Church tongue twisters fail for Gen Z (and how to fix this)

“Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:19 ESV)

If you didn’t get every word in the title, that’s ok. Languages evolve, and we need to keep current. When we don’t, it’s as if we’re ‘speaking in tongues’. The result? Poor communication.

Your ministry needs to speak in a language your parishioners understand so that they will be able to benefit from your instruction. So, as the opening quote says, what is the language of ‘your mind’?

In the case of Generation Z, it is your digital platform.

Generation Z? Digital platform?

Writer Darrel Girardier has explained the connection.

First of all, Generation Z (Gen Z) are people born between 1995-2009. As you can see from a 1995 episode of the TV show, Computer Chronicles, the Internet was already quite advanced. For example, people could already:

  • surf for and download free computer software
  • watch and listen to music multicasts
  • join direct newsletters, receiving news automatically
  • buy and sell goods

As a result, Gen Z was born into and has been growing up in a digital age. They have no concept of a world WITHOUT the Internet or digital devices. That’s why Girardier describes them as the “first truly digitally-native generation”.

Digital Native

How the Church Can Reach Digital Natives and Millennials – The Future of the Church and Tech (5, 10, 25 years from now) by Jason Caston

In other words, Gen Z “speaks” digital.

Does your ministry? If not, you might as well be speaking to them in tongues.

So, how can your ministry speak digital?

Action, action, we want action

Gen Z has about an 8-second attention span. If it hasn’t captivated them during that time, they are off to something else.

This also means that the traditional ‘sermon on the Mount’ may not be for them. Gen Z prefers collaborative learning situations instead of lectures.

More IS better

Gen Z has become used to viewing multiple screens simultaneously. They can handle up to five at a time. (Yes, we know that this may not always translate to effectiveness but keep reading to see why this does not matter as much and why we need to rethink the way they are included).

Cause NOT corporation

Gen Z is motivated by passion. They want to believe in something as opposed to joining a “name”. As a result, they are more likely to commit to a cause than an organization.

Keep it open

Gen Z has learned that hierarchy and bureaucracy aren’t necessary and shouldn’t be completely trusted. This lesson came from:

  1. organizations with a low level of (or no) bureaucracy such as Facebook rising to the top.
  2. institutional scandals in organizations such as the Church, Wall Street, and the government.

Let’s Google it

Gen Z expects people and organizations to be on the Internet, especially social media. No Facebook page? Not on Instagram? Can’t find you on YouTube? Then you probably have something to hide and aren’t an organization to be trusted.

21 Flavors

Popular ‘froyo’ shops such as Cups, Let’s Yo, and Yogurtland are well-known from their variety of frozen yogurt flavors AND the amazing assortment of available toppings. They are perfect for Gen Z who is turning out to be the most diverse generation to-date.

If we made a digital presence checklist for your ministry, it might look something like this:

  • Preaching uses dynamic, interactive, collaborative methodologies.
  • Communication methods are diverse and exciting with an ‘instant appeal factor’.
  • Your ministry’s chosen causes are likely to resonate with Gen Z and are dealt with in a vibrant and passionate manner.
  • Decisions relevant to Gen Z can be made on a ‘fast track’, independent of the usual hierarchical or bureaucratic decision-making process.
  • Your ministry has a firm and clear digital presence, including posts about the clergy and lay people involved in running your organization.
  • The main watchword or measuring stick is always “Diversity” with a capital “D”.

All this may be a big step for your ministry. It’s worth your time and energy: ¼ of the U.S. population is Gen Z.

And it’s a young quarter. At the moment, Gen Z ages range from 8-22. These are the youth which your ministry needs to attract to the Word.

Fortunately, there’s lots of help available … and a lot of it is free. For example, by following digital experts like Darrel Girardier or Jason Caston or you can begin learning about how to build a digital strategy for your ministry from our website. We even offer you a free eBook which clearly explains exactly what you need to do. The ebook framework allows you to adapt to any demographic.

What about your ministry?

What tips can you share about how you’ve been speaking to your Gen Z’s?

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