RULED BY EMOTIONS
GENERATION Z (GEN Z), made up of individuals born between 1999 and 2015, is the most nonreligious generation in America yet, according to Barna's new study of teens 13-18 years old. While the trends are not necessarily stunning—given this age of anything goes, Lady Gaga, and dozens of new gender pronouns—they are alarming. These young people are our children, our grandchildren, and their peers. They are critiquing the church more than any generation before—and we need to understand why.
The world, the flesh, and the devil are doing their best to concoct a recipe for the rejection of the Redeemer—and it's poisoning a new generation.
"The percentage of Gen Z that identifies as atheist is double that of the U.S. adult population." — BARNA
Gen Z is growing up in a culture that values emotions over facts. They have become comfortable with the message of relativism so often preached by our culture—a message that values tolerance over Truth. What matters more to this generation is honesty and authenticity. They trust their heart, which is "deceitful above all things" (Jeremiah 17:9).
And they are embracing atheism more than any other generation in history. While it's tempting to respond to these findings with the old dictum "Kids these days . . .", we must realize that before God opened our eyes, we were just as lost. Equipped with God's wisdom, compassion, and love, we can reach this growing mission field and lead them in the Truth of Christ.
ENGAGING GENERATION Z
It's easy to see that our society is not training the next generation to think critically. How could they when our culture no longer values Truth? But, according to our youth, the church isn't doing any better. Here are some critiques offered by churchgoing teens today:
Far from being offended, we must learn from these findings. We can't dismiss our youth and expect them to respect us for it. We must engage them and their questions.
3 CRITICAL QUESTIONS
When I first read these new statistics, the information was interesting—but it didn't hit home for me until I realized two of my own children fall into the Gen Z age group. Though my kids are not yet teens, this group represents the trends of their peers. Am I leaving the next generation and the next-next generation to be raised by their surrounding culture—or by the wisdom of God? Here are some important questions to ask ourselves:
1) ARE WE TOO BUSY TO BE BOTHERED?
Our lives are filled with devices, work, sports, lessons, time with friends, and a little sleep thrown in if all goes according to plan. It's easy to fall into a rhythm of just checking the boxes, neglecting the best thing while trying to ensure the good, but not needful, things are accomplished. It's time to look up—to relate—to listen intently and speak wisely.
2) ARE WE MODELING FOR THE NEXT GENERATION HOW TO PURSUE TRUTH?
When our children or grandchildren ask difficult questions, it can be convenient to sweep them away. But this kind of attitude often communicates that we are afraid of how Scripture will hold up under scrutiny. It gives the impression that we are not confident in the Word of God—and maybe even ashamed of His Gospel.
3) DO WE ACT AS THOUGH GOD IS BORING?
When God is not our focus and delight, we are telling Gen Z that they are right—God is boring. Yet He is anything but! Are we captivated by His goodness or distracted by earthly pursuits? Are we trusting God to do the impossible in our lives—or are our lives as ordinary and mundane as the nonbeliever?
WE HAVE WORK TO DO
What can we, God's church, do to counteract the trends that Barna has brought before us? We can:
We must allow God to work through us by living intentionally for Him. As we delight in Almighty God, worshiping Him, growing in faith, and proclaiming His Truth, He will soften hearts and draw Gen Z into His Kingdom.