5 Values of Generation Z
What does Generation Z value?
That’s a big question. It is also one your church wants to address. Your community may already align with the values of Generation Z in significant ways. If so, your next step is to point them to spaces in congregational life that show how following Jesus Christ meets their deepest longings. Emerging generations are disinclined toward organized religion, but it may be because they have not yet learned the ways Christianity connects with their God-given priorities, hopes, and desires.
But if you are unable to name ways your preaching, discipleship opportunities, and missional priorities help Gen Zers to have faith in God and to live as disciples of Jesus, perhaps it is time to do evaluative work, correct course, and create opportunities for Gen Zers to hear the good news.
Here are five values of Generation Z and a few ways your church can use this knowledge to invite emerging generations to join you in serving together as the people of God.
1. Interconnection and Deeper Relationships
Generation Z values interconnection, but they long for deeper, authentic friendships.
Generation Z arrived on the scene after the rise of the Internet and are “digital natives” rather than “digital immigrants.” Social media, cell phones, and other electronic devices like tablets and laptop computers have kept the world open to Gen Z through access to the web. They are constantly connected to their friends, acquaintances, media, music, video, and news from around the globe.
But this kind of constant interconnection has had a notable counter-effect. Ryan Jenkins, who speaks about Millennials and Generation Z, writes that Gen Zers have gotten tired of the superficiality they have observed on social media and long for something more. They see the limits of technology and want friendships within a tight community. While they are globally minded, they want local connections.
Because Generation Z is interconnected via the Internet, your church may want to consider ways to keep friends connected via digital devices. But be careful: Generation Z observes rules and etiquette when it comes to online connections. Do a little research and respect their boundaries. You may also want to create online discipleship resources, including articles that explain your beliefs, short video announcements that keep the community up on happenings, and a searchable index for sermon resources if Gen Z wants to learn more about a particular topic.
But don’t shift all your energy to the online world. Remember, Gen Z values personal relationships, and they actually prefer being together to interaction online. Create spaces where they can gather, connect, and share common experiences that strengthen your fellowship. This can be as simple as a game night. Having fun together forges bonds.
2. Social Responsibility
Generation Z cares about making a real difference in the world. How is your church feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and lifting up the oppressed? Gen Z wants to know.
Falon Fatemi writes:
“Gen Z cares about our society and planet. They want to make their mark, in part, by making our society better than past generations have managed to do. According to a 2017 survey by Cone Communications, 94% of Gen Z believes companies ought to address social and environmental issues (as compared to only 87% of Millennials, and only 86% of the general population). In fact, according to a 2015 research report from Robert Half Inc, 30% of Gen Z are willing to take a 10-20% pay cut if it means they are able to work towards a mission they care about.”
Fatemi is advising businesses, but churches can gain insight from this information, too. The church has a built in advantage over any institution in existence when it comes to caring for our neighbors. Our reasons for altruism, generosity, compassion, kindness, service, and advocacy are deeply rooted not only in the Scriptures, but are found in our broader theological convictions about God.
John Wesley said, “The gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness.” Following Jesus leads us into the world to do his work.
Generation Z is incredibly diverse, and they have grown up around a diverse population. Josh Perlstein at Adweek writes, “Studies have shown that Gen Z is interested in racial, gender and income equality, as well as environmental issues.” Writing for Burlap, Chris Folmsbee has observed, “As a group, [Gen Zers] are less concerned with the racial background of their peers, which makes sense, as more members of Generation Z than any previous generation are comprised of mixed race ancestry, particularly white and Asian, as well as white and black families.”
Is your congregation open to people of different backgrounds? Are you an isolated ethnic enclave, or are your in partnership with other, ethnically diverse congregations in your city? Are you reaching out to all your neighbors, not just people like you? Are you serving all the people of your community? Does your fellowship offer a glimpse of what it might look like for people of every tribe, tongue, and nation to glorify God?
You can’t force diversity. But you can open channels, forge partnerships, and show love for people who are different from the norm in your congregation.
4. Pragmatism, Practicality, and Stability
Gen Zers are pragmatic, practical, and are seeking stability and consistency in their relationships. The Forbes Coaches Council observes, “Both Millennials and Gen Z focus on contributing and value the idea of having a purpose. But Gen Z grew up during the 2008 recession and is inevitably more practical than Millennials.” Alexander Jagaciak writes, “Never knowing the peace and prosperity of the 90s, Z’ers have evolved to become hard-working individuals who are conscientious and cautious about spending their money. Due to the slow-moving economy Gen Z seeks for stability in life.”
In my experience, Gen Zers are looking for practical advice for living, a network they can count on, and a place to contribute. I’ve also found these sentiments in my research. How does your church teach and model a way of living for Gen Zers that is true to the Christian calling and directly applicable to the everyday challenges Gen Zers face?
5. The Opportunity to Start Something New
Generation Z is willing to tackle problems on their own by starting something new. Andrew Medal at Inc. Magazine writes, “This generation wants room to pursue their own ideas and solutions to the problems they see plaguing the world. They don't expect hand-holdings and they (likely) won't wait for someone to give them permission to voice their opinions and spearhead an idea. It's been clear for the past few years that Gen Z is more entrepreneurial than many other generations.”
Trust Gen Zers with some leadership responsibility. Ask them for their ideas. Empower, equip, and support them. Then set them loose. Mentor them. Counsel them. Send them.