A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. Luke 22:58
Ask any member of Gen Z who was born after 1998, and they are quick to tell you that they are not like the millennials. Seriously. And they are adamant about it. I often ask myself why they want to distance themselves because in some ways, they are very similar.
They have grown up with a smartphone in their hands. They are “digital natives” and accustomed to using social media. They have short attention spans like the millennials. But they maintain their differences, and that may be something to cheer about.
This is the generation that doesn’t remember 9/11. The oldest are entering college this fall (in fact, my eldest granddaughter is on her way to her first day at college as I write this). Humans have always lived in space, not just traveled. Thumbprints have always been used for security purposes.
By and large, they don’t act entitled. They don’t trust anyone who is over 21. They are quick to condemn the millennials and don’t want to be grouped with that demographic. They are more “realistic” than idealistic. If you want a more complete profile, go to the Mindset List which profiles the members of the entering college class who will graduate in 2022.
They are savers, not spenders, and more cautious about college debt. I attribute that attitude to the fact that they have lived through the recession of 2008-2011, and just like their forbearers who lived through the Great Depression in the 1930’s, they realize that bad financial circumstances due to college debt can diminish their opportunities to achieve goals in the future.
A recent study shows they are more entrepreneurial than the millennials, and 72% of high schoolers indicate a desire to start a business. Nearly a third of those between 16 to 19 have volunteered their time.
According to an entering college freshman, “Millennials embrace retail brands, reject religion and live longer with their parents than any previous generation.” What separates them, though, is their passion to make a difference and work for causes, but not in the kind of political protest that quickly burns out.
I find this refreshing, although I have to admit that these are generalities and it’s hard not to stereotype generations. Yet the see the dangers that being addicted to their smartphones poses. As Nicole Ault notes, “we have the choice, now, to use our technological platforms in moderation to do good, or to become self-absorbed [like millennials]”.
As an aside, Gen Z is not the only group poking fun at the millennials tendency for selfie-absorption in order to gain what I have called “Selfie-Esteem”. A recent video of several girls at a professional baseball game received the attention of the announcers who made fun of them for taking non-stop selfies.
One of the announcers watched one fan snap several selfies and dryly commented: “I’ll bet that’s the best selfie she has made of the 300 today!”
Returning to Gen Z, it is widely known that most people’s religious views are formed early in life according to studies by Robert Putnam and David Campbell in American Grace.They go on to note that American youth are dropping out of religion at a rate that is 5 to 6 times faster than previous generations.
The concerning issue for me is what happens to Gen Z when they get to college where they will be beset upon by a faculty that increasingly is more about indoctrination than historical fact. According to one study in 2011, for each year of college, “there is a 15% increase that the student will believe there’s ‘truth in more than one religion’ and believe in a ‘higher power’ rather than a personal God.”
That is disheartening, and as White notes in his book A Mind for God, his own daughter who had a firm faith had trouble defending her spiritual side at a major U.S. University. If it can happen to the daughter of a minister, it can happen to any child.
The challenge is to reach Gen Z before they get to college and provide them with a strong foundation for their faith. One of the ministries that I have supported for years is Young Life, and I consider it to be on the front lines of reaching the next generation in middle and high school. It may be the only thing that can reach youth in an increasingly secular world where parents are often not Christian.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Encourage your Gen Z mentee to stay involved with faith-based organizations, even through college. Even better, let them know you pray for them.
RESOURCES: 7 Things Every Adult Should Know about Gen Z.
The Beloit College Mindset List, which lists the reality of life as seen through the eyes of incoming freshmen at college.
American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.
MUSIC: One of my favorites by Mat Redman – Let My Words Be Few.
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