Unlike Millennials, who were introduced to smartphones and social media around high school, the new generation, called Generation Z, grew up with unprecedented access to the Internet, social networks, and constant online connection. For Gen Z, technology is a major part of their lives and it impacts their relationships, learning styles, and simply how they see the world. For that reason, when trying to reach this generation with the Gospel, you must take into account its unique nature.
Liam Savage, who in addition to being part of the Indigitous Leadership Team is also Innovation Designer at OneHope, has done extensive research on this generation, its characteristics, and how best to reach them with technology. He has released a detailed report on his findings, the summary of which you can read here.
Giving a talk for Indigitous STEPS, Liam shared some of his knowledge about Generation Z, how to make ministry that seems relevant to them, and how to connect with a culture that is more connected than ever yet more emotionally isolated than ever. You can watch Liam’s entire Indigitous STEPS talk below.
During the talk, Liam shared three cultural trends for Generation Z:
Uncompromising impatience: Generation Z has an expectation that “they can have whatever they want whenever they want.” It is accustomed to on-demand services, high-quality experiences, and powerful infrastructure supporting that technology. With this generation, there is “no grace for poorly executed experiences,” Liam says, and we must be able to compete with the powerful on-demand services like Netflix and YouTube.
Identity conscious: Generation Z has always had a very public, published life. People are mindful about how their actions are perceived by others, which is seen in counting how many likes their posts get and in the careful curation of their identities. That curation can lead to inauthenticity, such as posting happy photos on Instagram of their perfect vacation even if they’re unhappy. This creates a “cycle of inauthenticity, trying to one-up others and show that my life is great,” which Liam says leads to increased anxiety and depression.
Never present: Generation Z is always being entertained, often second-screening. They engage in escapist binge watching. To a member of Generation Z, “the idea that you would be stuck with yourself and be unable to do anything to distract yourself is frightening,” Liam says. Shockingly, Liam cites a statistic that “over 50% of youth would rather have their right hand removed than have their phone permanently taken away from them.”
For each of these cultural trends, Liam shares what it means for us as missionaries and technologists as well as case studies of those who do a good job of dealing with those trends.
One thing I have head many people involved with Indigitous say is that “to reach people no one else is reaching, you must do what no one else is doing.” Generation Z is a largely unchurched generation who has little interest in attending church, reading the Bible, or engaging in spiritual conversations. To reach this generation, you must know the people and be able to connect with them on their terms. That’s why Liam’s research into Generation Z is so important and why we should all take it into consideration when crafting our digital strategies.
Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. (Habakkuk 2:2)