Over 100 people attended the panel discussion led by our Youth Delegation. The Youth Delegation was comprised of 13 youth, ages 14-17, from 10 churches across Wisconsin. The delegation was led by Kellen Roggenbuck, chairperson of the Conference Youth Council.
The youth are members of Generation Z and began by educating the attendees about their generation. Gen Z is the most racially, sexually, and religiously diverse generation in American history. A higher percentage of Gen Z’s identify as atheists than previous generations. However, that does not necessarily mean their generation has a negative view of church. They often do not have any experience with church.
There were two main themes that emerged on the topic of how churches can reach members of their generation: inclusivity and activism/mission work. As members of the most diverse generation, they feel most comfortable in churches that are inclusive of all people.
The youth repeatedly emphasized that they are a generation who wants to do things. They are not waiting for the church to do service; they are doing it on their own. If a church can provide opportunities for them to engage in mission work or activism, they are more likely to stay involved in that church.
A suggestion for how churches can start applying their advice is to offer occasional “Service Sundays.” Plan a mission project or activity on Sunday morning, instead of a traditional sermon and service. Provide youth with opportunities to be active and engage directly in mission work. They would much rather be out there doing God’s mission, instead of sitting in pews and learning about it.
The delegation also discussed how important it was to have a voice in their church. They are the future of the church, and do not want to be involved in an organization that does not value them due to their age. Suggestions on how to give the youth in your church more of a voice included giving them opportunities to lead, hold meeting space time dedicated to listening to youth, and having a structured youth leadership.
Throughout the panel, the delegation frequently referenced a study from Barna on Gen Z and Morality. Youth group leader Kellen Roggenbuck recommended two books: Generational IQ by Haydn Shaw and Meet Generation Z by James Emery White.