For years, Millennials have dominated the discussion about youth. But a new generation has entered the social discourse: Generation Z, or Gen Z.
Gen Z is made up of those born between 1997 and 2015, and make up one-fifth of the U.S. population. While the youngest Gen Z-ers are barely out of kindergarten, the oldest Gen Z-ers are now graduating college and entering the workforce for the first time.
In other words, Gen Z-ers are beginning to have a major impact on the economy and culture. They’re shaping the way businesses market their products and services. They’re influencing media. And they’re affecting the way churches think about building community and spreading the Gospel.
Gen Z, Defined
What is Gen Z, exactly?
As mentioned above, Gen Z makes up what we know as youth and very young adults. The youngest Gen Z-ers are 6 years old; the oldest are 24 years old. But what makes members of Gen Z so distinct is not their age. What makes them so different is the way they think and operate.
Gen Z & Millennials
Despite their proximity in age to the preceding generation, Gen Z-ers have striking differences from Millennials.
While Millennials are more idealistic, Gen Z-ers are more pragmatic. While Millennials are starting businesses and seeking to “have it all,” Gen Z-ers are looking for communal identity and reluctantly joining the workforce. While many Millennials remember dial-up Internet and a world without smartphones, Gen Z-ers have never known a time without social media accounts and touch screens.
What they do have in common is social activism. Both generations actively invest in issues concerning the environment, social equity, and mental health, and care about making a positive impact.
Gen Z & Technology
One of the most distinctive characteristics of Gen Z is their use of technology. Called “digital natives,” most of them have never known a world without iPhones and social media. As a result, they’re super tech-savvy, able to engage with technology in a way that can feel baffling to older generations (particularly Boomers and the so-called Silent Generation).
95% of Gen Z-ers own a smartphone, and 83% own a laptop. Reportedly more than half of all Gen Z-ers feel uncomfortable if they’ve been away from the Internet for more than eight hours. And according to Pew Research, many Gen Z-ers say they are online “almost constantly.”
Gen Z, Religion, & Identity
Gen Z-ers are considered widely irreligious–maybe more so than any preceding generation.
Research firm Barna calls Gen Z the first “post-Christian” generation that America has ever seen. Though they might be interested in spiritual things, they are unlikely to have a religious identity. According to the same report, teenagers are twice as likely to identify as atheists than the average American adult (13% of Gen Z-ers say they don’t believe in God).
Gen Z-ers are also…
- The most racially and ethnically diverse generation yet.
- More likely to be “gender fluid,” using gender-neutral pronouns and identifying as non-binary (neither male nor female).
- Less likely to drop out of high school and college; on track to become the most highly educated generation yet.
- The loneliest generation. They need community, hope, and genuine connection.
(And just like all other generations, they need Jesus!)
Finally–as mentioned above–Gen Z-ers use technology a lot. They communicate, create, connect, learn, and buy online. They spend a lot of their time on their phones...and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
8 Ways to Reach Gen Z with Technology
Most Gen Z-ers find identity–and information–on the Internet. If you’re looking to grow your church’s youth, college age, and post-grad members, you’d better be prepared to do it with technology.
Technology usage can get a bad rap. Too much screen time, immoral content on the Internet, and unhealthy influence from social media can cause older generations, parents, and churches to give up on technology altogether.
While the downsides of technology may be real, that’s all the more reason to reach Gen Z-ers right where they’re at–on their mobile devices, the Internet, and social media.
The church has an enormous opportunity for connecting with an entire generation that’s looking for community and hope. All they need is a bit of strategy and the right tools.
Here are 8 ways that churches can leverage technology to reach Generation Z.
1. Social media.
Gen Z-ers are on social media, but they’ve learned from the mistakes of those who have gone before them. Despite what others may think, they’re not looking to put up a false sense of identity, or feed comparison. They’re typically looking for genuine connection and authenticity.
That being the case, it’s critical for churches to develop a well-rounded social media strategy for reaching teenagers and young adults. Depending on your church, that might involve accounts on Instagram, SnapChat, and TikTok (forget Facebook; only 34% of Gen Z uses the platform on a daily basis).
Here’s what to remember when it comes to social media strategy for Gen Z:
- Consistency. Be consistent. Gen Z-ers are likely to check your account daily, and expect frequent updates and activity. Keep posting (and more importantly, develop a plan for scheduling posts in advance)!
- Authenticity. Don’t worry about producing polished content to post on your social media account. Remember that Gen Z-ers are experts in producing their own content. They’re unlikely to respond to something that looks overly produced or formal.
- Video > graphics. Gen Z loves a good video. It might be easier to put together a graphic, but an engaging video can speak volumes about your church–and about the message of Jesus.
At the end of the day, remember that social media can help make people feel connected, provide information about church services and events, and even teach the truth–regardless of their age. When done well, it can be a powerful tool for the Kingdom!
Gen Z-ers have grown up in a world that’s more connected than ever before. For better or worse, they’re exposed to more news and information than any previous generation.
