I was born in the millennium. This makes me a part of Gen Z — a generation born between 1999 and 2015. We grew up as digital natives who carried phones bigger and heavier than our tiny hands could hold. Because of the ways technology and secularism have permeated every sphere of our existence, Barna says that nearly two-thirds of our generation in America who grew up in church have left. In addition to that, Gen Z is also identified as the first truly “post-Christian” generation. But even with these statistics, there are still those who choose to stay with the Church. If you’re reading this, this might be you.
Here is a word of encouragement — we, Gen Z, are the body of Christ. When Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:27, “You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it,” he also points to us. Instead of being ashamed of being Gen Z we should embrace the blessing of being here for such a time as this. As they pass the baton to us, it’s necessary that we know what we bring to the table and celebrate the unique quirks and characteristics that God has given us to serve his bride.
We offer authenticity.
We are open about our mental health struggles. Getting a therapist and taking medication are conversations we have on the daily. We bond over childhood trauma and make nonchalant jokes on the Internet about the ways we are broken. This honesty and vulnerability can be a gateway to building an authentic Christian community.
In my InterVarsity chapter, our women’s ministry would have conversations on anxiety and depression and ways we could support one another through our struggles. We are good at suffering with every part of the body as described in 1 Corinthians 12:26: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” We naturally care for each other and value sincerity.
Serve your community by leaning into your authenticity. Create a safe space for others to be authentic. Embrace your capacity to show your full self — flaws and all. Be transparent about both the good and the bad to those in your inner circle. This helps your community know that they don’t have to be perfect to be loved and accepted by Jesus. They can make mistakes, and their friends can walk alongside them in grace. It’s terrifying to do this, but be comforted by knowing that you can look to the gentle and lowly heart of Christ to be the fountain you drink from. The Messiah wept when his friend died and was authentic during moments of darkness. Let us emulate the heart of Christ, who is compassionate, kind, and meets others in their vulnerabilities. Learn more about building authentic community here.
We offer inclusivity.
The Barna Group said that Gen Z is the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in American history. We celebrate and value racial reconciliation. As the church, we want to be all one in Jesus Christ, as described in Galatians 3:28.
At Urbana 22, we learned from the global Church the value of listening to their voices and decolonizing Western missions. Beyond performative activism, virtue signaling, and disingenuous representation, we want to be a Church that looks like heaven in all its glorious diversity, where Jesus is the God of every nation, tribe, and tongue.
Stanford scholar Roberta Katz describes Gen Z this way: “Because they could learn about people and cultures around the globe from an early age, they developed a greater appreciation for diversity and the importance of finding their own unique identities.” As Gen Z, we have the opportunity to experience the kingdom of heaven here on earth by embracing inclusion in our diverse generation.
Serve your community by giving space for everyone to own their unique identities and fully show up as themselves. Listen well. Apologize. Build cross-cultural friendships. Be a gentle voice calling people in, inviting them into the feast in the banquet of Christ repeatedly. Learn about ministering across cultures here. As Jesus’ disciples, let us be known by our love. Through being inclusive, we can help usher inclusion into our communities, especially among older folks who may see diversity as a newer concept. Look to Christ who built bridges between Jew and Gentile and learn from his heart as you embrace this gift.
We desire transformation.
Gen Z is pragmatic in confronting inherited problems, whether it be climate change or the mass exodus of young people leaving the Church. We care about an array of social issues — health care, economic security, civic engagement, racial equity, and environmental preservation among others, and we don’t want that to divide us. Because of this, we want to act.
When I decided to follow Christ, I wanted my faith to stay in touch with the pain and suffering of the world. Because of this, when I saw prosperity gospel and lavish megachurches, I was highly critical of them, hurling fire and brimstone with my words. I wanted to dismantle all existing systems and institutions. In my rage, I despaired and forgot to turn my eyes upon Jesus.
Living with holy discontent requires living with gracious hopefulness. Serve your community by being hopeful. Remember that God’s justice prevails. Jesus is making all things new already. You are not alone. Our community is here to lift up our heads when we are filled with sorrow. We need one another in acting out God’s call in Micah 6:8 to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.” As we do this, let us also not forget to invite God to search our hearts and lead us to repentance. He’s the one who does the work of transformation — among us, the Church, and the world. Be patient as he carries out his work. Trust that he is faithful and will not delay.
A Final Encouragement
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,” Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:12, “but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” Even though Timothy was likely in his early 30s when this letter was written to him, we can use this verse as a model for our witness. We can set an example for fellow believers, whether old or young, whether in-person or online, whether in our campus ministries or at the local church, by leaning into the gifts that equip us to serve in our context during this pivotal moment.
Instead of despising our youth, let us embrace the blessing of being Gen Z. Let us embrace the unique gifts that God has bestowed upon us because we were made for such a time as this. The larger Church is better with us in it. We saw it in Asbury, in Congo, in Lebanon, in Canada, and in Indianapolis, and we will see it again as our generation rises up for the glory of Christ.
Even on the other side of the world, I feel as though I’m brought back home by the different iterations of hospitality — from my family, my friends, and my Filipino heritage — and how all of them flow from the hospitable God who has welcomed us all to partake in his kingdom.