Gen Z is nervous. They are experiencing more anxiety, depression and pressure than ever before.
Studies show that today's kids are 6 times more likely to have anxiety and depression than their grandparents did at their age.
Anxiety is the leading mental health issue among American children and continues to rise.
The latest study from the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics shows that, in recent years, there has been a 20% increase in anxiety diagnoses for children ages 6 to 17.
In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA asked incoming freshman if they "felt overwhelmed" by all they had to do. 18% replied yes. In 2000, 28% said yes. By 2016, 41% said yes.
What is causing the rise of anxiety among kids? Why is Gen Z nervous?
There are many factors involved. Here are a few of them.
Social media. Gen Z's self image is closely tied to social media. Who is "liking" them? Who is following them? How many followers do they have? What comments are they receiving? Who is clicking on their posts? This can create pressure for Gen Z.
And make that "constant pressure" because they constantly check their social media, in many cases non-stop throughout the day. It's the first thing they look at in the morning and the last thing they see before they go to sleep that night.
Social media has also made bullying much more common. Kids can already be cruel with their words in person. But they are much more cruel online.
Living in a culture of volatility. Lockdowns. School shootings. Church shootings. Terrorism.
Places that previous generations considered safe, are now considered places of vulnerability.
Whereas previous generations walked into school anticipating learning, Gen Z walks in to school anticipating violence.
Whereas previous generations were free to roam the hallways of their church and rushed out after service (on their own) to play, Gen Z has to wait for their parents to present a security tag. And in many cases, they walk past a police officer guarding the hallway of the children's area.
Whereas previous generations went to a movie thinking only about the movie, Gen Z is thinking about the movie and the fact that there could be a shooting take place in the theater.
Whereas previous generations went to the store looking around for toys, Gen Z is looking around for suspicious people who could be a potential terrorist.
The pressure to succeed. Everything is measured today and kids feel an elevated pressure to succeed academically, athletically and socially.
There's nothing wrong with competitiveness, unless it gets to the point that anxiety takes over enjoyment. And that's what is happening for many kids.
Pressured to get a scholarship. Pressured to be the best on the team. Pressured to get the best grades. Pressured to be the most popular.
All of this contributes to the rise in anxiety. Something must change. 38% of Gen Z girls ages 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime and 26% of boys will do the same.
Gen Z is walking into your ministry nervous. Stressed out. Full of anxiety.
The good news? You have a great opportunity to minister to them and bring hope, encouragement and God's promises. And you can equip their parents to speak the same to them.
Teach Gen Z that they are valuable to God and He cares about them. Help them untie their self-worth from social media and the opinions of others and link it to how God feels about them. Show them how much God cares for them by using verses like this.
"Look at the birds of the air," He says; "they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matthew 6:26)
Teach Gen Z that God controls the future. Anxiety says,"will I be able to secure a good job when I finish college one day?" Anxiety says,"will I even be able to go to college?" Anxiety says, "will I even survive high school without being shot? Anxiety says, "do I have any kind of future?"
To the these stressful questions, you can show Gen Z that God holds the future, their future, in His hands. There's no need to stress out. God's got the future.
"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" (Luke 12:25)
Show Gen Z what they can accomplish through God's power rather than their own. Much of the anxiety that Gen Z is facing is coming from the voices inside their own head. Doubt. Insecurity. Fear. These things can dominate their thoughts.
Unless you come against them with promises of God. The promises of God can help calm Gen Z's anxiety. The promises of God can help remove the pressure of "performing" and replace it with simple dependence on God's promises.
If they know those promises. So, teach them the promises of God. Teach their parents the promises of God. Model for them how to lean on the promises of God.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7
"For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13.