Shane Stacey is national director of ReachStudents and a member of First EFC in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Are you aware that the students you are ministering today have already been given a new name? Generation Z is the name marketers are using to describe those who are currently under the age of 18.
The message of the gospel is unchanging, but our world is constantly changing—faster now than ever before. One way we know change is happening even faster is that generations used to span 20 years, but now we’re needing to create sub-groups within generations. Generation Z (those born 1995-present) is really the last segment of the Millennials.
Obviously, generational studies are sort of like the Proverbs. They are not promises, but principles and insights that are generally true. Marketers spend millions each year researching and studying young people–what they value and what has shapes them. Let’s take a look at what’s been found so far.
Fact: They are eager to start working. 55 percent of high school students feel pressure by their parents to gain early professional experience.
Question: How have we seen seen extracurricular involvement steadily increasing and what are the implications to how and when we engage students?
Fact: They intend to change the world. Social entrepreneurship is one of the most popular career choices. 26 percent are already volunteering. Entrepreneurship is in their DNA. 72 percent of high school students want to start a business.
Question: How are we providing real leadership opportunities for youth in/through the church?
Fact: Gender roles and norms are blurring, which may make it harder for Gen Z to find mates and maintain households when they become adults. Self-identity is less constructed by gender than for past generations.
Question: What new opportunities and what obstacles to the gospel and biblical discipleship does this create?
Fact: While parents of Millennials were known to be “helicopter” parents—constantly hovering and coddling their children–Gen Z has been given more space, accessing answers and inspiration on the Internet, and are more self-directed. They use social media as a research tool.
Question: How are we helping parents help their teens think critically about information they encounter and navigate in the wild world of the web?
Fact: They are not merely “screen-agers” like Milleanials. They are multi-screenagers who multi-task across five screens.They have shorter attention spans – 8 seconds (down from 12 in 2000)! They don’t want to be tracked by parents (or youth workers?). 25 percent of 13-17 year olds left Facebook in 2014 for other social platforms. They communicate in symbol-think Emoticons and emojis.
Question: How do our teaching environments need adjustments and where do they need complete makeovers in light of how teenagers process information and communicate?
We need to communicate the unchanging message of God’s Word in a way this ever-changing generation will understand.