Here Comes Generation Z
Recently in talking to a group of teens from a local Christian High School I asked, “Name a peer for me in school whose relationship with Jesus inspires you to want to grow your own relationship with Christ?”
They stared at me.
Then finally 10 minutes later someone named ONE peer that had graduated two years prior and the rest of the room agreed. It took another 5 minutes of wrestling for students to come up with just three other names.
It made me sad at first, then angry and discouraged, that in a school that I know focuses on Christ, a Biblical foundation, and discipleship, students felt they could only identify a small number of peers who inspired them in their relationship with the Lord.
I can’t help but wonder how this generation is approaching faith as a whole, and what is causing them to struggle so much?
Too Overwhelmed For God
Based on observations, this is a generation so driven by success and privacy they hide even their faith. We know this is a generation suffering from performance anxiety. In a survey reported in Time Magazine, “68 percent of Z agreed that they feel overwhelmed by everything they need to do each week. Almost half, said that stress makes it hard to sleep through the night; and more than half said they worry about meeting their parents’ expectations for the future.” Stress has led to almost 3 million teens ages 12-17 having an episode of severe depression in the last year.
Others will tell you that they believe this is the first generation to grow up in a truly post-Christian society. In an interview with Religion News, James Emery White, author of “Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World,” will tell you, “The word “post” means “past” or “after,” so “post-Christian” means “after” the dominance of Christian ideas and influence. To my thinking and observation, this is where we are culturally.”
In other words, our culture and society is no longer based on a foundation of Christian ideologies. Instead our morals are ever changing, and we have become a society who strings together individualized belief systems.
In “The American Freshman: Fifty Year Trends,” nearly one third of all incoming college students in 2015 reported not having any religious affiliation. The question remains, however, if they are truly moving away from religion or just choosing to see themselves differently.
If you think about it, this is a generation used to everything being personalized just for them: accounts, social media, schedules and even shopping. This generation wants to be seen as “good kids” who are against injustice. They are less likely to take drugs, smoke and drink while at the same time are willing to accept the legalization of marijuana and same sex marriage. All things are customizable so they want to be able to do the same thing when it comes to faith. They can pick their morals, and string together their list of right and wrong.
Awe But Not Wowed
In an article for the Gospel Coalition, Jaquelle Crowe, a Z, says this. “We don’t need modern music, hipster clothing, or hilarious preachers. Those things aren’t necessarily bad (though they might be), but they don’t have the power to tap into Generation Z’s heart and effect permanent change. We need what every generation needs—Millennials, Boomers, Gen X-ers, and everyone in between: to hear the truth preached. Yes, make your church culture welcoming and inviting to young people but make a bigger effort to simply communicate the gospel to us and allow us into community.”
James Emery White suggests that the days of apologetics based in evidence is over. “Instead of, “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” the question is now, “So what if he did?” Instead of asking, “Does God exist?” the question is now, “What kind of God would call for the killing of an entire people group?” Instead of testimonies about lives changed through Christ, their question would be why lives currently lived by Christians aren’t more changed, but are instead marked by judgmentalism, hypocrisy, and intolerance.”
They want to be in awe of God, following a process to enter in relationship with Him, not wowed by an event that grabs their attention.
My charge to the Christian high school students at the end of my time with them was to say, “Well, if you can’t find anyone in your school that inspires you, then how will you inspire others?”
This question evoked more stares.