As the millennial generation is slowly moving into middle age, Gen Z is starting to become the generation that is capturing the nation’s attention, and rightly so. Gen Z is set to be a very large and diverse generation. It is exceeding the records set by the millennial generation for its diversity and tilt towards claiming no religious affiliation. Gen Z is also a generation that is digitally native, meaning constant digital connection is normal, even essential.
But Gen Z is also growing up more slowly under the new cultural norm of safetyism. They are less likely to engage in risky behavior and more depressed than other generations at this point in their lives. Just when many churches thought they had figured out millennials, Gen Z has now become the new generation to understand.
But how do we begin to reach them? Their needs are great, yet many of them have no natural connection to a church. In many ways, reaching Gen Z is like reaching someone from a different culture. They may be American by birth and manners, but many of them are foreign to the language, customs and claims of the church. Perhaps we can learn from cross-cultural communication in reaching Gen Z.
Don’t assume they have heard the gospel.
First, don’t assume Gen Z has heard the gospel and rejected it. As more people are raised without going to church or having any contact with Christianity, they know less about the claims of Jesus Christ. They may be curious about the customs of the church and what Christians really believe, but they most likely will not be in church. Be ready and willing to explain the gospel in a non-church setting.
Don’t expect them to understand Christian vocabulary or symbols.
Gen Z is capable of asking very thoughtful as well as basic questions about Christianity. Be willing to talk about what might seem simple information to you, yet don’t get rid of Christian symbols thinking that they are confusing. Symbols can be very good teaching tools and conversational starters. Try using holidays to explain the truth and Christian background behind many of our customs, songs and decorations.
Be ready to listen.
Working with Gen Z will be a process. Have patience and ask as many questions as you can to understand their mindset: What are the truths they hold; what are the narratives they value; what are the issues causing them fear, pain, and depression? Getting to such deep discussions will take time, authentic friendship and care. Though we often think of decisions about Christ being made at an altar call, we should be prepared for more decisions to be made in living rooms, coffee shops and dorm rooms.