Gen Z Distinctives


We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalm 78:4

The next generation consists of two groups:  one is the millennials whose age range is around 23 to 38.  Those aren’t hard and fast ages by the way, but just a general bracket.  The other group is called Gen Z – those under 22.

Gen Z is different. If you ask them if they are a millennial, they will quickly tell you that “I am not one of them.”   They are now old enough that we can follow some of their trends.

While they have many similarities with millennials, they have some notable differences which are the topic of this post.

Gen Z are generally more frugal, more anxious, more private and secretive, more restless, more digitally savvy, more nurtured, more entrepreneurial and finally, more inclusive than millennials.

They are more frugal. They are savers, not spenders. Gen Z has seen mistakes of the millennials when it comes to financing their college educations. As a result, most are much more likely to be wary of college debt. That’s a good thing.

Gen Z are more secretive and private according to a report by the Global Web Index.   They often use the vanishing message of Snapchat – more so than prior generations.  They are more individualistic and independent, with the majority often preferring to learn alone and be alone than prior generations.

They have seen the benefits and detriments of social media and its impact on the millennials.  Millennials fell prey to cyberbullies, stalkers – even to employers who searched their posts on Instagram or Facebook before interviews.  Gen Z is weary of “social sniping” and Facebook is now “old news”.

They are more anxious prior generations. Anxiety is commonplace and almost the “norm”. This generation suffers “from more mental health problems than any other generation in U.S. history”, according to Tim Elmore.  Elmore continues: “Both secondary schools and colleges report an insufficient number of counselors available to serve students seeking help on campus.”

They are more restless. Developing their identity to the realities around them has caused them to be more fluid. Many derive their identity from social media which only exacerbates the roller coaster ride. While their options for life are so wide and can be explored like never before, it is an arduous process for them when they are dealing with a shifting and volatile self-image.

They are more digitally savvy. No surprise that they spend the equivalent of a full-time job on their devices (9 hours).  The downside: According to the National Institute of Health study, kids who spend more than 7 hours a day digitally are more likely to experience premature thinning of the cortex. That’s the part of the brain that processes thought and action. They often multitask on five screens versus two for millennials.  Ouch!

They are more nurtured.  In fairness, this is not entirely their fault, but the fault of the helicopter parents who try to put their kids in bubble wrap to keep them safe and develop their self-esteem.  Protecting a child from all adversity  robs them of the experiences they will need as adults. 

Adversity and some level of stress is one of the best predictors of high life satisfaction according to Kelly McGonigal, a Stanford University psychologist, in her book “The Upside of Stress.” She suggests that “embracing and adapting to stress can provide important opportunities for personal growth.”

They are more entrepreneurial.  Studies show that Gen Z are more likely to volunteer their time (nearly 1 in 3), and 72% of high schoolers want to start a business.  They want to be “no-collar” workers, not just white collar or blue collar, which is probably a result of two recessions in this century.

While they may be more confident in their willingness to strike out on their own, they have to balance that confidence with the fact that they are risk averse.

They are more inclusive than any prior generation. Gen Z is more willing to be accepting of people regardless of race, sexual orientation, backgrounds or gender.  While global warming is the hot issue for millennials, equality – racial and gender – is the top issue for Gen Z.

As a result, they are most connected to the LGBTQ  community because of their innate individualism.  Their individualism also makes them more interested in leadership than millennials according to 2017 survey.  They will be leaders, not followers in years to come.

These are complex characteristics, and the challenge is to take these traits and mold them into the next generation of leaders.  They will have a large impact on the world, but they still need guidance and direction.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  A mentor can help Gen Z navigate their goals through the muddy waters of today’s culture.

FURTHER RESEARCH:  Trends of Gen Z – Global Web Index

Seven Characteristics that Distinguish Generation Z – Growing Leaders

Gen Z Unfiltered – an excellent book for parents and mentors by Tim Elmore.

The Upside of StressKelly McGonigal

WORSHIP: Listen to We Fall Down by Chris Tomlin.

MentorLink: For more information about MentorLink, go to

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Mentoring 101

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. Psalm 71:18

I was privileged to be interviewed on Steve Noble’s radio show in Raleigh last week. He currently has a national network. Steve and I go back a long while. We both participate in a Friday morning bible study – one that I’ve been attending since 1983.

He started his radio show about 15 years ago. When Steve invited me, I asked him if there was any particular topic he had in mind. His answer:  “No, I just want to talk about mentoring.”

So we did. Below are two links. The first is a podcast of the radio show. The second is the video of the interview. The video covers the discussion that continued between the three station breaks.

