Gen Z and the Hierarchy of Needs

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Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) was a famous American psychologist who is most well known for developing a theory of human wellbeing based on the notion that all people have a hierarchy of needs. Maslow’s triangular diagram, which moves from a foundation of basic physiological needs like food, water, and shelter and builds to the notion of self-actualization, is burned into the brain of anyone who took Psych 101. The Hierarchy of Needs has been amended in recent years to include wifi, as seen in this example.

Writing for Millennial Marketing, Skyler Huff asserts that Generation Z can be analyzed in light of Maslow’s theory. Huff notes that Gen Zers possess needs for bodily health, physical and emotional safety, personal belonging and love, recognition and respect, and self-actualization. Generations change, but human needs do not.

Churches are called to minister to the entire person, and have long recognized that a healthy ministry will address physical, social, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual needs. Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, church communities have a long history of coming together and offering creative solutions to problems faced by their neighbors, offering food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, shelter to the homeless, job skills to the unemployed, comfort to the lonely, and more.

This blog post is the first in a series on how churches can think creatively about how to address the needs of Generation Z. We will examine Generation Z and use Maslow as a springboard, considering how Christians can assess and address the physical, emotional, social, and aspirational needs of emerging generations, moving from the basics on up to the need for self-fulfillment.

But before we get into specifics and formulate strategy, consider your own church. How well do you meet the needs of those in your care? How are you presently addressing the needs of Generation Z?

  1. In what ways does your church meet the physiological needs (food, water, warmth, rest, basic shelter) of those in your community? When and where do you meet these needs for Generation Z?

  2. In what ways does your church meet the safety needs of those in your community? What about Generation Z? Is your church a place that is free from violence, a sanctuary in your city? Do you have people who create a feeling of safety by listening or by encouraging authenticity?

  3. In what ways does your church meet the love needs of those in your community? How do you help people to feel as though they belong?

  4. In what ways does your church meet the esteem needs of those in your community? How are you helping people see that following Christ makes a tangible difference within your fellowship and in the wider world?

  5. In what ways does your church help people reach their full human potential?

Gather a few congregants. Consider these questions together. Apply them to your ministry to Generation Z. Get creative, and come up with ways to meet all human needs, helping people to flourish before God.