Recent research into today’s teenagers is shedding some light on some overarching generational themes. Today’s students are known as Generation Z (born between 1996-2010). They are digital and mobile natives also known as the Net Generation or iGeneration. Generation Z make up a quarter of the U.S. population today and will become a third of the population by 2020. This generation of young people is turning out to be quite different from the Millennials before them.
A new book, Generation Z Goes to College, shares the results of research studies aimed at learning more about today’s students. When asked about religious participation, Generation Z students report higher weekly religious service attendance (41%) than previous generations. However, an even higher number (78%) of this generation reports belief in God. So a substantial gap exists between students reporting belief and those practicing their faith. And as other studies have shown, teen religious participation is not a predictor of continued faith practices after high school.
Although statistics such as these are meant to describe generational themes, they do not necessarily represent students in your youth group. These stats help us generally compare generational differences, but don’t necessarily describe high school and college students in your area. So, what should you do with these stats?
Help Make Faith Personal
Youth ministry should lead students to a personal faith in Jesus Christ. This is not just the faith of a parent or youth leader, but personal ownership of a genuine faith. You must help students wrestle with deep theological doctrines and how these beliefs contrast with cultural issues. How do you do this?
True discipleship can only take place in the context of relationships. As you come alongside students on the journey of life, you develop a caring relationship of trust that can lead to opportunities to lead and instruct. Your life becomes an example of personal faith. You become the lesson that students learn. So as you consider how to help students develop a genuine faith, consider how your own life models a love relationship with Jesus.