Reaching Gen Z

March 26, 2024
Reaching Gen Z

Jesus came to seek and save the lost and He invites us to join in His mission. What a privilege!

“Gen Z” (those born between 1995-2010) is certainly lost. Research reveals this generation is the least religious population group in America, with almost 33% claiming to have no religious beliefs or affiliation at all.  If we are to reach any group, we must learn about them. Lifeway, Barna, and others have done extensive research to examine the characteristics of Gen Z. 

As our nation grows, Gen Z has become the most racially diverse in America. They interact with peers from varying backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs. Having grown up in diverse environments at school, sports, neighborhoods, and families, they cannot fathom racism. One in six Gen Z marriages are interracial.  

Gen Z has grown up wired to technology as an everyday part of life. Being “tech-savvy” has led to expectations of everything being personalized. They have strong feelings of independence and self-reliance. Information is available within seconds of a search on Google or YouTube. Gen Z is connected like no generation before, receiving news instantaneously about world events, but also their friends through social media and texting.  

Access to technology, plus having parents who were largely “hands-off,” has left them less equipped with basic life skills or real-world experience. They are more susceptible to becoming victims of scams, online bullying, or identity theft. Social media presents adventurous posts and filtered photos, all carefully constructed to present a perfect life. For some this has contributed to significant feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression, comparing themselves to others, or the “fear of missing out.”  

Gen Z has also been exposed to the world like never before. They see pressing needs, problems, and pain around the globe, leading to awareness and concerns about issues like poverty, human trafficking, and the needs of refugees. They are justice-minded but are also quite secular. They don’t know many “real Christians,” and much of their perception of Christianity is through the media.  

Though largely spiritually illiterate, they are spiritually hungry (78% say they believe in God). Most are not “against” religion, they simply don’t think religion is relevant, therefore seeking a “true” religion does not enter their mind. They are open to many ideas, interpretations, and the “perspective” or “truth” of others. Gen Z seeks relationships and people with whom they can feel safe to be their “authentic selves.” 

These factors present incredible opportunities for reaching Gen Z. 

First, love them. Create space for relationships. Have fun with no agenda. Invite them, not just to your church, but into your life. Include them in what you are already doing. Sharing hobbies, activities, projects, and outings provides opportunities for learning while building relationships rooted in trust. We must be like Jesus, who told his disciples he did not see them as servants but as friends (John 15:15).  

Second, talk to them. Create space for conversation. Avoid snap judgments. Ask good questions. Listen intently and with empathy. The resulting conversations and questions they ask will require us to be informed and curious about topics like science, theology, the Bible, etc. They are hungry, so we must love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, “always being prepared to give an answer” (1 Peter 3:15-16). 

Third, show them. Create space for participation. Show them how to “do life” and how to “live like Jesus.” Many have seen misrepresentations of Jesus and “religion.” A distorted picture of Jesus is not attractive. We must model what Jesus looks like. This is only possible if we are individually growing to become more like Christ. Jesus called his disciples to follow Him (Matthew 4:19). Only then can we say, like Paul, “follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).  

Lastly, stick with them. Create space for grace. Gen Z has grown up in a world of division. They have seen divorce in their family and cancel culture in society. With the press of a button on social media, friends can be immediately “unfriended,” “unfollowed,” or “blocked.” They need to see faithfulness. They need to see forgiveness. And like Jesus, we must assure them we are “always with them” to the end (Matthew 28:20).