This week, Jonny Price, Youth and Children’s Ministry Leader in York, returns to give us some insight into his research into ‘GenZ’, and how young people today are actually quite different to ‘Millennials’ – just like him!
Millenials are everywhere, saving the world or destroying industry depending in your point of view. But the young people we work with today are not millennials. Instead they are Post-millenials, GenZ, iGen… they go by a few labels.
But the important thing is, their values are significantly different to the values of millenials, and so we need to engage with them instead of getting sucked into the church’s (slight) obsession with engaging with ‘millennials.’
However, before I do, I just want to sound a note of caution. Much of the material that I have found comes from the marketing industry. While it is slightly concerning that those most interested with the attitudes and beliefs of the next generation are those wishing to sell to them, that is not the main concern. We should be wary as to how much marketers are reacting to generational trends, and how much they are setting them. If a group of people grow up confronted regularly with a certain set of values, it is only natural that those values will affect how they see the world.
Here I have tried to look past the obvious ones like ‘shorter attention spans’, or ‘better multi-tasking’, and instead dig into the values they hold and the causes for them.
Now, on with the list
1. Progress, but not seismic shifts
Millenials seem to believe that if they can just sort that one thing out, then everything will be better. Whether they are talking about racism, sexism, exploitation of the workforce, wealth inequality (they are such an earnest lot), that in each of those issues there is a key point, and if it could be changed it would improve. This is unsurprising in a generation that have seen the growth of the internet, the change in the world since 9/11, and the impact of the global recession in their lifetimes. If it goes down, it must go up.
GenZ are much more pragmatic in their approach to change. They believe that small changes will lead to big change, and that improvement in life will come slowly. This makes sense; the phones, computers, and tablets that influence so much of their world are constantly being updated with new fixes and small improvements. It makes sense that they would see the world this way.
2. There is only sub-culture
Millenials see themselves as part of the wider world. They see the shapes and trends in culture and react to them. While there is significant individualisation in their own particular subcultures, through the things they consume and the values they hold, there is still an overarching culture they see themselves as part of
For GenZ, the wider culture has far less impact on them. In many ways there is now only sub-culture, with each individual or group of friends setting the norms and values for themselves without recourse to the adult world.
3. If we can’t influence it, we’ll make our own
Millenials have regularly been described by both their lauders and detractors, as anti-authoritarian. They want to push back against the world, they want to challenge those in authority and want to make changes to the way the world is.
GenZ are also anti-authortiarian, but in a very different way. Instead of imposing themselves on the adult world and attempting to change it, they will instead create their own spaces in which to flourish and grow, ignoring the external society and culture, although to what extent this is a result of the life stage they are at is debatable.
4. I’ll do it my own way
Millenials are a communal generation. They want to work together to achieve their goals, they value community life, and will search out those with similar interests or experiences to them to form communities.
GenZ are far more independent. This has implication across this cohorts life. They are less likely to attend higher education and more likely to enter the workforce sooner. They are less likely to seek work and are more entrepreneurial. They want to do it themselves.
5. ‘Internet famous’ isn’t a thing anymore
Millenials, remember a time before the true growth of the internet, and have inherited their parents slight snobbishness about the internet. However much they invest in it, it still isn’t quite real.
GenZ have no such compunctions about the internet. Influencers actually influence them, internet famous is actually famous. While this may seem a trivial point, it has significant implications. That YouTube celebrity you dismiss as just another internet guy? That person probably has more influence and impact on our young people’s life than we do.
So where does that leave us?
It is still early days for GenZ studies. Like millennials, they will lauded and lambasted, they will be the generation to save the world, or the one that is destroying the way things are.
How should we as youth workers react to these changes? That is a topic for another blog.
Jonny Price is the Youth and Children’s Ministry Leader for a Clifton Parish Churches in the North of beautiful York, where he lives with his wife, Carly, and son, Ethan.
When time allows he can be found cycling, either road or mountain, cooking or reading.
He holds a BA (Hons) in Mission and Ministry with a specialism in Youth from Cliff College, and is currently studying for an MA.
He loves Jesus and the Church, and wants to see the Church work to help young people live transformed lives by experiencing the redeeming love of Jesus.