Introducing

Generation Z

Introducing Generation Z

BY KIM HURTADO
BSF RESEARCH ANALYST
“… we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
His power, and the wonders He has done.” – Psalm 78:4b

I recently asked my son what he wanted to be when he grew up.  

Expecting to hear the words “doctor,” “engineer” or “behavioral scientist,” he quickly dashed those hopes. 

“YouTuber, mom,” he said. “I want to be a YouTuber.”  

It’s no wonder. Last year, a 7-year-old reported earning $22 million from his personal YouTube channel, Ryan Toysreview, where nearly 19 million subscribers watch him unbox and play with toys. 

Meanwhile, my daughter burst out laughing as she scrolled through my iPhone pictures and said, “Aww … what a cute old-people selfie!” When I asked, “What’s an old-people selfie?,” she fell on the floor in hysterics.  

(Apparently, an “old-people selfie” is a photo of your entire face. Young people intentionally crop out half of a face to make their photography more interesting.) 

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Gen Z.   

Who is Gen Z?

Gen Z are those born from 1999 to 2015. This generation currently constitutes the largest percentage of the country’s population, eclipsing American Baby Boomers, who held the majority for close to 50 years. 

The old order is fading, and the new order is growing 

What do Gen Zers believe?

The U.S. marketing research firm Barna Group says that unlike previous generations, when it comes to religious identity, only 4% of Gen Z have a biblical worldview. 

The percentage who identify as atheist – 13% – is double that of all U.S. adults. That may seem like a small number, but Americans are saying, “there is no God” at increasingly younger ages.

According to Pew Research Center, the “nones,” or people who do not identify with any religion, are at the highest percentages in history. This includes 23% of all U.S. adults and 35% of U.S. adult Millennials, a trajectory that Gen Z will continue. 

And more than half say that happiness is their ultimate goal in life, which equates to financial success.

What’s influencing them?

Gen Z is the first generation to have been exposed to smart technology and social media from birth. According to Barna, 57% of kids and teens look at the screen four or more hours per day; 26% spend eight or more hours a day on their devices – that’s an entire work day!  (My son requires an entire power strip to charge his devices!) 

In this digital world and as a result of social media, we have entered the era of the “democratization of influence.” In previous generations, family heritage and upbringing were the top influences in forming a person’s identity. But Barna reports that Gen Z ranks these fifth.  

While family, teachers, pastors or coaches used to be the primary voices of influence, we now compete with a multitude of worldviews streamed directly to kids’ devices. This generation is being discipled by their smart phones, YouTube and Google. 

This generation is being discipled by their smart phones, YouTube and Google. 

As a result, Gen Z is exposed to a false sense of reality. YouTubers often spend hours editing videos to portray a personal brand. On social media, kids are less likely to cultivate meaningful relationships because of an increased pressure to create a flawless, happy, successful or funny persona.   

The same technology that was designed to “make the world more open and connected,” which was Facebook’s original mission statement, is helping kids disengage from physical communities and relationships. 

Therefore, it should not surprise us that we are seeing an exponential rise in depression and lonliness.

From 2000 to 2016, the U.S. suicide rate increased 30%. Among females, the number skyrocketed to 50%. For teen girls, the number tripled since 2000. 

We can help

Surprisingly, Barna research shows that this young generation – whose top priority is attaining happiness and financial success – is willing to ask difficult questions about the meaning of life. The study reports that the rise in moral relativism, or the lack of a strong moral code, arises more from a confusion about truth than an actual rejection of it.  

So, this generation is not necessarily rejecting the God of the Bible. They know little about Him.  

What an opportunity! In love, patience and understanding, let us help them see the Lord. 

Judges 2:10 reminds us that there were consequences when the Israelites failed to instruct their children in the ways of the Lord.

 “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10)

Let us not repeat that.  

My hope is that God’s Word awakens an excitement to reach the next generation for Christ, instilling a sense of purpose and mission in each and every one of us.   

We do not have to know all the answers. We can simply share what God has done for us. Through our time in God’s Word in our BSF studies, we have much to share!  

As we look beyond ourselves, let us be willing to engage – not just with our minds and our theology, but with a humble heart, free of judgment. We can have a heart that is willing to say, “I don’t know all the answers. But I know that I love you. Let’s search for the answer together.”   

“My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth.  I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old – things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.” (Psalm 78: 1-7)

145 Comments

  1. Charlotte

    Forgive me for posting one last time on this thread, I am impressed with all the ideas everyone is sharing. With what we went through with our generation Z child, when she was at the school that aggressively taught against the Bible, we went through spiritual warfare. I failed to say, in my previous posts, that I owe a debt of gratitude to BSF, the large group lecture leaders, the small group leaders, the children’s leaders and teachers, and my fellow sisters-in-Christ. Everyone backed us up and supported us in this difficult time. My dear sisters-in-Christ, in my group, showed me that God is bigger than I could ever imagine and I am so grateful. I don’t know how I would have made it without them. Also, even though some might not recognize a need for apologetics, I have noticed that our lessons cause us to think and question. Then in small group, large, group, and in the reading, we learn the answers. I have noticed we are often “front loaded” with answers that we can then use to teach our families. I think some apologetics are imbeded into our lessons even if some think they don’t need them. Thank you BSF.

