If you are in collegiate ministry you need to stop reading about Millennials and start reading about Gen Z. And that is part of the problem. Gen Z is so young (scholars are still arguing about when it began) that in some ways we don’t know much about them. Of course as with any generation there are some “hard” facts that can’t be overlooked. A few examples are the diversity of Gen Z, the size of Gen Z, and the context of Gen Z in an every more secular United States.
If you want to start somewhere with Gen Z you may want to read Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World by James E. White. The subtitle helps one understand his objectives for writing the book: description and prescription. Dr. White sets the generational years for Gen Z from 1995 to 2010. Of course, these generational brackets are much debated. However, I think he is about right give or take a year. Gen Z is in college, either as freshmen or sophomores. If you haven’t wrapped your mind around that fact, you need to start.
Dr. White does a good job laying out several characteristics of Gen Z. They are the most diverse generation, they will be the largest generation, they are recession marked, sexually fluid, Wi-Fi enabled, and post-Christian. From a Christian perspective these are great places to begin thinking about the importance of Gen Z, and how we as Christians need to reach them with the Gospel.
Meet Generation Z is not a comprehensive book, so there is only so much attention Dr. White can give to these characteristics. He gives most attention to the impact of technology and living in a post-Christian culture. I think that is justified.
In part two of the book, “A New Approach”, Dr. White turns to the prescription for the lostness of Gen Z. In such chapters as “The Countercultural Church”, “Rethinking Evangelism”, and “A New Apologetic”, Dr. White focuses on reaching a generation that is post-Christian, Biblically illiterate, yet spiritually open. These chapters give one glimpses of pathways in reaching Gen Z. Much of what he discusses in these chapters are dealt with in more detail in the work of Rod Dreher, James K.A. Smith and Charles Taylor. If you are wanting more in-depth analysis of these topics, I suggest you also read their books. But for a primer on Gen Z, Dr. White’s material is still useful.
On a practical level, Dr. White includes questions for discussion at the end of each chapter. These are great for a group reading this book as a way to get people talking and thinking together. There are also several sermons by Dr. White in the appendixes. These are included as examples of how he has attempted to address the problems discussed in the book about reaching Gen Z.
Even if you don’t have time to read Meet Generation Z now, I hope you will do some research into Gen Z and stop talking about those old folks, the Millennials.
To read my reviews of Rod Dreher, James K.A. Smith and Charles Taylor, see below:
The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher
You are What You Love by James K.A. Smith
How Not to be Secular by James K. A. Smith
A Secular Age by Charles Taylor
To read my take on Gen Z at the Collegiate Collective click here