Navigating Gen Z’s digital ecosystem: The church leader’s guide

February 2, 2023

The Digital Generation

As the first generation born into the world of digital and social media, the habits of Gen Z pose many opportunities for churches—as well as challenges.

Born between 1997 and 2013, Gen Z is more connected than any other generation before them, using platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok, and Twitch regularly to post, share, and consume information. 

For modern church leaders, these trends show a hardwired eagerness to connect that should come as good news. As author, preacher, and business leader Nona Jones explains in a recent conversation on the Subsplash podcast, it’s active engagement (not passive attendance) that creates the best and most meaningful discipleship experiences. 

The challenge for most pastors, however, is not eliciting engagement from this hyperdigital generation—Gen Zers are already willing and eager. Instead, the issue facing pastors is how to communicate effectively through the unique digital ecosystem used by this generation. Older generations are on Gen Z’s turf, as it were, when it comes to the digital world. 

So how can churches communicate with this generation with the aim of making disciples? With thoughtful strategy and the right tools, church leaders can enter the digital conversation with confidence. 

Connecting your church with Gen Z

The need for speed

Gen Z has never known a world in which information is not instantly at their fingertips. This generation is on-the-go, and they expect their social communications, news, and entertainment to keep up.

Compared to past generations, studies show that Gen Z displays a higher aptitude and desire for multitasking, creativity, expressiveness, and individuality—qualities that are consolidated through constant digital activity. In other words, Gen Z’s expectation is for everything, everywhere, right now. 

While older generations may be quick to dismiss these characteristics as impatient, consumeristic, or even insatiable, church leaders should take a closer look. What we find in Gen Z is a generation of people who are looking for information at all times. Gen Z is happy to receive communication if it reaches them through the right channels—specifically, digital platforms that prioritize ease and immediacy. 

As is often the case, the trick is finding the right tool for the job. Many churches try to utilize social media, but find that it’s full of distractions, cyberbullying, and difficult to manage. 

The best way to address Gen Z’s desire for instant connection is by rolling out a custom church app. People can download your church’s app from the app stores, watch sermon videos and live streams, chat and share prayer requests, join small groups, volunteer, as well as see upcoming events in one place. This creates a safe and distraction-free environment for your community to stay connected beyond Sunday. 

Gen Z teens

The desire for immediate access and gratification shows no sign of slowing down—in fact, it’s only picking up speed. In 2023, most Gen Zers are teens who are almost fully digitalized in terms of their information consumption, with half of this group saying that they favor instant, interactive channels such as social media feeds and messaging services for news. 

For churches, integrating a messaging service that parallels Gen Z’s preferred social platforms will also boost engagement among younger congregants. The ability to interact with prayer requests, polls, and announcements on a modern, easy-to-use platform will feel like second-nature to these digital natives and make it simple to get them deeply connected with your church community. 

The “communaholic”

The proactive engagement that Gen Z demonstrates should be music to church leaders’ ears. Even better should be the news that 77% of Gen Zers identify as being religious in some form. To make an impact on this connected generation, pastors will need to authentically buy into the idea of the “communaholic”. 

A McKinsey survey defines the radical inclusivity of Gen Z:

They don’t distinguish between friends they meet online and friends in the physical world. They continually flow between communities that promote their causes by exploiting the high level of mobilization technology makes possible. Gen Zers value online communities because they allow people of different economic circumstances to connect and mobilize around causes and interests.

In order to authentically appeal to Gen Z, church leaders should consider how to actively promote the idea of gospel-centered inclusivity (Galatians 3:28; James 2:1–4) on digital platforms. By integrating community groups on your website and app, your church can allow people to have meaningful conversations and build real relationships across social divides. 

Interacting up

Beyond valuing community and connection, Gen Zers are passionate about making a difference in their communities and actively seek out ways to do so. They use social platforms as outlets to express their opinions on political, social, and environmental topics. 

This generation celebrates values like inclusivity and collaboration, believing that everyone should have a voice in the conversation. As such, they are more likely than other generations to participate in collaborative projects or initiatives that aim to improve their communities. 

Gen Z brings a different set of attitudes and values than their older counterparts. They also have a greater appreciation for diversity in society and an increased desire for social justice. With their unique perspectives on life, Gen Zers are challenging the status quo of how older generations view the world. 

This provides churches with an opportunity to celebrate charitable causes through giving initiatives. Gen Z is statistically more likely than others to engage in philanthropic causes, so showing that your church has an aligned mission will speak volumes and aid growth. 

Learn more about connecting with Gen Z

Every generation has its own unique identity and struggles to understand and connect with previous generations. By understanding Gen Z’s different perspectives, values, and channels for connecting with the world around them, church leaders can better embrace this new generation. 

Gen Zers are shaped by their fully digital ecosystem that brings with it instant communication and information. Online relationships are just as real to them as in-person relationships. They are also the most religiously open group of people in decades, looking for a place where they can feel included, valued, and useful. 

To discover the best strategies and digital tools to reach, connect, and disciple Gen Z through your church, [.blog-contact-cta]contact Subsplash today![.blog-contact-cta]


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