By Mary Frances, Senior Missional Consultant
Perhaps you heard the news this week that a Gen Z person will be heading to Congress for the first time in our history. Maxwell Frost, 25 years old, was elected on November 8th to represent Florida’s 10th congressional district. Why is this such a big deal? Well, politics, like the church, has a problem with folks aging out. The average age in Congress is 58 years old. The predominant generation in most churches is Baby Boomer – which just misses including those 58-year-olds! In reality, the average age of church attendees is older than that of folks in Congress.
What this really means is that Gen Z is coming of age and coming into leadership roles. This is great news. Gen Z is the blanket term for people born between the late 1990s and the early 2010s and for a long time now Gen Z was the butt of many jokes. The folks who comprise Gen Z were thought to be soft, to have been coddled, and slow to launch. The reality we are finding, according to a Stanford University study, is that they are just doing it their own way. Gen Z folks tend to be self-drivers, value diversity, and flexibility, and are collaborative, as well as pragmatic in their approach to big issues like climate change. Also, they are not afraid to say what they think. They question why things have “always been done that way” connecting the dots between life, work, politics, and social justice. For them, it’s all connected.
We also know from various studies of religions and church attendance that Gen Z attendance is coming in at 40% and dropping. Of course, it would be great if these new up-and-coming leaders came to church, yet we know that won’t magically happen. But what if your congregation was intentional about seeking out the Gen Z folks in your community, listening to them, to their needs, their values, their concerns, and their thoughts and questions about faith and church? It was interesting to note in the Stanford study that, when asked about their preferred mode of communication (text, email, DM, etc.), Gen Z members said in person.
The Neighborhood Insight Report from FaithX as well as maps from MapDash for Faith Communities can help you determine where the Gen Z population in your community is concentrated. From there you can start to determine a path for conversations. Certainly, it may be true that if you can engage folks from the Gen Z population in conversation about faith and church, you might not like what you hear. And, in their truth-telling, Gen Z just might have answers that help save and shape the church for future generations.