Five Resources on Generation Z*


Generation Z is the demographic cohort that follows the millennials. Demographers disagree on the year this generation was born, but common estimates run from as early as 1995 to as late as 2015. Depending on how you count it, Generation Z constitutes nearly 25 percent of the American populace.

Every generation presents unique challenges and opportunities for ministry, so understanding the forces that shape each one is a pastoral necessity. The August/September 2016 issue of Influence magazine featured an award-winning cover story about Generation Z by Tim Elmore: “Homelanders: The Next Generation.” I recommend that you start there if you want to understand Generation Z.

For further research about Generation Z, I recommend the following five books, the first three written by Christian authors, the final two from a secular, academic perspective.

1. Gen Z (2018) by Barna Group
Gen Z is the newest report from Barna Group. Barna has a demonstrated ability to synthesize generational data with reflection on effective ministry practices. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative research with youth (ages 13–18), youth pastors and Christian parents, the report offers insights about the “culture, beliefs and motivations” of Generation Z. Noting trends that alternately clash and resonate with biblical Christianity, the report nevertheless ends on a hopeful note: “The pace of cultural change may feel overwhelming, but don’t be discouraged. Even the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church — and that promise is for God’s people in Generation Z, too.”

Bonus Material: For more on Gen Z, check out “Understanding Generation Z,” Episode 126 of the Influence Podcast with David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group.

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

2. Meet Generation Z (2017) by James Emery White
James Emery White is senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. In Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, White looks at demographic information about Generation Z from a pastoral perspective. Part one “details the new realities facing the Christian church,” the post-Christian realities that shape Generation Z. Part two “turns the corner toward response, including the importance of truly becoming countercultural as a church.” White ably summarizes research about Generation Z, but the pastoral response he outlines is the true value of the book.

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

https://www.amazon.com/review/R10F98NWRRVDDB/ref=cm_cr_srp_d_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8

3. Growing Young (2016) by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder and Brad Griffin
“Multiple studies highlight that 40 to 50 percent of youth group seniors … drift from God and the faith community after they graduate from high school.” Kara Powell, Jake Mulder and Brad Griffin cite this statistic at the outset of Growing Young. Whether you are a pastor or a parent, this statistic should alarm you and move you to act. If you want to make a difference in the spiritual lives of young adults, including your own, this book outlines six “essential strategies to help young people discover and love your church.”

  • Unlock keychain leadership
  • Empathize with today’s young people
  • Take Jesus’ message seriously
  • Fuel a warm community
  • Prioritize young people (and families) everywhere
  • Be the best neighbors

Bonus Material: For more on Growing Young, check out “How to Keep Youth in Church,” Episode 47 of the Influence Podcast with Kara Powell, executive director of Fuller Youth Institute at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Additionally, check out this profile of Powell, a longer review of Growing Young, and this excerpt from the book: “10 Qualities Your Church Doesn’t Need in Order to Grow Young.”

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

4. The Happiness Effect (2017) by Donna Freitas
Demographic researchers all agree that the internet, smart devices and social media exercise a distinctive influence on Generation Z, the first generation to be truly digitally native. Donna Freitas’ The Happiness Effect examines what social media use is doing to this generation of users. “Simply put,” Freitas writes, “because young people feel so pressured to post happy things on social media, most of what everyone sees on social media from their peers are happy things; as a result, they often feel inferior because they aren’t actually happy all the time.” Though written from a secular, academic perspective, The Happiness Effect is a must-read if you want to understand “how social media is driving a generation to appear perfect at any cost,” in the words of the book’s subtitle.

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

5. iGen (2017) by Jean M. Twenge
Jean Twenge is a professor of psychology with a well-earned reputation as a generations researcher. iGen identifies “ten important trends” shaping Generation Z, all of which begin with the letter I: They (1) are “in no hurry” to grow up, (2) spending a lot of time on the “internet,” (3) conducting relationships “in person no more,” (4) “insecure” emotionally, (5) “irreligious,” (6) “insulated but not intrinsic” in terms of safety and community, (7) motivated by fear of “income inequality,” (8) “indefinite” with regard to marriage and children, (9) “inclusive” regarding ethnicity and sexuality and (10) “independent” politically. iGen is written from a secular, academic perspective, which colors some of the author’s practical advice, but it is well worth reading.

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

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*This review was written for InfluenceMagazine.com and appears here by permission.

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Understanding Generation Z | Influence Podcast


Over at InfluenceMagazine.com, I interview David Kinnaman of Barna Group about its new report, Gen Z: The Culture, Beliefs and Motivations Shaping the Next Generation. In my opinion, this is an excellent report for pastors–especially youth and KidMin pastors–and parents who want to understand the water in which their Gen Z kids swim.

You can follow Barna Group on Facebook and Twitter. I always find its research to be thought-provoking and helpful.

