We’ve met the Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y and most recently we’ve been introduced to the Millennials. But as culture begins to evolve and generations begin to age we now find ourselves desperately trying to wrap our minds around the newest and potentially the most intriguing generation to date.
Say hello to Generation Z.
This new generation “involves those who were born after Gen Y, so approximately 1995 to around 2010. It is the Generation that is now collectively under the age of 25.” The day and age in which they have been born in combination with the culture that surrounds them is unique and has never been seen by any other previous generation. “They are growing up in a post 9/11 world, they are experiencing radical changes in technology and understandings of family, sexuality and gender. They live in multigenerational households, and the fastest-growing demographic within their age group is multiracial.”
In every way, shape and form this generation is growing up under unique circumstances. For example rather than in previous generations where technology evolved over time Generation Z has been born into the midst of a fully evolved system of technological advancements. Information is at their fingertips and Social Media has allowed them the ability to communicate with anyone at any time anywhere in the world.
In James Emery White’s book “Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World”, he explores the nuances of this new generation and determines that there are ultimately five defining characteristics of Gen Z.
The first characteristic is that Gen Z is recession marked. Due to the fact that the majority of this generation were either infants or toddlers surrounding the events of 9/11 they do not see it as a defining moment in their lifetime. Instead the recession of the early 2000’s is the most defining moment in their lifetime to date.
The second characteristic of Gen Z is they are Wi-Fi enabled. This is one of the first generations to date that has the internet in their pocket on a day to day basis; they have “constant, immediate and convenient access to the web” and are able to learn about anything they want at any point in time as their greatest resource is quite literally at their fingertips.
Defining characteristic number three for Gen X is that they are multiracial and are in fact the most racially diverse of any generation to date.
Generation X’s fourth most defining characteristic is that they are sexually fluid. They have an accepting nature and believe that “sexuality should be set free from any and all restrictions, and people should be allowed to follow their desires, moment by moment.
The fifth defining characteristic of Generation Z is that they are Post Christian and are the first generation we’ve ever known to grow up in a post Christian context. This post Christian context means that a vast majority of Gen Z would define themselves as spiritual but not religious.
Another important factor to remember when considering the behaviours and tendencies of Generation Z is we must not only consider the world they are growing up in or the culture that surrounds them but we must also take into account the generation that is raising them. Generation Z has parents that belong to Generation X. When Gen X was young they had helicopter parents who over parented in many if not all areas of their child’s life. It is because of how they were raised that Gen X tends to want to be the opposite of what their parents were. So instead of being over protective helicopter parents Gen Z is growing up with parents who want to give their kids more space and independence – more space and independence than we’ve seen from any other generation of parents.
As a result of this generation being unlike any other we’ve ever encountered we as leaders in the church and as parents of this Generation have to learn new strategies and new approaches to presenting ad illustrating the gospel and the message of Jesus. We are faced with a Generation who is biblically illiterate and who claims spirituality but denies religious affiliation. The big question remains of how we reach this Generation and how we best reveal to them the love and grace of Jesus.
Whether you are a leader in the church, a volunteer, a parent or simply someone who wants to learn more about how to share the message of Jesus I highly recommend picking up a copy of James Emery White’s book “Meet Generation Z”, as it will inform you, challenge you, equip you and ultimately inspire you with the reminder that there is incredible hope for Generation Z.