Reaching Gen Z is Vital for Your Church

by | Church Communication, Leadership

By Josh King

I’m a Millennial with Gen X parents and a Gen Z toddler. The topic of generations is a popular one in churches, and will be for generations to come! It’s a critical conversation with implications for how, or if, our churches grow.

New generations bring new life, but they also bring new challenges, and the newest kids on the block are Gen Z.

If your church is like many with an older congregation wanting to shift your median age younger, how do you create the right space for Gen Z? How do you reach the next gen in such a way they become a meaningful part of the life of your church?

Here are few things to consider.

1. Give them community, not just programs.  

As a Millennial, I remember being introduced to dial-up internet. My son, though, was born into a world where the internet is a tap, swipe or Face ID away. As connected as they might be to their mobile devices and social media, Gen Z wants to belong in community, and not just a digital one.

Programs can help create spaces for Gen Z, but they have to result in real community. We might define that as a place, to borrow language from my own pastor, where they can feel “welcomed, wanted, noticed, and needed”. I’ll get to that last one in a moment! Small groups led by caring and nurturing adults can be a great starting point for this kind of community.

2. Give them a judgment-free zone.

Gen Z was born into a world of likes, shares, comments, trolls and Tik-Tok. “Kids these days” don’t just face an onslaught of digital media, but a steady stream of critique. There are numerous studies that have shown the impact on them. As much as their hearts crave belonging, they crave a safe place from constant judgement.

Your church can be that for them, and should be that. What better place than a community where there is no condemnation, but freely-given grace? A place where adults are quick to listen and slow to speak? A place where they can be themselves and be vulnerable when they’re ready?

If there’s one practical thing you can do today to begin crafting a judgment free zone in your church, it’s to put away “us vs. them” generational language. The fastest way to erode any influence on the next generation is to consistently poke fun at them…and for Gen Z, they get enough of that already. It may seem harmless or in love, but they may not hear it that way.

As the staff member responsible for communications in my church, I can tell you it’s not about what you say, it’s about what they hear. Your generation isn’t better off or “had it worse” than theirs, it’s just different. As you embrace the difference, you embrace them. They are human too, and need us to be Jesus to them.

3. Give them ownership.

Just like every generation, Gen Z wants to feel needed! For a brief time before moving to Atlanta, my family attended a young, largely college-age demographic in Tallahassee, Florida. From the moment we visited, we were impressed by how many of them were serving! From the parking lot to child check-in, they were excited to be there, and excited for us to be there. They radiated ownership in their church.

Find a place in the life of your church where Gen Z can feel needed. Start simple, and don’t be afraid to give them more opportunity as they are ready to make more of your church their own.

4. Go to them.

Finally, before you spend a lot of time thinking about how to create a space inside your church for Gen Z, consider the community around your church. Are you near a school, college or community center? What are the opportunities to reach Gen Z there? You don’t need to create a program, but you can certainly create a presence.

Talk to other organizations in your area where Gen Z is involved, and find out if there’s a need and if your church can have a role in addressing it. It might be mentorship, tutoring, cooking, donating, or simply hanging out. The added benefit of this is forming not only individual relationships, but also positive relationships of trust with organizations in your community.

You may find your efforts to serve that broader community contribute to growth in your internal community.

You may also find all of this giving and going to Gen Z looks a lot like Jesus—and that always produces fruit.

Josh King is the Director of Communications at Perimeter Church in Johns Creek, GA.

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