How Can the Church Reach the Most Connected and Distracted Generation Ever?
By Mark Moring
So, you’re a youth pastor, and you’re talking to your teens about a Very Important Topic.
A few might be making eye contact with you, maybe even taking an occasional glance at that nifty PowerPoint you stayed up all night putting together. But most have their heads bowed—not in prayer, but glued to that little glowing screen in the palms of their hands.
The good news is that many of them really are paying attention. Many of the kids in Generation Z—those born since the mid-1990—are proficient multitaskers. They can talk on the phone while texting a friend while posting on Instagram while watching TV while doing their homework while … you get the point. They’re wired in all directions—including into you and your presentation—so they’re engaged and totally getting it.
The bad news is that for each of those kids, there are likely just as many who aren’t tuned in to your lesson because Z’s are easily distracted by that same little glowing screen in their hands. Few things are calling out to them more loudly than their smartphones with their addicting apps and social media feeds.
But the great news is that while it may be complex to connect with Gen Z, the payoff down the road could really shake up the Church in ways we can’t even imagine. Decades of declining attendance, lost faith, rejection of morals and authority and absolutes and truth—all those things just might make a comeback. Might.
In his introduction to Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World (BakerBooks), James Emery White writes that Z’s “will be the most religious force in the West and the heart of the missional challenge facing the church.”
Like the baby boomers, Generation X, and millennials before them, Gen Z’s have their own ways of seeing the world—even if it is primarily through that little glowing screen. And, as always, parents and pastors must know their audience.
“We have to be students of the culture,” says Jim Burns, executive director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. “We have to look at who and what is affecting their generation. And it’s complicated.”