Gen Z is growing up fast. The oldest of Gen Z are now becoming adults.
There is a new generation rising behind them. This new generation has been labeled as "Generation Alpha."
The name "Gen Alpha" was coined by Mark McCrindle. Mark is a social researcher based in Australia.
The "Gen Alpha" label applies to kids born after 2010. At the time of this writing, that would be kids eight and under. They are the first generation born completely in the 21st century. By 2025, they will number 2 billion worldwide. There are 2.5 million Alpha's born every week.
Gen Alpha is immersed in technology from the day they are born. They will never know a world where "app's" didn't exist. They can work their way through an iPad and smart phone while still in diapers. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they have an interactive screen built into their baby bottle. My nephew, who is 18 months is a great example of this. He can navigate an iPad with ease and watches videos on our smart phones.
Gen Alpha gets bored quickly. This is due to the fact that they are used to using multiple screens and quickly scanning information to find what they want. They jump from app to app, screen to screen, video to video, searching for something that will catch their attention. This is shrinking their already short attention span.
Interestingly enough, researchers say this is causing Gen Alpha to have shallow connections. They crave connections to people. Children's ministries that provide Gen Alpha opportunities to be relationally connected to caring leaders and other kids, will thrive.
For the most part, Gen Alpha is currently being raised by Millennial parents. As Gen Z grows into adulthood, they will also be the parents of Gen Alpha.
This means Gen Alpha is being raised by tech-savvy parents. Their parents get much of their parenting advice and methodology from online sources. Need parenting advice? There's unlimited help with the click of a mouse. Need to set up a schedule? There's an app for that. Want to know the best school in your area? Just ask for advice online and you'll get lots of input and advice.
Another factor to consider is this. Gen Alpha wants access to information immediately. More than any other previous generation, they want what they are asking for on the spot. And if you can't provide it immediately, you will lose their attention.
Gen Alpha longs for personal connections. Provide them with an environment where they are known and cared for personally and you will engage them.
One interesting thing to note is this: While Gen Alpha quickly scans for content they like, when they do find content that engages them, they are willing to spend more time viewing it than Gen Z or Millennials are. They have no problem watching a 30 minute video if it is relevant and enjoyable.
Gen Alpha also likes repetition. If they like a video, they will watch it over and over, coming back to it often. They are loyal, attentive and demanding.
They are also diverse. In fact, they are the most diverse generation in history. In 2011, the Census Bureau reported that it was the first year that more than 50% of children born came from minority families.
Gen Alpha will have the oldest parents of any generation. More women in their 30's are having children than those in their 20's.
The Alphas will grow up thinking they are a celebrity. Their entire childhood is being plastered on Facebook, Instagram and other apps that will come on the scene.
Gen Alpha is also used to getting answers to their questions...
immediately. They Google it or ask their digital assistant to find the answer. They will expect immediate gratification. They want everything...right now.
Their babysitter is an iPad or smart phone.
"Generation Alpha is part of an unintentional global experiment where screens are placed in front of them from the youngest age as pacifiers, entertainers and educational aids.” -Mark McCrindle
Alphas prefer communication via images and voice control rather than typing and texting.
They are also bombarded with advertising noise. Everywhere they turn, they are being targeted with messages. Advertising messages that are tracking with their interests, wants and wishes. All of this creates a buzz that makes it more difficult to get your message through. And even more challenging to see your message get stuck in their long-term memory.
All of these factors will affect how we do children's ministry.
Here are a few tips for navigating a Gen Alpha world...
Being inundated with technology all week, church may be one of the few places where they can get a break from it. The old school games like Connect 4, hopscotch, Legos, etc. are great to have pre-service for kids to play with along with craft activities, coloring, etc.. In the 80's and 90's, having video games in your ministry was a win with kids. That has changed now since kids have games and technology all the time and everywhere they go. They probably played games on their phone or tablet all the way to church. This makes the old school games appealing and novel.
Keep your services and classes moving and change what you're doing every 5 minutes or so. Definitely don't have a talking head drone on and on. Alphas get bored very quickly and will check out in 5 minutes or less when you're only using verbal communication in your lesson.
Alpha's long for deep connections. Set a goal for every child to be known by name, cared for and prayed for by a leader. Small groups play a big part in this. Work hard to keep your small groups at 6-8 kids. so kids have the opportunity to form deep relationships.
If you want to partner with their parents, then you'll need to use technology. As mentioned above, Millennials get their parenting advice from websites, Facebook, apps, etc. Use these platforms to partner with them.
Repetition is one of the best ways to get God's Word into kids' lives. And Alphas like repetition. Make sure your lesson repeats the main teaching point or other key things you want them to remember.
Gen Alpha is diverse. Make sure your ministry welcomes people from all races, creeds and ethnicities. Show this in your videos, advertising, print materials, etc.
Help Alphas understand that it's not all about them. The culture they are growing up in says it's all about them. Social media is their stage. Help them see that first it's about Jesus, others second and then yourself. This is what will bring them the true joy and fulfillment they are searching for.
Alphas are used to getting things right now. Teach them about patience and waiting on God. Everything is not instant.
Alphas read by images. Use images when you are teaching.
You are competing with a lot of noise. In order to get your teaching truth into their minds, you'll need to use repetition. And the points you want them to remember...keep them short and sweet.
I'm excited about reaching the Alphas. We have a great opportunity to share the Gospel with them and see them come to Christ. My prayer is that God will give us the wisdom and understanding to meet them where they are and lead them into a relationship with Jesus.