You’ve heard all about millennials…
I myself am one of them. But what about the generation coming right behind them? Gen Z, born between 1999 and 2015. Some of you reading this right now are parents or grandparents of a Gen Z teenager. As an adult in my mid 20’s, I’ve had this preconceived notion that my generation wasn’t much different from Gen Z. I tended to think “how much could change in an 8-12 year age gap.” But what I’m starting to realize as a Student Pastor is that what worked for me as a teenager, as far as fostering faith, will not necessarily work for today’s youth. I recently read a Barna study on the correlation between Gen Z and faith and found it very compelling.
Gen Z’ers today are:
more captivated by technology - specifically social media -
and more likely to embrace different views on sexual identity.
Gen Z was born in a context where religion in general, and Christianity in particular, is no longer a major influence in American culture. In fact, according to the Barna study, teens 13 to 18 are twice as likely as adults to say they are atheist. In addition, Gen Z’ers seem to have a flexible moral compass that leads them to un-clear paths and prevents them from making decisions or judgements according to solid values and convictions. Throw the influence of social media into all of this and we have an interesting concoction.
Technology can help us socialize with people far away but it can also drive us to be less social. Recent studies are exploring the relationship between social media and isolation, and how it can even lead to depression.
Teens face a tension to portray themselves as happy, beautiful and successful.
In other words, to pretend to be somebody else. This can be damaging for a teenager especially in a time where they are discovering their identity.
Speaking of identity…
…most Gen Z’ers in the Barna study indicated that their ultimate goal in life was “to be happy”, and they defined happiness as financial success. Personal achievement is central to Gen Z’s identity more than family, background, and religion. These findings are not surprising and they seem to reflect the materialistic and individualistic outlook of life that permeates American culture. Christianity is “counter-culture” because it's communal and not individualistic.
Satisfaction and joy is not found in pursuing happiness, possessions, and success, but in a relationship with Jesus and the God who created us.
The deeper questions for a Gen Z’er are:
What is truth?
What is right and wrong?
Who am I and what is my purpose?
How do I achieve satisfaction?
Today’s youth are struggling to answer these questions more than any other generation and are searching for answers in the wrong places. The beautiful thing about the gospel is that it resolves these struggles. Jesus made the claim that he is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Easter reminds us and reassures this claim with his resurrection.
If Jesus is who he says he is, there is always hope. He is truth. He is the source of what is good. He is the way. He is the source of morals. He is our satisfaction and joy. Our identity is found in him. Every Easter I am reminded of this reality and it motivates me to teach and lead teenagers into that reality by any means necessary. It also drives me to live out my faith more authentically and transparently.
The truth is, in many instances, young people do not reject Christ, they reject a sociological and political interpretation of Christianity that they see in their parents and adults around them that doesn’t necessarily reflect biblical values. In other words, they reject hypocrisy and value realness. A post-Christian culture forces you and I to be completely committed followers of Christ. Not just a “Christian” on paper, but a genuine follower where there is clear evidence displayed of the hope we have in Jesus.
The resurrection of Jesus changes everything. What convicts me is that if I really believe in that, it should change everything about me. What I find intriguing is that most of the disciples of Jesus were believed to be under the age of 18 when they began to follow him. The resurrection changed everything for and about them and they ended up changing the world. I believe any teenager of today who is fully devoted to Christ can do the same. Teenagers are longing for purpose and to make a difference.
They long to make a change.
Jesus can empower them to do just that.
Would you pray with me today for the Gen Z’ers in our community and church.
Pray for parents and grandparents of faith who are raising teenagers.
Pray for those who lead and volunteer in Fellowship’s youth ministries.