Gen Z and the Need for Esteem


This blog post is the fifth 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 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.

The genius of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is its clarity and simplicity. You begin with basic human needs and move up, building as you go. At the bottom, we are reminded that every person needs their basic physiological needs met before they can move on to the next stage and begin to feel safe and secure. Once these basic needs are met, it becomes possible to look beyond oneself and seek belonging within a community. Friendships are built, love is given and received, and the person begins to mature and grow.

Once a person discovers that they belong, they then seek a source of esteem, a place to fit, a way to serve, and a clear sense of how they uniquely add to the life of the community. The word esteem means acclaim, respect, or admiration. It’s Latin root is the same word from which we derive “estimate,” or an approximation of worth or value. Members of Gen Z want to know not only that their physical needs will be met, they will be welcomed, and that they belong. They also want to know that they have something to offer, gifts and graces which they uniquely can offer to others.

The biblical and theological connections are plentiful. First, Christians believe each person is created in the image of God and thus have inherent value and worth. Each person uniquely reveals something of God, if we have eyes to see. It is in our differences that we gain a broader and deeper knowledge of God through engaging one another in community of faith, finding unity in Christ while learning from one another concerning who God is and how God is calling us to serve.

Gen Zers share in the divine image, and they are joined to the church through faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, it important that their voices, experiences, and perspective are honored even as they are challenged to grow, mature, and become wise as followers of Jesus. Gen Zers might call their congregation to focus on evangelism and to help them share the good news with their peers. They might cry out for justice and invite other generations as they seek to eliminate bullying, feed the hungry in their community, or work to make their neighborhoods safer so that young people like them can get out and play.

Christians also believe that each person is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and are equipped by God with spiritual gifts. Older generations can observe emerging generations as they live life together in community and help them to recognize those who have gifts for leadership, encouragement, teaching, hospitality, prayer, mercy, and more. Naming those gifts helps Gen Zers to see and know how God has uniquely equipped them to build up and serve the church. Not only will this help Gen Zers see that they belong, it will also help them discover ways they can grow and stretch and utilize their gifts as part of the congregation.

How does your church demonstrate love and admiration for those in Gen Z? What are young people in your congregation doing right now that glorifies God, and how can you shine a spotlight on those good works?

How does your church identify the gifts and graces of young people in your congregation? How do you teach Gen Zers about the ministry of the Holy Spirit and Paul’s teaching in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 on spiritual gifts? How do you recognize Gen Zers when they use their gifts, and how do you invite them to further serve the church as examples and leaders within the congregation?

Gen Zers are doing good in the name of Jesus right now within their families, schools, community, and your church fellowship. Find ways to equip them, encourage them, and edifying them so that they might feel loved, valued, and appreciated.