It’s time to get to know Generation Z.
If you haven’t seen the research from Google on Generation Z, you need to go and check it out here. This research came out almost a year ago, but as presented the research at multiple youth conferences, I noticed that youth workers were not aware of this helpful information about Generation Z.
Millennials have captivated marketers attention for years, but here we shift the spotlight to 13- to 17-year-olds. One statement from Google that perfectly sums up Generation Z, “While millennials were mobile pioneers, teens are mobile natives.”
My guess is that you are either a Millennial or older. That means that you will need to be aware of how to reach up and coming generations that are raised with instant access to technology.
Here are a few things that stand out from this study on Generation Z from Google:
The top two screens used by Gen Z are smartphones and laptops. I can see the laptop losing its place on this list with the rise of larger tablets like the iPad Pro. This generation is connected. They have access to information instantly.
This generation will be watching movies, reading books, messaging, snapchatting and so much more on their phone. Their phone connects them to the world. It really gives them access to information that is their gateway to the world.
How are we at reaching students today where they are at, on their digital devices?
Are we helping students get a digital Bible? This really should be apart of the discipleship process. Especially with YouVersion and their sharing plans with friends.
Today’s teenagers are getting a smartphone at age 12, and it’s a huge deal. According to the research, it’s a top milestone for a teen. Up there with graduating from high school and getting a drivers license. A 17-year-old girl showed the significance of her mobile phone, “When I got a phone, it was really important socially. It was like, oh my gosh, you’re accepted now. Everyone wanted to be your friend because you got a new phone. Cyan, 17”
As teenagers are getting phones earlier, are we helping students understand how to use these devices? For a teenager today to live on mission, they really need to live on mission online. I don’t think that a 12-year-old is ready for a smartphone, but parents are giving them to their kids. This is the new passage of rites for kids entering into teen years.
Youth workers can be on the front lines in helping parents navigate giving their kid a smartphone. If this is a huge milestone for teenagers, how are we helping them navigate it. When you graduate high school, you have passed classes, when you get your license, you have passed a test. When you get a phone you have free access to the world, and all it’s good and brokeness. A lot of students are just wandering in the digital wilderness without a guide. The guide could be you.
A few months ago I noticed a trend. Students aren’t using text messaging as much. They are using messaging apps like facebook messenger, and Instagram messages. Which seeing our texting service we use each week reach less and fewer students, we decided to ditch the service and mainly promote through Instagram. I am not saying this is the answer, but this generation is way more splintered than ever.
Finding the top 3 places where your students are online and reach them there. That is a simple strategy that I have used for the past 10 years in youth ministry and it has worked. I communicate on Facebook, Instagram and I still print off a calendar to hand out to parents.
However, you communicate online, have a plan.
How to reach Generation Z?
This is the question of the year. How do you reach a generation that is quickly becoming a non-faith generation? Here are some tips from this research and some from what I have noticed works reaching 13-17-year-olds.
Training students to be missional.
Teenagers when asked about a cool product, their response was if their friend was talking about it. It shows how important Christian students who understand the gospel can influence friends and a high school.
Do students know what the gospel is? Do they know how to share it with a friend? These are all things that students need to know today in a post-christian world.
Creating a culture of invitation.
One easy way for students to invite their friends is to create seasons of ministry where it’s attractional. This could be as simple as teaching on relationships and adding elements like a donut wall, or a cereal party on a youth night.
Having a small invitation can also help students invite their friends. One surprising thing that has helped attract students is our calendar. Parents often take them and give them to parents of their kid’s friends.
We don’t want anyone to be embarrassed when they invite someone new.
It has to look good.
Graphically, it needs to look a certain way. I was recently at a conference and they had a breakout on youth ministry. It was an ironic moment when the youth ministry presenter said that we don’t need to be a graphic designer or a hype man or woman (I agree with what he said), but we were in a building that was modern, and graphically they were cutting edge.
We can say that it doesn’t matter, but really students will look before they show up. Visually what you are communicating needs to captivating. That doesn’t mean you need to be a graphic designer. It means that you need to know a few skills to help you be good enough graphically.
Here are some simple tools to help you communicate better digitally.
You are answering the questions they are really asking.
Find out what students are really asking and then answer those questions. Don’t answer questions that they aren’t asking. When starting with new students start with the basics. Basics like what is the Bible. How did they make up the Bible and when? Who is God?
I was at a conference recently with a speaker who is an expert on Generation Z, and he was saying that in his church he explains everything. EVERYTHING.
We need to do a better job at explaining why we preach out of the Bible, and what book we are preaching out of. We need to communicate why we are singing songs of worship. Why we pray and how to pray.
Looking at Generation Z gives me a lot of hope for the future. For the future of the Church and the mission that God has given his people. In a post-Christian culture, there is opportunity everywhere. We just need God to open our eyes to how he is wanting us to reach people. Technololgy is a wilderness that is just being explored, and we are able to help students navigate it and use to to draw closer to Jesus and be on mission for him.