Here’s what would make a lot of sense: Because Gen Z’s are digital natives, they should be all over online church services, right?
The truth is, no.
I tweeted this article out—“Gen Z’s Looking for Religion. You’d Be Surprised Where They Find It”— a few weeks ago, but I thought it was worthy of a deeper dive. It’s based on some new research by the Pew Research Center.
A recent study by the Barna group actually concluded much of the similar findings as related to Millenials as well.
For sure watch the video and read the article, but I have a few takeaways.
First: Those under 30 are the least likely to tune in to virtual worship.
On the flip side of those 65 and up 43% reported watching services online at least once a month and at least 38% for those 50-64.
Let me translate this a little. Boomers are kinda-sorta loving online church. You just flip the switch, turn on Facebook Live, get the band back together, and all is well.
Look, I don’t want to knock online church. It’s been such a tremendous blessing for those in our community here at Pioneer Memorial Church and beyond. But what it does mean is that leaders need to think different. It’s not about bringing cameras and streaming the same kind of church service.
So what are they looking for?
Principle Two: Those 30 and younger are looking for more participating and connectedness
Zach Lambert notes that they want “something they get to participate in rather than receive. They want to belong to a community rather than an audience.”
Take that sentence and then ask yourself: how much of what we do as a church is primarily audience-based? How much of it is event-based?
For most of us, that’s where most of our effort resides. Again, if you’re just trying to reach Boomers, you’re doing pretty good. But if you’re trying to reach beyond that, there’s a whole segment you’re missing.
So a few related questions for us to think about.
First, how can we make the church service more engaging and interactive? At Pioneer, something we’re doing is including texting into our congregational prayer experience. People can text in their prayer requests and we pray for them live in the service.
Second, how can we make what happens outside of the church service more engaging and interactive? Maya Jaradat notes that what is missing in most services during Covid is “community, participation, connectedness.”
Can I tell you what I hear when I read that? It’s a huge blinking sign for the need for small groups. Are a lot of people tired of Zoom? Yes. Can small groups still be hosted and can community be fostered through Zoom-based small groups? Yes. Even better is to have small groups that meet together in a physically distanced and masked-up context, but online can still be positive.
Principle three: Those 30 and younger are needing the church to manifest biblical justice
The Pew study finds that Gen Z’s are not necessarily less spiritual, just different spiritual. This is related to the previous point: they want to participate in something rather than just consume something.
This explains why so many young adults have been involved in activism and standing up for what they see as biblical justice.
My guess is that we’re not going to have some semblance of normalcy for about another year. But, some things will never go back to normal. We need to take advantage of these findings to think differently and seek ways to be the church better.
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