Episode 125 Notes

  • 00:00 Introduction of podcast topic
  • 00:32 MEGA Sports Camp ad copy
  • 01:10 Welcome to David Kinnaman
  • 01:47 Why pastors and other church leaders should pay attention to generational research
  • 04:00 Demographics of Generation Z
  • 07:18 Big themes of Barna’s Gen Z report
  • 12:10 Nominal Christianity vs. biblical worldview
  • 15:51 Diversity of race/ethnicity and gender/sexuality
  • 21:22 Materialistic values
  • 25:04 Best practices for ministry to Generation Z
  • 27:55 Gen Z and Barna Trends 2018
  • 29:04 Conclusion

Monday’s Influence Online Articles


Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • Heath Adamson and I talk about three outcomes for youth ministry: gospel-centeredness, Spirit-empowerment, and personal responsibility. This is episode 92 of the Influence Podcast. If you haven’t checked us out yet, make sure to listen to, rate, and share from our catalogue of conversations with Christian leaders!
  • If you’re a pastor or ministry leader, check out Make It Count. This free downloadable resource is an eight-week development curriculum you can use with your team. It appears in every issue of Influence magazine. The June-July issue is “Eight Keys to Improving Teamwork.” Take a look!
  • We note Allen Downey’s analysis of the CIRP Freshman Survey, which shows that the number of freshmen claiming no religious affiliation has tripled in the last three decades.

Please make sure to follow and like InfluenceInfluence magazine on Facebook, Twitter, and iTunes!

Review of ‘The Tech-Wise Family’ by Andy Crouch


The first computer I ever owned was an Apple Macintosh Classic II. Released in October 1991, my Mac Classic boasted a 16 megahertz CPU, 2 megabytes of RAM and 40 megabytes of memory — 80 if you splurged. It weighed 16 pounds. I felt privileged as a graduate student to have such computing power on my desk. Some of my peers had to make do with word processors or, even worse, typewriters.

Today, my iPhone 6SE weighs 4 ounces, has a 1.85 gigahertz CPU, 2 gigabytes of RAM and 128 gigabytes of memory. It wakes me up in the morning, tracks my diet and exercise progress, and handles all my emails, texts and social media. It takes pictures, shoots video and streams movies, TV shows and music on demand. It stores books and magazines that I read, including the Bible. When my kids get bored — or, to be honest, when I get tired of paying attention to them — it entertains them.

My Mac Classic was a tool. My iPhone is (almost) my life. And that’s a problem.

All of us know how useful technology is. We can do things with it that we cannot do without it. In The Tech-Wise Family, Andy Crouch points out what many of us fail to see as we use technology, namely, that it is changing us and our families, and not always for the better.

To understand his point, think of what technology is and what families are for.

First, according to Crouch, the defining characteristic of technology is that it is “easy everywhere.” Think of your smartphone. It is easy to use (my 3-year-old has it figured out) and it can be taken everywhere. Twenty-six years ago, I had a phone (landline, not mobile), a camera, a video camera, cassette tapes, a boom box, a TV, videocassettes, a VHS player, boxes of books, stacks of magazines and a computer. Together, they filled a small room and weighed several hundred pounds. Now all those things are accessible on a four-ounce device that fits in my pocket.

Second, although families have many purposes, Crouch suggests that its key purpose is “the forming of persons.” This has less to do with “being” (what we are) than “becoming” (who we can be). Becoming a person is a matter of virtue formation, and Crouch focuses on two virtues in particular: “wisdom and courage.” Wisdom, he writes, is “knowing, in a tremendously complex world, what the right thing to do is — what will be most honoring of our Creator and our fellow creatures.” Courage is “the conviction and character to act.” Forming these virtues requires loving relationships: “If you don’t have people in your life who know you and love you in that radical way, it is very, very unlikely you will develop either wisdom or courage.”

Anyone with a family knows that long-term, emotionally intimate relationships are the exact opposite of easy everywhere. The phrase, “There’s an app for that,” applies to many routine tasks, but not to cultivating intimacy with your spouse, rearing your children to be responsible adults, contributing to the wellbeing of society or leaving a legacy for your descendants. These require hard work at specific times and in specific places. Technology and family, in other words, point in different directions.

The question Crouch seeks to answer in The Tech-Wise Family is how to put technology in its proper place. How can we use it without our families being overcome by it? Crouch offers 10 principles that his family has tried to live by — not always successfully, he admits.

  1. We develop wisdom and courage together as a family.
  2. We want to create more than we consume. So, we fill the center of our homes with things that reward skill and active engagement.
  3. We are designed for a rhythm of work and rest. So, one hour a day, one day a week, and one week a year, we turn off our devices and worship, feast, play and rest together.
  4. We wake up before our devices do, and they “go to bed” before we do.
  5. We aim for “no screens before double digits” [i.e., age 10] at school and at home.
  6. We use screens for a purpose, and we use them together, rather than using them aimlessly and alone.
  7. Car time is conversation time.
  8. Spouses have each other’s passwords, and parents have total access to children’s devices.
  9. We learn to sing together, rather than letting recorded and amplified music take over our lives and worship.
  10. We show up in person for the big events of life. We learn how to be human by being fully present at our moments of greatest vulnerability. We hope to die in one another’s arms.

To be honest, I found many of Crouch’s suggestions radical, especially when compared to how I and members of my family actually use technology. Crouch jokes that he’s suggesting people become “almost Amish.” He also insists that his family’s commitments need not be your family’s commitments. Still, these commitments and the rationale behind them should spark some new ideas in you, your spouse and your kids, hopefully leading to a chastened use of easy-everywhere devices and a wiser, more courageous home.

 

Book Reviewed:
Andy Crouch, The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2017).

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P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

P.S.S. This review was written for InfluenceMagazine.com and appears here by permission.