Several (including my son) have suggested that I do podcasts but I’ve never quite gotten the courage to tackle another technology challenge.  This may be as close to one as I will get.

By the way, all of Steve Noble’s shows become podcasts which you can access through your podcast app, or search on YouTube or Facebook for the videos. I recommend them. He is lively and entertaining from a Christian worldview.

The show was entirely unscripted. Just question and answer. My wife thought I did a “good job” and was glad I used humor. She even said that she thought I sounded like my son who does podcasts frequently for Motley Fool.  I prefer to think that he sounds like me, his father, but that’s just me.

The interview gives some insights into mentoring as well as  an introduction to what MentorLink does.

I hope you enjoy it.




MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  To those of mentoring age, please use these resources for others who may be considering taking up the investment in the lives of the next generation.

MentorLink: For more information about MentorLink, go to

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That is where the tribes go up— the tribes of the Lord— to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel. Psalm 122:4

Every adolescent is on a quest for developing an identity of who they are. In a social media peer driven culture, it is more important than ever for them

In The Element (How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything), Ken Robinson describes how finding an affinity group – a tribe – can have a significant impact on your life.  Tribes can have positive or negative impacts (see Groupthink and Fleas).

Robinson chronicles the search by Meg Ryan, an actress, to find her sweet spot in her career, or as Robinson calls it, her Element. It might be hard to believe, but Meg Ryan was petrified of public speaking and was unable to deliver her valedictorian speech in school.

After graduating from college, Meg Ryan considered lots of avenues, including joining the Peace Corp, or spending time “finding herself” by traveling to Europe.

Then she met an acting teacher, Peggy Fury, who got her interested in acting and becoming an artist. She pursued drama and surrounded herself with a group of people who saw the world the way she did and inspired her to be her best.

That was her “tribe” which caused her acting career took off. “What connects a tribe is a common commitment to the thing they feel born to do”,  according to Robinson.

Meg Ryan’s story resonated with me.  As a parent of a bright and creative son, I was dismayed when he struggled socially at a boarding school.  He didn’t seem to fit in and was treated as an outsider.  His difficulty with peers was perplexing because he was well liked at his previous schools.

Some students had even become abusive and he was bullied.  His solution was to avoid them at any cost, even if it meant not going to class. He was miserable.

During a Thanksgiving vacation, we managed to extract what was bothering him. Sometimes that’s hard because telling parents what is really going on is often difficult for adolescents. We did get to the truth, though, and we (my wife and I) searched for solutions with him.

Over a period of several days, I struggled with what to tell him. I realized that, even at 16 years of age, he needed buy into whatever choice was made. It was his life. I suggested options which included either dropping out,  switching to another school or returning home to our local high school.

I asked him if there was any person on the faculty at his school with whom he felt connected.  He said he liked his German teacher, someone I had met years before.

I called his German teacher and asked him if he would be take my son under his wing with his away from home. His response surprised me:  He said that he had just gone through the same issues with his own daughter and would be glad to help.

My son returned to school, and the rest, as they say, is “history”.  The German teacher encouraged my son to get involved in drama at the school.  He quickly connected with a group of students who were like him and welcomed him for who he was.

It found the “tribe” that he had been searching for but had looked in all the wrong places. He found creative kids who had similar interests.  He still hangs out with some of those friends today, albeit 30 years later.

While my son didn’t pursue acting, his involvement in drama was a key for finding a group of people who influenced and encouraged him when he really needed it. It helped him discover himself which was liberating.

I have always been grateful to my son’s German teacher.  In retrospect,  I see his role as a mentor: he provided invaluable guidance, support and assistance to my son that we, his parents, could not.

Fast forward to today: my son’s children have all been members of their High School Band which has won the Virginia State Championship for the past consecutive eight years. We joined them a couple of weeks ago at the National Band Championships. They competed against the best of the best.

One takeaway from the band competition was that 96% of kids participating in High School Bands finish school. I attribute that to the “Tribe” effect – belonging to a cohesive group of kids who are similarly inclined. They have all developed a level of discipline as musicians and students.

The challenge here is that the next generation are searching for their “Element” in life. It often may involve something as simple as finding their tribe. In my son‘s case (and in the case of Meg Ryan), the solution may come from someone who is not a parent.  A mentor can be an invaluable key to unlocking their identity in life, possibly by connecting them to the right tribe.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:   Helping your mentee find his “Tribe” may be the single best thing you can do for them.

FURTHER READING:  The Element (How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything)  Robinson

WORSHIP: Listen to O Holy Night – Love Shines Bright

MentorLink: For more information about MentorLink, go to

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Note: the picture above is of the Samburu tribe in Kenya.