Gen Z and Physiological Needs


This blog post is the second in a series on how churches can think creatively about addressing the needs of Generation Z. We are using Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Human Motivation as a springboard to consider 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.

Your church wants to serve, connect, and share the Christian message with Generation Z. That’s great! But how do you do it?

You can start by meeting basic human needs.

In my last post, I wrote that Gen Zers are just like the generations that came before them at a fundamental level, having needs for bodily health, physical and emotional safety, personal belonging and love, recognition and respect, and self-actualization. These needs are identified in Maslow theory’s Hierarchy of Needs, which can help church leaders formulate and assess ministry strategy. Generations change, but human needs do not. Our methods for meeting those needs may need to be tweaked in light of new challenges. But the needs themselves are unchanging.

Maslow’s Hierarchy begins with basics, and is built upon a broad foundation of physiological needs: food, water, warmth, and rest.

According to Abraham Maslow, these needs are essential for human growth, development, and well-being. This makes sense. Consider how difficult it is to feel safe and secure when you do not know where your next meal is coming from, or to focus when you have an empty stomach. It is difficult to do the higher level things like mature, change, and grow as a human being if your safety and security is defined by a lack food, shelter, water, and clothing.

So how does your church meet the physiological needs of those in your community who belong to Generation Z?

There are many ways to do so. A first step might be preparing food and creating space for the Gen Zers in your congregation to enjoy a meal.

During my time in youth and college ministry, I worked alongside parents and members of our church community to diversify our food options at youth group, college meetings and other special events. We went beyond just pizza and ice cream (though we enjoyed those at times, too). Several members of our church community knew nutrition is a major key for overall health and were glad to help our students by planning and preparing simple yet nutritious meals and snacks.

But there are other steps your congregation can take. Professor Bob Whitesel of Wesley Seminary offers these ideas for meeting physiological needs include:

  • Family emergency services

  • Medical emergency assistance

  • Food and domestic hunger ministries

  • Housing and residential programs

  • Hunger/housing loan and grants programs

  • Disaster relief services

  • Addiction and recovery counseling and support

Even if your church does not currently operate ministries that meet these needs or cannot build self-sustaining ministries in these areas, you can compile a list of trusted community agencies who do provide these services and train key leaders to direct members of Generation Z to the appropriate resource when needs arise.

Ask yourself: How are the physiological needs of Generation Z being met in my community? Who is meeting these needs? Who is making sure this emerging generation is being fed, finding enough time for rest, has safe access to water, and has shelter from the elements? How can my church help the community, or point young people in my community toward agencies that can help?