“There grew up a generation who knew not the Lord nor the things He had done…” –Judges 2:10
This statement was written thousands of years ago about the generation that arose after Joshua (of Battle of Jericho fame) had died—but it could arguably be made about Gen Z in our day. According to a recent Barna study, Gen Z teens are less Christian than any previous American generation: 35% of them identify as atheist, agnostic, or without any religious affiliation.
For Christians, this statistic should inspire an urgency to introduce Gen Z to Jesus. Various studies suggest that anywhere from 67 percent to upward of 80 percent of people who trust in Christ do so by the time they’re 18. That gives us a small window and a pressing call to make sure teens within our reach don’t graduate without knowing Jesus.
Here are six steps you can take—individually and as a church—to shift the tide of a generation back to Christ.
This is our number-one responsibility. Prayer is the power, and everything flows from there. When we get on our knees before the Lord, we will see this next generation stand on their feet for Him.
Make praying for Gen Z a normal and intentional part of your personal life and of your church’s rhythms. Pray in small groups, pray in Sunday school, pray corporately, pray publicly, pray privately, and pray regularly—pray without ceasing for Gen Z to know Jesus, grow in Jesus, and go for Jesus. Devote yourself to prayer!
Every student, child, and parent in your area should know they’re welcome in your church. We can convey this message in various ways—from involvement in community events to inviting them to next-generation church ministries. Every step we take should communicate that students are not only welcome but wanted.
Just a few weeks ago, I was at a youth weekend. I challenged students to text friends and invite them to that night’s worship service, where I would preach the Gospel simply and plainly. Many students took the challenge. One teen girl, in particular, sent a message to a friend, who accepted the invite. Her friend came that night, heard the Gospel, and gave her life to Jesus as her King. All it took was a 15-second text, letting her know she was invited! Everyone can invite someone.
Inviting people to church is an important step, but it’s not the ultimate one. Our end goal is to connect people to Jesus.
Make sure you’re intentionally and continually communicating the Gospel in your personal interactions and in your church. How are you introducing others to Christ? Know your testimony, and be ready to share it. Memorize a simple Gospel outline, so you can always be ready to explain the hope you have within you. Commit to sharing the Gospel every time you meet as a youth group, small group, or church congregation. When you present the Gospel regularly, you see salvations regularly.
The next step gets a bit messy, but it’s a must: Put teens to work! From speaking to students all over the country, I’ve learned that finding ways to get teens involved is one of the biggest keys to effectively reaching them. Gen Z teens do not want to just come and sit. They want be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Find areas of ministry in your church to train them up—tech, kids ministry, videos, social media, welcome team, worship, and even teaching. If your student ministry is simply a six-year hangout with pizza, don’t expect them to stick around when they graduate. Every year in the United States, 3,000 churches close their doors. I believe along the way many of these churches decided not to include the next generation.
We must take seriously the exhortation in Hebrews 10:24 to “consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds.” Students, just like adults, flock to places where they feel encouraged.
It’s powerful when adults tell teens: “I’m so glad you’re in this church” or “Our church is better because you’re here.” When gray-haired saints speak words like these to students each week, teens want to stick around. Remember this powerful truth: It’s always God’s will for us to encourage one another.
There’s a familiar Biblical principle often called “the law of the harvest.” Galatians 6:7-9 covers it in detail, but it can be summarized as: “You reap what you sow.” We must move beyond talking and start investing in the next generation—spiritually, financially, and practically.
Spiritually, we must pray for, pray with, mentor, disciple, and train up Gen Z in all spiritual disciplines. Financially, we must be willing to give toward reaching youth. Matthew 6:21 tells us that where our heart is, our treasure will be also. If we truly desire to see the next generation reached, we need to contribute financially. Practically, we must find ways to be part of the life of the next-generation ministry inside our churches and beyond.
Despite the statistics, we’re seeing a revival among Gen Z teens. They’re turning to—and back to—God in incredible numbers all over the country. Raise up your church to be part of this harvest. As we say at R.A.G.E. Ministries: “‘Reaching a Generation Endangered’ is not a ‘me’ thing—it’s a ‘we’ thing.” It will take us all. Join the movement today!