As the calendar turns the page to another year, it is vital that we know how the next generation thinks, what they value and what they resonate with.
There are over 74 million Gen Z kids in the U.S. and world-wide there are 2 billion.
They are bringing change to the world and will significantly influence society as a whole.
It is crucial that we stay focused on Gen Z. Reach them and the world will be changed. Influence them and you influence the future.
Recently Pew Research released a new in-depth look at Gen Z. Let's see what implications it has for us as children's ministry leaders.
Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in the history of the U.S. Churches that want to reach Gen Z will recognize this and be intentional about creating a place where all races are welcomed with open arms. Among 6 to 21-year-olds, only a bare majority are white (52%). 25% are Hispanic. 14% are black. 6% are Asian. 4% are others. Today’s 6-to-21-year-olds are projected to become majority non-white in 2026 (when they will be ages 14 to 29), according to Census Bureau projections.
The churches that are effective will look like heaven. People from every race and tribe worshiping God the Father in unity.
But not only must churches welcome all races to the table, they must also invest in them and encourage them to move into key leadership roles.
Gen Z is committed to education. The older members of Gen Z are enrolling in college at a higher rate than their Millennial parents did at a comparable age. They are smarter. They are more educated.
A recent report from George Barna revealed that 13% of Gen Z kids are atheists. That is twice as many as their parents.
I can't emphasize enough how important it is to teach Gen Z why we believe what we believe. They can quickly see through shallow teaching, inadequate answers to tough questions and how the Bible and science can be compatible. It is crucial that we help them develop a solid, Biblical worldview that will last.
Studies show that over 50% of the people who have left the faith, say the reason they left was because they simply didn't believe anymore. Smart, educated Gen Z kids need to see the evidence that verifies the Bible is the Word of God....that Jesus was a real person who was crucified and rose from the dead and that they were created by a loving God.
This is one big reason why I created curriculum series that focuses on equipping children and families to defend and share their faith. You can see 12 months of the series at this link. There are also stand alone lessons that equip kids and families to defend their faith. You can see those at this link.
We must create environments where kids can face the hard questions and be encouraged to dialogue about them. If we want them to get the right answers, then we must be intentional about addressing the hard questions now. Look at these revealing stats.
24% of Gen Z say science refutes the Bible.
49% of Gen Z say church rejects science.
19% of Gen Z say the Bible is full of fairy tales.
Cute lessons about being good or cooperating with others, will not prepare Gen Z to follow Jesus in a post-church world.
Gen Z has various living arrangements.
65% live with two married parents. Of those children and teens who are living with two married parents, most live in dual-earner households.
30% live with cohabiting parents.
31% live with a single parent
To Gen Z, family no longer means just two married parents, where one goes to work and the other parent stays home to clean the house, prepare dinner, etc. When you ask them the definition of family, they consider not just two married parents, but also single parents, same-sex couples, grandparents, step parents, etc.
We must teach Gen Z that God's golden plan for marriage is a married man and woman, who stay together for a lifetime. While holding this up, we must also leave room for grace and belonging as we walk with people on their journey to Jesus no matter where they are on the journey.
If you want to reach Gen Z, then you must go to where they are...urban areas and the Western states.
Only 13% of Gen Z live in rural areas, compared with 18% of Millennials, 23% of Gen Xers and 36% of early Boomers.
I am thankful for every church in small town U.S.A. That's what I grew up in. But if we are going to reach Gen Zer's, we must start and build churches in urban areas. Remember when Jesus looked out and said the fields were ripe for harvest? When we look at the urban areas of America, that statement should resonate with us and propel us to focus on the urban, large, metropolitan areas of our country.
Gen Z kids are growing up in more affluent circumstances than previous generations. The median household income they are growing up in is $63,700. This is compared to only $52,000 for Gen Xer's and $42,000 for Boomers. Affluence sometimes can get in the way of people following Jesus. This is the case now and it was the case in Jesus' days here on earth. The rich young ruler wasn't willing to give up his affluence to follow Christ. The affluent said no in the parable that represented coming to Jesus.
It's not about money. It's about need vs. want. When a generation is doing very well financially, it can pull their heart away from Christ, if they are not careful. We see this illustrated in several of Jesus' teachings. Wealth can cause a generation to slip away from trusting God and begin to trust themselves and their possessions.
Bottom line is this. It is not wrong for Gen Z to have money. But it is wrong when the money has them to the point where they put it before Christ.
Here's a quick recap...
If we are going to reach Gen Z, we must embrace and champion racial diversity. We must not only embrace it, but lead the way in promoting unity and love for all...no matter who they are or what zip code they live in.
Gen Z is well educated and very smart. We must teach them apologetics and help them work through the hard questions that need to be addressed. They want to see proof before committing to Jesus.
"Family" is no longer just what you call a married father and mother with two kids. Today's families come in all shapes and sizes. We must be prepared to meet them where they are, show them love and grace and give them room to belong before they believe.
If we want to reach Gen Z, we must focus the majority of our outreach and evangelistic efforts in the large, urban, metropolitan parts of the country.
We must help Gen Z see that material possessions are not wrong, but it is wrong when you put it before Christ. Have money. Make as much as you can. Use your money to bring honor and glory to God and to help build His kingdom.
I am deeply burdened for Gen Z. They are facing things that previous generations never had to deal with or be entangled by. More than ever, they need us to help guide and lead them. It's a cause worth giving our lives and ministries to.