Young people, born approximately between 1995 and 2010, are commonly known as Generation Z, or Gen Z for short. Pope Francis has spoken to Gen Z on several occasions, including at World Youth Days (WYD) and in his 2019 apostolic exhortation, Christus Vivit (CV). Many in this generation are looking for a way to contribute and a way to belong. Our parishes can help them with those needs, even during this pandemic.
“Dear young people, do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you! Do not be afraid to dream of great things!” - WYD 2016
Gen Z, as with all generations, has unique characteristics. In general, Gen Z-ers desire experiences more than things, and they want to address root issues facing the world today in order to affect social change. They have grown up in an entirely digital age, and they use it to engage with the world they live in, to learn and to build relationships. They are interested in processes and how things work. They seek relationships with others that are based on mutual understanding and respect. Members of Gen Z also generally have a hunger for experiences of prayer and silence, and as a church, we have the unique opportunity to provide these experiences to meet their needs.
“Today, we need a Church capable of walking at people’s side, of doing more than simply listening to them; a Church which accompanies them on their journey…” - WYD 2013
The desire to serve, pray, and build relationships are all avenues our parishes can use to engage Gen Z, help them grow as disciples, and empower them to lead. We need to look at ways our parishes can provide intentional opportunities for this. Do our discipleship opportunities consider the diverse needs and gifts of this generation? How do we encourage Gen Z to lead? How are our parishes embracing intentional ministry to youth? We have an opportunity to minister to this generation in a variety of ways, accompanying them on their faith journeys. Begin by assessing your parish's ministry to young people .
“We need projects that can strengthen them (youth), accompany them and impel them to encounter others, to engage in generous service, in mission.” - CV 30
“The church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is characteristic of you.”
- WYD 2013
Gen Z typically volunteer in great numbers and respond well to experiences, relationships, and collaboration. Young people feel a need to belong, and our churches can meet that need by providing opportunities of involvement and community with some simple steps:
• Ask young people in Gen Z about their unique interests.
• Match their gifts and talents with opportunities in parish service outreach, liturgical ministry roles, as mentors, as catechists, on parish commissions, and as peer leaders, to name a few. If you aren’t sure how to do this, reach out to the Office of Youth Ministry .
• Presently, during this pandemic, parishes across the country are utilizing Gen Z’s gifts, talents and characteristics to serve in ways that “typical volunteers” in more at-risk groups are unable to at this time. They are being called upon to lector, greet, make food deliveries, connect in small groups, etc.
Pope Francis reminds us in Christus Vivit : “We cannot just say that young people are the future of our world. They are its present.” Let us make sure our parishes our places that young people and their families know this to be true.