck in the past?
There are honestly times when we walk into a church and it feels a little bit like we traveled back in time 10, 20, or 50 years.
With a new generation comes new ideas, new voices, and new methods. Maybe your church is open to these ideas, but a lot of us don’t see it.
We get it, stepping out of the box of the traditional ways of “doing church” can be discomforting. And some might see this as “unnecessary.” (Here’s a great video on why change is necessary.) But as a pastor, it’s important to remind your congregation (and yourself) that tweaking methods won’t change the mission of your church. So don’t be afraid to try something different, and be open to hearing others’ ideas.
3)Why do Christians have so many standards?
There's a common perception within Generation Z that attending church means having to fulfill and live up to the intense expectations of the church.
Unlike previous generations, this generation is a lot less likely to attend church out of obligation or tradition. And that’s crucial for churches to understand. We can’t expect that people will come to us anymore. We have to go to them.
As Christians, we often develop our own standards and perceptions. But ask yourself, are those standards for Christian living, even if they’re unspoken, keeping those who are in need of Jesus outside of the church?
4) Why do I feel like an outsider when I attend church?
Especially in small churches, there is often a big focus on family and keeping that family together. This is one of the beautiful things about small churches. But this can also make it really difficult for new visitors to join.
Like any new visitor, my generation desires to feel recognized and welcomed for who we are and where we’re at. We want to feel like we belong.
As a pastor, work hard to build a culture that is truly welcoming to new people. Invest in their experience. Address the dirt. And take an honest evaluation of the things in your church’s culture that make new people feel uncomfortable.
This all may take an outside perspective, some honest conversations, and some difficult changes, but it really is crucial to acknowledge the ways your church can better reach the next generation. I hope this list is helpful in simply acknowledging the basics of how many of us think about the church and the questions we’re asking.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. What would you add to the conversation?
A native of Columbus, IN, Kiersten is pursuing a degree in Strategic Communications at Indiana University Southeast. She is very passionate about getting involved, and manages all web and social media presence for her local church. Her passion is helping churches and organizations be more visible in their community, reaching people both in-person and online. In her free time, she enjoys photography and spending time with her family, friends and two German Shorthaired Pointers.