  2. Joe Strader

    The following is a long comment. I have been thinking about this for a while.

    Throughout history, the proclamation of the Word has changed with technology. What once began as an oral tradition moved through scrolls, books, newsletters and magazines, audio and video.

    First, I would certainly continue the current class/group format. It is a blessing to many people.

    The latest generation does not get information from books. They generally do not sit for religious lectures or sermons like we may have. However, they do have their media and the ways they digest it.

    If I were to add to BSF to meet a modern need, I would develop a web/phone application in which a close group of “followers” were to participate in comment threads about the current scripture. It would parallel the current group discussion lesson plan, but instead of a GL there would be a moderator leader (ML) that would initiate discussions and create daily threads from the daily questions. Groups may need multiple ML’s. Once a week, the followers would get a link to a video lecture, but please call it something else besides “lecture.” The video could be from anywhere in BSF. Lecture sounds too collegiate and like work. It might be better to have daily 2-4 minute videos, the way much content is distributed. The ML’s would have their own parallel discussion thread under a coordinating leader (CL) that would help plan and train for the weekly discussion threads.

    The structure should maintain the weekly flow of the in-class participants. However, I do not think there should be a necessity for the thread participants to be connected geographically. They should be allowed to form organically coming in by invitation and their own request. They should be mixed groups if desired. They should be age neutral. The groups would form dynamically. A new “terms of participation” may need to be developed to communicate the understanding of what is acceptable discussion and the limits of dialog. Upon joining, they would be told if there is a class in the area and should be invited to attend lecture if they desire.

    The comment thread would be highly interactive with minimal interaction of the ML except to steer the conversation. The ML’s job would be daily and ongoing, but the time needed need not be excessive. People could join the group by invitation, but there would be an understanding that groups would be split if they got too large.

    Instead of a reference and a link to scripture, inserting the text into the thread would be preferred (copyright permissions necessary). The participants in the thread should be encouraged to seek outside resources but to limit the thread discussions to the personal thoughts and understanding of the participant. Denominational discussions would be discouraged.

    So imagine this. As a participant you would get a notification that your ML has just posted a new discussion thread. You would go to that and see the current discussion and enter into the discussion if you desire. You could set your app to notify you of responses to your posts or new posts in the thread. The heading of all threads is the scripture under discussion. There would be a reference to the scripture for the discussion the following day. The threads would be grouped as they are now with a daily context, a weekly context, and a 30 week study context. There would be open participation in active threads, previous threads would be available for reference but additional comments closed. Future discussion threads to be opened would be available in an outline format.

    Comment threads would replace discussion groups. The participation would be closed to group members only and outsiders could not participate. However, there could also be a different type of discussion thread that follows the same calendar format but is an open forum format. Anyone registered at MyBSF could participate and all comments would be viewable by anyone on the Internet. If someone wanted to participate in the open comment threads they would have to join BSF and be part of a small comment group or local discussion group. There may be multiple concurrent threads with ongoing discussion of the current weekly lessons. It may be necessary to further divide the discussions into specific categories such as theological, historical, personal feelings, ministry and so on. Call this the central BSF discussion board and would become our outreach program.

    Yes, it is complicated but it mimics discussion boards on many topics already on the Internet. The difference is the calendar based selection of current discussion based on the lesson plan of BSF, one of the great features of BSF.

    Properly designed and moderated, this type of app could lead to many new people spending time every day on their phone apps discussing scripture with other believers. That would be a good thing.

    • Nancy Lange

      Excellent and thoughtful!!!

  3. Jane Myutu

    Thanks for an insightful research. True to the reactions, this thorn is pricking almost every parent of the (Z and you tuber) generation across the globe.
    It might be even worse in countries undergoing the technological transitioning at a high rate especially the third world Nations. It has presented a bang and sure confusion. For instance,betting in our country is a real issue causing pain to families in pursuit of financial success and freedom. This is a concern where one stays all night trying their luck and ignoring other important roles. This is a form of technological addiction that might creep to this generation if not arrested or dwelt with in good time. Charity begins at home is a thing to be embraced. If only we get back to our roots and train our children about God. Thanks for the champions of BSF – a huge hope to us that a remnant shall surely remain. God never loses every battle. However, a lot is still needed to be done at this rate. There is no meaning in life apart from God. Its all deprivation and hopelessness. Thank for the efforts BSF is making to reach more and more people. Its answering to this call. Keep the fire burning.

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