The Dos and Don’ts of Gen Z Ministry
There’s no question that Gen Z is a unique group. They’re the first generation that has grown up in a completely digital world - documenting their lives on social media and navigating a changing world at their fingertips.
Instead of adapting ministry to fit the unique needs of this generation, many facets of the Church have continued using outdated ministry practices that were designed for the parents of today’s youth. To effectively reach teenagers today, we need to continue to rethink ministry practices for the next generation.
We’ve partnered with Feed - a youth ministry initiative conducting research and creating resources to help the local church effectively reach young people. The following tips include a glimpse into their philosophy and findings for Gen Z ministry:
Do: Engage students in conversation
Don’t: Give students information
Conversation is a key teaching approach throughout the Bible to help individuals develop deeper faith. Jesus engaged in a rabbinical teaching model throughout his ministry, using questions and answers to help his disciples understand Scripture in new ways. Recovering open and honest dialogue as a central practice in our youth ministry both follows Jesus’ example and connects to the needs of Gen Z in a uniquely powerful way.
“[High schoolers] want to discover meaning and learn best by processing out loud. . . through open debate, multiple perspectives, and applied reasoning. That’s why self-expression and community are essential for learning in this phase.” - Reggie Joiner & Kristen Ivy, It’s Just a Phase So Don’t Miss It, 2015
Do: Share hard truths with students
Don’t: Give students easy answers
Open and honest conversations create an environment that allows teens to discover truth. Strong faith that carries teens forward into adulthood is established in discussions about God, the world, and ourselves. This generation wants to face hard topics head on - and doesn’t want to be told what to think without finding it themselves.
“Young adults with Christian experience say the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts. They do not feel safe admitting that sometimes Christianity does not make sense. In addition, many feel that the church’s response to doubt is trivial.” - “Six Reasons Young Christians Leave the Church,” Barna, 2016
Do: Include robust Scripture content in youth ministry
Don’t: Focus too much on the “hype”
The challenge of biblical illiteracy is acute among Gen Z, and the research shows that biblical illiteracy leads to shallow faith. Centering our youth ministries on engagement with God’s Word – not only preaching, but teens reading and wrestling with Scripture themselves – is a critical practice for fruitful youth ministry in an increasingly post-truth culture.
“Teens who have a high level of Bible engagement are 5.5 times more likely to recall a time when their religious beliefs changed the way they behaved.” – Attitudes and Behaviors of Youth, OneHope, 2010
Learn more and download FREE youth ministry resources - including small group series, research, and more - at www.feed.bible.
[this is a guest post from our ministry partner OneHope]