The following are quotes pulled from a paper compiled by One Hope. The insights are sometimes startling, but they should serve to help us as parents and churches as we seek to influence this generation. You can click here to see the collection in its entirety.
So what exactly is Generation Z?
There is a lack of consensus around official birth years for this generation, but in general researchers are identifying Generation Z as those born between 1995-2013
How is Generation Z different from the Millennial Generation?
More than half of U.S. teens agree that personal success is the most important thing in life, a jump of nearly 10 percent over Millennials. Compared to other generations, they are more likely to report that winning individual awards is important, and a strong majority (69%) say success is a matter of hard work, not of luck.
Two-thirds of U.S. teens report that they want to finish their education, start a career, and become financially independent by age 30. These tangible goals rank higher than more intangible pursuits such as “follow my dreams,” “enjoy life before you have the responsibilities of being an adult, and “find out who you really are.”
This just made me sad:
Only 1 in 5 American teens say getting married before the age of 30 is a future goal.
What about faith?
Gen Z appears so far to be the least religious generation we have ever seen. Researchers who have been tracking the religious attitudes of American young people across a nearly 50-year span say that in general, “recent cohorts report less approval of religious organizations, are less likely to say that religion is important in their lives, report being less spiritual, and spend less time praying or meditating.”
Although 58% of U.S. teens today self-identify as Christian, this is the lowest percentage of any previous generation that Barna has studied. Barna reports the surprising discovery that the percent of teens who call themselves atheists (13%) is double the rate of U.S. adults (6%)
Barna reports that even of the teens who say they are Christian, less than half (43%) have recently attended church.
Not opposed to faith…just apathetic
Fewer than 1 in 5 U.S. teens say dissatisfaction or a negative impression made them become less religious. Thirty-two percent say they just stopped attending because they were disinterested, with an additional 10% admitting they couldn’t think of a specific reason. This apparent apathy is showing up in other regions of the world as well. Even the one-third of teens in the UK who confess to believing in God exhibit a lack of curiosity about spiritual matters. More than half (56%) said they wouldn’t be interested to know more about God even if invited, and an additional 26% responded that they didn’t know if they would be interested.
“They are not an embittered, angry generation shaking their fists at the heavens,” writes one report about Gen Z. “They just don’t think looking up is all that important.”
This study has closely examined disaffiliation trends and warns that more than 35 million U.S. young people who were raised in Christian households may walk away from a life with Jesus by the year 2050 unless the Church takes action today.
Unsure about truth
According to a Barna study, although 58% of U.S. teens today self-identify as Christian, just 4% of them have a biblical worldview as compared to 6% of Millennials, 7% of Gen X, and 10% of Boomers. Barna gauges a biblical worldview by teens’ responses to seven statements of belief, along with having made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their lives today.
The report also highlights that teens are not necessarily confident in the beliefs they claim to hold. For example, though 98% of U.S. teens who regularly attend church agree that Jesus is the Son of God, only 63% say they are very sure about this.
Whereas 85% of Boomers would say that someone can turn out to be wrong about something they sincerely believe in, only 66% of Gen Z agree with that statement. This points to a growing minority of young people who seem to think that sincere belief makes something true.
Afraid of offending in the culture of tolerance
Teens were “deeply reluctant to make declarative statements about anything that could cause offense,” and seemed to struggle with anxiety over giving definite answers, opting instead to say “I’m not sure” or “I’m so confused.”
So…what do we do with all of this?
How should it change how we minister to our youth, raise our children, teach our teens?
Raising children to adore God does not happen accidentally. First and foremost, we must be intentional. If we want our teens to live with a Biblical worldview, we have to teach them that the Bible is the authority in every area of life.
Making a difference in the generation at large may seem daunting, and maybe we won’t make much of a dent. But we are going to be held to account on how we impact our own children and those in our influence.
Let’s get to it!!