The #1 Surprising Thing Your Church Needs To Know About GenZ

Gen Z is upon us

and if we confuse these students with Millennials we’re going to miss out on connecting with them and touching their hearts.

As James White tells us in Meet Generation Z, “If the heart of the Christian mission is to evangelize and transform culture through the centrality of the church, then understanding that culture is paramount.”

So sure, they’ve been brought up by the biggest generation of adults claiming no religious affiliation and they are the first group considered post-Christian but what is the most surprising thing about this cohort of students?

The #1 Thing

We know also that they have grown up in a snap chat world of weekly terrorist attacks, gay marriage and legalization of marijuana but what’s at the heart of Gen Z that needs to be understood and approached differently than previous generations? “They aren’t merely secularized. They’re not thinking about religion and rejecting it; they’re not thinking about it at all.”

That’s Right. The God Question isn’t Relevant. So what is?

…The human condition. All research points out that in the absence of the God question, the human question is close to their hearts. How should we live on this planet (and Mars when we get there)?

In one way they aren’t waiting for God to solve world problems so they are looking at what can be done. Sadly, they will realize that they can do only so much without God. Also, they won’t have a solution for their own human failings.

Introduce them to the Jesus they Never Knew

With only the vaguest concept of God, GenZ can approach Jesus fresh. They can see him as someone who did something about human suffering and religious oppression. They don’t see him through the lens of boring church rituals or their parent’s God.

We need to let them know that, “When you see Jesus you’re looking at God. When you want to know what God is like, look at what Jesus did and said!”

Community Before Commitment, Service before Salvation

They are less concerned if God loves them than if you or I love them. Starved for genuine acceptance they want to be part of a small group of close friends that loves uncritically. Unsure, they will be looking for constant affirmation. Only after standing that test will they be interested in the content of our faith.

A possible scenario is that we invite them to be part of a team building a house in Mexico before they have faith in Christ. We may have to change some of the screening criteria for our trips and other social justice initiatives. Groups that are constantly trying to prove that we can be Christians and still have fun won’t have much to offer Z.

A Reason for Hope

At the end of a retreat a student asked me, “All weekend you’ve been telling us that Jesus died for our sin… How did he die?” His brother yelled at him, “It was a cross, stupid.” Every week I hear another story like this from youth workers and my students at Vanguard College. More than ever community kids have no idea about what we believe.

Why does this give me hope? Maybe I’m too much of an optimist but I believe that when students have been loved by a group and they’re ready to hear about Jesus, the power of the Gospel won’t be warped by years of negative religious experience. I’m excited to see what Z will do with an encounter with the real Jesus instead of second hand knowledge of a religious one.

4 Surprising Things Likes Mean to Teens

Daniella: In my imagination, I see myself standing in front of a crowd, in front of thousands of people…

Teens share these same sentiments in a recent PBS Frontlines special, Generation Like, where Doug Rushkoff explores friends, follows and fame associated with the face book generation.

Maybe Likes matter little to you as an adult but according to these interviews Likes take on an entirely different meaning for teens in at least 4 surprising ways…

iPhone 6 Do Students Need it?

The new iPhone has come out. As expected there was a lot of fanfare and a ton of buzz.

I have had my current phone for just over 3 years. It is in rough shape.  So yes I have bought into the hype and I will be getting an iPhone 6.  In fact I am really excited.

Tonight when I was lying with each of my boys at bedtime, I pulled my phone out to check the baseball scores.  My one son asked me why I am always checking the scores.   Ouch!

How about you?  Are you glued to your phone?  I wish I was less so.

How about your students, are they glued to their phones?  I know, dumb question, of course they are.  I would agree, students are pretty obsessed with their phones and social media.

Important Starbucks Secrets

I am sitting here at Starbucks

…and yet another group of teens is lined up at the till ordering, chatting, flirting; feeling very much at home. At the long table, a grade 12 student seems to be studying for an exam. She seems fairly comfortable in this space, with her head phones, latte, and free Wi-Fi, as she pauses to text. As I am sitting here, I realize the teens own this space and I am wishing that they would feel this much at home at their youth group.

As I look around I can see why teens like it here and realize that there are ideas that we can steal for our youth ministries…