Gen Z-ers want to know that your church cares about what’s going on. Whether you’re publishing content on your website, your social media platforms, or your app, remember to acknowledge and recognize contemporary events. That might include recognizing a special holiday, or acknowledging a recent crisis.
In any case, take advantage of technology to connect with Gen Z on what’s fresh in their minds–and use that space to teach truth.
The best way to represent Generation Z in your church’s technology strategy? Hire or appoint a leader under the age of 24.
A Gen Z leader can take the reins on your social media account to help reach, connect with, and maintain relationships with other Gen Z-ers (As a side note, a younger adult might be more tech-savvy, efficient, and effective at managing your tech).
Here’s what a Gen Z leader can take charge of:
- Managing your social media accounts–including posting, coming up with content, and managing connections.
- Organizing events for youth/college-age–and spreading the word online and via social media.
- Coming up with a message that resonates with Gen Z.
- And troubleshooting tech issues–they’re typically tech savvy!
Ultimately, to reach Gen Z, you’ve got to trust Gen Z with your church communication, identity, and presence.
Nearly 3 in 4 Gen Z-ers say that they feel alone all of, or nearly all of the time. Teens are also experiencing higher rates of anxiety and depression, both of which were on the rise even before COVID-19.
It might seem counterintuitive to turn to technology in times of loneliness, but Gen Z is far more likely to use technology to look for friendship and for connection with like minded people. That gives churches a unique opportunity to use technology to help young people connect, not isolate.
To build community with technology, churches can use social media to engage and reach out. Use warm and friendly messaging and even use exclusive messaging platforms to give users the ability to connect privately with churches.
Remember that Gen Z-ers expect convenience. If your church doesn’t have its own app, social media accounts, or platform for giving, Gen Z-ers are unlikely to engage with you.
Once you do develop a technology strategy, make it easy for Gen Z to learn about your accounts, download your app, and navigate your website. They also have high standards when it comes to UX (User Experience)–if there’s a little bit of friction or difficult of use, they’re unlikely to keep forging on ahead. Make sure your website is user friendly and fresh, and make it simple and intuitive to give.
Tithe.ly All Access will transform your church from the stone age to the here-and-now, whether you need a new website, text-to-give, or a custom church app, Tithe.ly All Access has it all.
6. Mission and purpose.
Gen Z-ers are passionate. They want to be a part of a larger mission, and they want to make a difference.
That being said, the Church has a wonderful opportunity to offer Gen Z-ers a role as changemakers. When Gen Z catches the vision of genuine transformation through Jesus, they can become powerful advocates for Christ-centered change.
Technology is a critical piece of helping Gen Z get excited about the Kingdom of God. And it’s a critical piece of keeping them engaged in action–whether that’s through sharing the Gospel, serving their community, or using their creative abilities to serve God and others.
Here are some ways to use technology to keep reminding Gen Z of the mission and purpose of Jesus:
- Create social media posts that keep followers inspired and motivated. Personal testimonies, worship clips, and posts that speak to current events are all great ways to engage.
- Keep a message of transformation alive through the copy on your website, your app, and other digital tools.
- Offer online giving tools to help Gen Z-ers give what they can and make a difference.
Ultimately, showing Gen Z-ers that they can become a part of a larger mission has to start with the Gospel message. Technology is simply a tool to make that task easier.
If you want to make posting easier than ever, try using this massive library of free graphics and media resources for your church.
7. Frequent engagement.
Generation Z expects frequent connection and engagement with the accounts they follow. Keep in mind that they’re daily inundated with ads, comments, notifications, likes, and more.
Like it or not, your church needs to be strategic to break through the noise.
That includes frequent posts (as mentioned above) and cross-channel communication (think the same message published across social media, email, text messaging, your website, app, and more).
Like anyone else, Gen Z wants to be represented in your media and your message. Whether you’re creating content or writing a Sunday sermon, that means remembering people under the age of 24–and remembering what’s relevant and/or important to them.
The best way to do that? Ask them questions. Getting feedback from Gen Z church members is a great way to a) show them you value their opinion, and b) learn how to build community among young people.
To get feedback, use technology. You can include a survey via text, or on a link on your website. Or, you can DM people directly through Instagram or a messaging app to ask for their feedback.
Building a Future with Gen Z
Regardless of what you think about TikTok, social activism, and mom jeans, Generation Z is here to stay...and they’re shaping our future.
This presents a massive opportunity for the church to help a generation know Jesus without preconceived (and sometimes unhelpful) ideas of what the Church is about. This is also an opportunity to offer a message of truth and hope in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.
It’s an exciting time to be advancing the Kingdom of God among young people. And Tithe.ly wants to help you do it.
Tithe.ly is an all-in-one digital platform for churches that:
- Can help churches easily build a custom website and app–perfect for reaching Gen Z-age members.
- Communicate easily with members and staff of all ages–making it easy, convenient, and efficient to get things done.
- Offer online giving to make it quick and simple for anyone to tithe or donate.
- And more…
If you’d like to see how Tithe.ly can do it all, consider using All Access. It will totally transform the way your church uses technology.