Eight Characteristics of Generation Z
And what they bring to today’s Church
When you think of young adults, the word “millennial” probably comes to mind. But millennials are no longer the youngest adults among us. As the name suggests, millennials came of age around the year 2000. Today, however, there is a group of young people on the scene from a different generation with slightly different characteristics.
Depending on which definition you use, Generation Z describes a person born in the mid- to late-1990s. That means they began to graduate high school within the last few years and are just starting to enter the workforce. Gen Z comprises just over one-quarter of the population, more than any other generational demographic, and by 2020 it will make up one-third of the United States.
For the Church to move forward, we must reach a new generation. Here are eight unique characteristics of this young generation and why they should matter to the Church today.
1. They Are True Digital Natives
They grew up after the advent of home computers and the internet. They don’t remember life before laptops, cellphones or iPods. These things have always been there! That means today’s young people are used to constant change. It’s simply a way of life for them — and they handle those changes well. They’re looking for the local church to keep up with changing times as adroitly as the apps on their phone that update weekly.
2. They Can Multitask
With constant change as the bar and a digital environment of distraction all around them, they’ve learned to work on multiple assignments all at once. In fact, you might find them starting a task at their desk, continuing research from their phone while commuting home, and then finishing it later on their laptop in front of the TV.
They don’t remember life before laptops, cellphones or iPods.
3. They Have High Expectations
Because of the constant stream of information and entertainment at their fingertips, they’re used to a higher standard. Gen X grew up thinking 50 cable channels was amazing, while millennials really loved dial-up internet.
Gen Z members are used to always-on internet and making high-definition videos on their phones. The standard for excellence has never been higher, but the ability to reach it has never been more within our grasp.
4. They Value Face-To-Face Communication
It’s not all about technology for Generation Z. They view texting and social media as a tool to arrange meet-ups later with close friends. Because they have been schooled on the dangers of online threats, they would rather develop friendships in person. That means they’re more likely to have real, lasting relationships.
5. They Are Practical Instead of Idealistic
Growing up during the Great Recession has had a profound effect on Generation Z. Instead of chasing meaningful work, they’re more interested in the security of a good job. Because of that, they’re more willing to work hard and meet the expectations of employers.
6. They Are Entrepreneurial
They are highly motivated in their work, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to take a low-level job and stay there. In one recent survey, 72 percent of high school students said they wanted to start their own business someday. That type of pioneering spirit can lead to a generation of church planters in the near future.
7. They Are Independent
Closely connected to that idea is their independence. In reaction to the helicopter parenting of millennials, the parents of Gen Z gave their children more space. As a result, these young people can take on a task and deliver on deadline with little to no checking in.
8. They Are Global
Diversity is a default setting for Generation Z. Older generations may notice when the room is diverse, but Gen Z will notice if it’s not diverse enough. That means they are globally minded, they are more likely to support world missions, and they are eager to reach a wider audience in their church.
These are just a few of the ways that Gen Z is different, and these differences make it great. As they grow, the Church will find more things that separate Gen Z members from past generations and prepare them to meet the challenges of the future head-on.