The Church is ever-growing, changing, and expanding, and so are its members. Millennials are now grown up and starting families, working, and settling into their lives as adults, and it’s time to focus on learning about a new generation of Church members—Generation Z.
Generation Z consists of anyone born between roughly 1995 and 2010, and they are currently between 8 and 23 years old. This age group consists of the future leaders of the Church, and President Nelson has paid a great deal of attention to helping young Church members stay strong in their faith and in their testimonies.
As we learn how to teach and help young people in the Church, it’s important to know who they are, what’s important to them, and how they best learn and communicate. Here are a few things to know about Generation Z and how to help them succeed in the Church.
1. They learn differently.
Generation Z has a different learning style than any generation before. They rely heavily on technology, but besides that, they prefer social learning environments with access to a lot of information. They also love hands-on learning, and in a study mentioned by Forbes, it said 51 percent of surveyed students prefer learning by doing and only 12 percent reported learning best by listening.
This is important to note when you’re called to teach teenagers or young adult classes. The Church has already embraced the importance of group discussion and hands-on learning in their lesson manuals and Come Follow Me curriculum, so follow the Spirit and trust that your classes will learn from each other through these tools. It’s also worth noting that Generation Z learns very well from visuals, such as short videos and infographics. Incorporating these into your lessons can leave a lasting impact on your classes and help them better learn the gospel.
2. They have blurred lines between work, school, and life.
Generation Z has a difficult time creating a work and life balance because the lines dividing the two are becoming more and more blurred. For those still in school, homework and other assignments can be accessed from anywhere as long as the student has a phone with internet. And studies show that most high school students hope to own their own business or turn their hobbies into a profitable career. Because of this, work and life are becoming more integrated.
As this shift has been happening, the Church has also been making changes to integrate the gospel into members’ everyday lives. Most recently, President Nelson announced the new home-centered gospel study intended to help Latter-day Saints better live the gospel, and not just on Sundays. Take advantage of this and help your classes learn to integrate Church into every aspect of their lives.
3. Addictions and temptations are shifting.
Drug use, alcohol consumption, and teen pregnancy rates are lower than they have been in decades. This is great news, but young members of the Church are facing entirely different challenges than older generations did. Growing up in a world of technology, it’s not uncommon to find a group of Generation Zs sitting in the same room texting each other. Young adults and teenagers are addicted to social media. Pornography is easier to access than ever. Teen suicide rates are climbing.
President Nelson has made note of this, inviting youth to participate in social media fasts and eliminate media that bring unhealthy thoughts or feelings. The Church has also made steps in providing suicide prevention material. Recognizing and addressing these difficult trials is key to helping young people overcome them and ultimately become closer to Christ.
4. They’re more depressed and anxious than other generations.
There are many factors contributing to Generation Zs stress, anxiety, and depression, including growing up in a post-9/11 world and constantly comparing their lives to others’ on social media. However, the conversation around mental health is changing for the better, and it’s important to let this younger generation know that they can find hope and healing through Jesus Christ.
In Elder Holland’s October 2013 general conference talk “Like a Broken Vessel,” he addressed mental health in a way that helped many Church members and will continue to help younger generations who struggle in this area. He said, “Believe in miracles. . . . Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead.”
5. They value trust and authenticity.
Generation Z loves YouTube. This connects back to how they learn best through short videos and entertaining tutorials, but their love for this media platform goes beyond that. These young people like following lifestyle vloggers and Instagrammers because their content is relatable. Over-produced videos and posts don’t sit right with this generation because they love authenticity.
YouTubers and influencers are like celebrities to Generation Z. They look to their favorite social media stars for recommendations on brands and life advice, and they often purchase products the influencer loves. When these influencers are authentic, their young followers trust them.
This same concept applies to the Church. When you’re trying to teach a class of young adults or teenagers but you don’t believe what you’re teaching, they can tell. But when you’re vulnerable with them and share your true testimony and love for the Savior, they value it, appreciate it, and will trust you. This will lead them to desire a strong testimony for themselves, as they have seen the true light and joy it brings into your life.