3 Things to Consider as You Seek to Reach Gen Z & the Current Climate of Our Students
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Is church attendance still down for you?
Maybe it’s COVID hesitation?
Maybe it’s Gen Z’s lack of attachment to institutionalized religion?
Maybe it’s busy schedules?
I think one of the biggest disruptors to church attendance and engagement overall is that Gen Z is so much different than any of the previous generations we’ve been tasked to reach in the church in the past.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly feel like one of the major themes I hear from parents, students, and grandparents is simply that students aren’t as interested in what’s being offered at church anymore.
If you're like me, it probably is a bit heart-breaking and intimidating to hear that. This is especially true if it’s coming from a deacon’s kid, an elder’s kid, or worse, one of your senior pastor’s family members.
An added layer of complexity to this conversation is that (right or wrong) your performance evaluation is often directly tied to the success of that student being in the room.
But of course, the tension is that you know to be a good pastor, director, or youth worker, you should shepherd that student with care, despite not getting “credit” for them being “in the building.”
And to add to the already complicated situation, you know that the parent, not you, are the primary discipler of that teenager.
You find yourself facing a tricky conundrum.
Before giving you a one-size-fits-all answer (because let's be honest, there really is no such thing as that!), I would be inclined to try to dig into the reason why the student isn’t interested in attending church. I would want to discover the “why.”
Often, what’s beneath the lack of desire to go to church are things like:
- Students aren’t sure who is planning on being there.
- Students aren’t comfortable in the situation, and it’s easier to hide it behind apathy.
- Students are truly not interested in content that centers around Jesus. Sad, but possibly true.
As a youth leader, here are three things to consider as you seek to reach Gen Z and the current climate of our teenagers.
1. Structure For What You Need, Not What You Have
Often, we only recruit for the need we have right in front of us. But if your current group of leaders isn’t able to effectively keep up with the students who are currently attending, how will you be able to facilitate things if those students you’re hoping for actually do show up?
2. Stop Putting So Much Effort Into Your Programming
Gen Z is less and less interested in polished and finished products. It’s because of Gen Z that we have less polished social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram stories. They’re looking for real, authentic, and connection. How can you offer the students who aren’t in attendance a place to connect?
3. Let Them Contribute
It feels almost oxymoronic to give away leadership to a student who isn’t attending church, but what if you found a way to tap into their knowledge and things that interest them? For example, what if you ask them for something they or a friend would enjoy going to, watching online, or participating in? By doing that, you give that student some ownership or control.
All of this feels a lot more like the long game than what youth ministry felt like pre-COVID. That’s ok, but we’re not living in a pre-COVID world, so how do we make the most of the church and students that God has given us in the here and now?
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- What are other trends in church attendance or Gen Z that you’re noticing?
- How have you capitalized on the uniqueness of Gen Z?
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