Generation Z and company
Yup, it’s time to stop talking about the millennials. Thank goodness! Not because we’ve stopped caring about them, but because we’ve singled them out, over-analyzed them to death, no one can ever remember how to spell millennial (thank you, spell check), and it’s time to start talking a lot more about Generation Z – you know, the largest generation currently on the planet, comprising our 25 and younger population.
Unlike the millennials who remember dial-up internet and shared family computers, Generation Z does not know life without the internet at their fingertips (always), and they are the first generation to grow up in a truly post-Christian era. Generation Z isn’t “seeking” anything, nor are they bored. They are simply on to other things.
And so, we have to ask, what does that mean for the Church? How do we do ministry in ways that connect with generations that truly could not be more different? How do we embrace the realities of Generation Z along with everyone else sharing space with them on the planet?
I’ll be honest here – I’m still very much in learn mode so I am long on questions and short on answers. I put my two Generation Z’s on the school bus this morning for their first days of Kindergarten and 3rd grade. I watched them walk away confidently. They’re not unaware of crazy things happening in the world, they’re just convinced there’s nothing they can’t handle. Their worldview is vast because they have access to more information, more imagery, and more content than ever before in human history. They don’t believe there are obvious answers to every, or even any, question (FOR THE LOVE – give your parents some credit for the answers we actually have), but they are determined to ask anyway and sift through the possibilities as they come.
Frankly, I’m over all of the options – I’m part of the Oregon Trail generation wedged between the X’s and the Millennials. I just want to decide whether to press on for the next fort or sleep another night in the same town to do more hunting. Netflix, Amazon Prime and the lot are making it a process just to pick a movie to watch with my husband. Too many choices – ALL OF THE THINGS – are leaving me overwhelmed and weary. (But don’t take away my options – after all, no one puts baby in a corner!)
And so, what’s next?
Here’s what I know: the Church is uniquely positioned for the task of bringing everyone together because we have Jesus – the one who has never, in any generation, ceased to be relevant. And if Jesus taught us anything in his short time among us, it’s that we have to show up for the conversation. We have to go to all of the places, the expected and the unexpected, eager to learn and engage. As my friend Tom Conlon put it in one of his songs, we should have a drink with the sinners and sing with the saints. What he didn’t mention is how often we would mix up the two because we’re all a bit of both.
Maybe that’s one of the first things Generation Z can teach and remind us all – stay open, keep your skin thick but your heart soft.
I’m starting a message series in a few weeks on “Helping the Next Gen Win,” and I can’t wait to keep talking about how we pay attention to who is coming behind us, how we can help them win, and how we all can be BETTER TOGETHER.