Gen Z: How to Tell a Millenial from a Generation Z

Researchers are saying Gen Z is “probably the last and arguably what will be the most influential generation in Western history.” You care about the future of the church, so it’s probably time to familiarize yourself with all things Gen Z.

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What Do We Mean By Gen Z?

One will often hear policy makers, marketing experts and church leaders referring to all those who are thirty-something or younger as ‘Millennials.’ While it may be somewhat helpful to lump everyone from this age bracket together, it can also be misleading.

While there are certainly several traits that people born between these years share, common-sense alone tells us there is a big difference between someone who is 35 (who would be classed as an older Millennial) and someone who is 9 (who would be classed as a younger Millennial)!

What are those differences? Research seems to repeatedly point to one substantial reality that differentiates Millennials and those born in more recent years: the smartphone. As we explore in our post titled Gen Z: The Internet in It’s Pocket Generation,growing up with a smartphone has had huge effects on the way young people think, learn, behave, build relationships and believe.

Because of these differences, several experts are now suggesting to break these up into two distinct generations; Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) and Gen Z (born between 1995 and around 2015).

The Last Generation?

At Reign Ministries we certainly have a vested interest in understanding this generation as we seek to care for and influence young people as part of our ministry calling. But youth workers are not the only ones giving Generation Z serious consideration.

Some experts are pointing to the reality that this may be the last generation we speak of and potentially the one that will most shape the future that is to come. Greta Thunberg, a Gen Z girl has just been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her action in fighting Climate Change. In her Ted Talk, she highlights that now is the time to act.

What leads them to make such a conclusion? Two factors stand out. Firstly, Culture is changing so quickly.

“The speed at which culture is changing will make speaking of generations and observing their general characteristics obsolete”

White, 2017

Secondly, Andy Hardy and Dan Yarnell say in their book, Missional Discipleship after Christendom, it will be harder to make distinctions between generations. This is due to advances in technology which allow all age groups to interact and influence each other equally.

Why you need to understand Gen Z

At Reign, we are equipping youth ministers and volunteers to engage with Gen Z. We train leaders serving as youth ministers in the twenty-first century and working as cross-cultural missionaries.

But really, it will take the whole of the church, old, young, and in-between praying, welcoming, and applying the gospel to reach this generation. We are all involved in the missionary task of reaching young people.

One of the most important skills a missionary must possess is the ability to interpret the culture in which he or she works. If we desire to be truly effective Churches who can build relationships with young people, provide pathways for them to explore faith and shape the forms and structures of worship and discipleship, we must be astute students of their culture. This is true even if we come from the same culture as the people we are seeking to reach.

Want to learn more about Gen Z? What motivates them and makes them tick? In a post titled, Gen Z: What Every Church Needs to Think About, Darin unpacks James Emery White’s study Meet Generation Z. What are the challenges it presents for the church?

You can watch the video below to find out more about how we are equipping youth leaders, through the Degree.

Darin Stevens

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