Most people have probably never heard of Generation Z or given them much thought, but their formation is crucial to the future of our our Church and our nation.
For the past five years I have taught theology to middle school and high school students every week, and I have seen how smartphones have shaped their interactions with one another. I’ve also seen how my own smartphone has drastically shaped the way that I study and socialize since returning to school in seminary.
My anecdotal experience inspired me to study the sociological data and explore these shifting behaviors and beliefs, comparing Generation Z and my millennial peers. The datasets are sobering.
In a nutshell, Gen Z adolescents are less likely to interact with one anther in person across the usual contexts, such as parties, sports teams, or part-time jobs. Instead, they are spending much more time on the internet and communicating with each other via digital means.
While these changes have resulted in declining risky behaviors, Gen Z has also exhibited a rise in depressive symptoms and suicides compared to prior generations.
Church leaders should explore the sociological data and psychological theories behind these realities in order to better serve our youth and young adults from Generation Z. Above all, I believe our young people are starved of authentic communities and contemplative experiences of prayer in the midst of non-stop information flows.
Please click on my poster to the right to read through a full-screen PDF version. Here is a link to a video describing my poster: https://bit.ly/3czPPMs. Below are research papers I submitted for two of my classes, followed by very insightful videos by experts in the field.
Paper for Pastoral Counseling Course with an emphasis on psychological theories of depression and pastoral responses.
Paper for Religious Studies Course with an emphasis on the sociological data.
Thank you for this research and for synthesizing the information. It’s quite fascinating and alarming. I was particularly drawn to the section about behaviours. I also find that the suggested actions that the Church can take are relevant to our mission as Church and realistic in being able to actuate them. I appreciate this very much!