I started serving at Grace when I was 11, helping manage tech for Gracekids. When I was 12, I began leading Gracekids Live from stage, teaching kids Bible stories and helping them learn how to apply truth to their lives. I preached my first message at age 16, and I posted teaching videos online that had millions of views. And at 19, I started working on Grace’s Pastoral Care team, visiting people in the hospital, helping people with financial hardship, and praying with people in need.
Who is Gen Z?
I’m a part of Generation Z — which is the label for anyone born from 1996 – 2012. We make up more than a quarter of the population of the United States. We’ve often been stereotyped as lazy, entitled, problematic, and addicted to technology. For some, these stereotypes are probably true.
However, there are so many positive things to see in my age group. Generation Z is poised to be the most-educated generation yet. We are planning to get married younger than the generation before us, and we value marriage more. We are less sexually active, and less into drinking, drugs, or smoking than previous generations. We value face-to-face communication as much as we do technology. We are pragmatic, too. In our careers and relationships, we’re moving back to a focus on security, pay, and practicality, adding those things back to finding meaning.
How Gen Z Can Influence the Church
As someone who has grown up at Grace, I’ve watched my generation’s strengths make a difference in the church. So many of my peers are passionate and on fire for Christ, working in roles that most people would have never chosen someone so young to fill. And I think that’s exactly what sets Grace apart from the majority of other churches.
Grace values the next generation and challenges them, and I believe that is the key to success with Gen Z.
Many of my generation are still drudging their way through the “teenage years,” a time in life where it seems “super cool” to be disinterested or totally apathetic. If that describes a Gen Zer that you know, I wouldn’t worry about it too much — it really is just a phase. However, I challenge you to do what was done for me: I was given an express ticket straight out of that stage of life by leaders who believed in me and poured wisdom into me at a young age.
How the Church Can Influence Gen Z
Every leader that made a big difference in my life has had two things in common:
The first thing is that I was connected to them through the church — not school, not sports — the church. The second is that these leaders gave me real responsibility, even when I was immature and it seemed like I might not be able to handle it.
These responsibilities changed me. Instead of waiting for me to be at a place where they had complete confidence, my leaders and mentors challenged me when they knew it was possible I might fail. When they did that, I rose to the occasion, taking large strides to grow and mature so that I could meet the goals that were set before me.
As I write this article I am less than a month out from getting married — a giant change in my life that I don’t feel 100% prepared for, but I know that God is making a way for another season of major growth. If I waited for when the time was “just right” or when I felt “totally prepared,” I would never get married or move forward in anything. But instead, walking with faith into a place where I am not fully comfortable always promotes maturity and change. I believe that this is not just a “me” thing either. I have seen this with my Gen Z friends and co-workers, who just needed someone to see something in them and give them a chance.
Whether you realize it or not, you probably have influence over someone in my generation. Maybe it’s your own kid, maybe it’s a co-worker, or even just someone you interact with once in a while in the church lobby. No matter how big or how small, it is our job as Christians to properly steward the influence that we are given.
So, examine your influence and see how you can use it to build up the next generation to serve the Kingdom. I have no doubt that I would not be who I am today without the leaders that helped guide me in the direction of the Lord — leaders that sparked excitement in my heart by giving me a role to play in the Kingdom of God. In order for anyone to be passionate about anything, they need to have a stake in it. I was set on mission for Christ by my leaders when I was very young, and I plan to keep following and fulfilling His mission.
Generation Z is not only the future of the church, but the church today, and by keeping them here, and trusting them with real responsibility, you can be part of helping their unique perspective continue to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.
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