Here’s a pretty jarring reality for you. While reaching millennials has become all the rage in discussions with many churches, Generation Z has taken over college campuses.
What does that mean? In short, churches and ministries, notoriously slow-adopters to new approaches and strategies, will once again be shocked to discover that by the time they get around to implementing a strategy to reach young adults, the game has once again changed. Gen Z is different than millennials in some key ways:
- They are more immersed in technology, if you can imagine it
- They tend to be more personally active in causes
- They want want more than mere tolerance; they desire togetherness
- They communicate with images: consider the rise of emojis
- They are more focused on the future with a desire to build towards it
In spite of these differences, there are 4 shifts that will help churches/ministries reach young adults regardless of their generational affiliation.
- Emphasize community. Millennials desire tolerance of differences and Gen Z desires togetherness. Both begin with living life with others, sharing experiences and pursuing a goal together. The rise of the digital age created a tremendous opportunity for churches to demonstrate the value of personal connectedness. Newsflash: Sunday School isn’t getting this done.
- Use technology. Millennials and Gen Z are both routinely surrounded by multiple technological platforms. On-line video platforms are a source of authority and a place young adults will go searching for spiritual content when they won’t come to a church. Newsflash: It’s not enough to have a Facebook page and a bare-bones website anymore.
- Re-think your communication strategy. Images speak volumes yet most of our communication remains text or speech based. Find creative ways to utilize images. Incorporate visual design elements into documents and gatherings. Newsflash: finally nailing that e-mail list serve platform has you caught up to 2005.
- Emphasize Jesus and the Gospel. Nothing drives young adults away faster than a culture of “Jesus and…” Your political affiliations, doctrinal preferences (and yes, there are doctrinal preferences that are not central to faith in Jesus) and personal feelings about the general state of the world may be important in places, but do not even give off the appearance that they somehow occupy a space remotely close to your identification with Christ. People generally toe this line so poorly that I recommend avoiding those subjects entirely until you have the opportunity to open a dialogue with a young adult. No more Sunday more mandates or dismissive one-liners about alternative viewpoints. Newsflash: young adults aren’t resistant to the idea of Jesus. They’re resistant to the idea of a church who uses Jesus as a platform to espouse their preferences.