Written by Keith Doornbos
November 2, 2021

Renewal and Connecting with Gen Z

“We’re losing our kids!” is the number one concern for most renewal leaders. Here are some cultural assumptions of those under 35 that we must navigate.

“We’re losing our kids!”  That’s the number one concern expressed by most renewal leaders.  The societal trend among the 35 and younger crowd is to abandon religious affiliation all together (1 in 3 are counted among the “Nones”).  There are complex social and cultural reasons for this trend but one critical issue is the chasm between the cultural assumptions of older faith leaders and persons under 35.  When this gap becomes apparent, many young people quietly leave the church.

Here are some Next Gen cultural assumptions that we must be navigate:

Assumption 1:  Cohabitation And Intimacy Before Marriage Are Acceptable

More than half (54%) of evangelical young people will live together before marriage.  Christianity Today calls this “a new norm among young evangelicals.”  Should the church rebuke this lack of chastity and alienate half her youth or find fresh ways to join young people on their faith/life journey?

Assumption 2:  Same-Sex Relationships Must Be Respected

There is a huge attitudinal shift towards same-sex attraction.  The vast majority of those under 35 believe there is nothing wrong with same-sex attraction or relationships.  In fact, many are leaving churches that rail against the LGBTQ community.  How should your church respond?

Assumption 3:  Ministry Focus Should Be On The Kingdom Not The Church

Those under 35 are not interested in church activities for activities’ sake. Instead, they are committed to living faith beyond the walls of the church seeking to serve others rather than themselves.  Will this passion for “life beyond the walls” be a characteristic of your ministry?

Assumption 4:  Church Attendance Is An Occasional Investment

Many under 35 see church attendance as an occasional rather than a weekly practice.  Attending once or twice a month feels like a solid commitment to them.  How will the church stay connected with these occasional attenders?

Assumption 5:  The Church Should Be A Voice For Justice

Next Gen youth belief the church should be active in street-level concerns.  From the pulpit and in practice they believe the church should address racial discrimination, poverty, inadequate housing, the plight of immigrants, etc.  How engaged is your church in these social concerns?

Assumption 6:  Christianity Is One Among Many Ways To God

Most youth no longer hold an exclusivist understanding of Christianity.  They gladly name Christianity as a way to God but are hospitable toward other religions.  How should the church speak into the uniqueness of Christ as the only way/gate to salvation (John 10:9)?

Assumption 7:  Relationships Are The Glue

What keeps those over 35 connected to a church are faith convictions, disciplined practices, quality of ministry and a sense of obligation.  For those under 35 the primary reason they stay connected is meaningful relationships.  Is your church encouraging quality mentoring?

Assumption 8:  Moral Consistency Is Expected

Most youth cannot understand how white evangelical believers are willing to compromise core convictions to increase political influence.  Said bluntly, they reject the views and practices of the religious right.  How can the church nurture good citizenship without being party-affiliated?

Assumption 9:  Technological Fluency Is Assumed

Youth assume the church will be technologically fluent.  They expect up-to-date information on apps, websites and social media.  In fact, they assume information will come to them rather than having to seek information on their own.  How is your technological prowess?

Assumption 10:  Cultural Awareness Is Important

Those under 35 are culturally connected.  They stay abreast of those shaping culture including on-line influencers, key contemporaries, current music, trends in fashion, etc.  How can you invest in basic cultural fluency to stay connected with the next generation?

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