Generation Z and the Gospel

Generation Z and the Gospel

We have all heard about the ‘millennials.’ This generation was born between 1984 and 1998. But what about the generation right behind them? Generation Z, born between 1999 and 2015. I myself have 4 children from this generation, 5 if you count my youngest (who was born in July 2015).

This generation is starting high school and university. They, and now I am not necessarily talking about my own children, seem to be very different from their millennial predecessors in many ways. In general, they seem less religious, more focused on success, more diverse, more fascinated by technology and more inclined to embrace different views of sexual identity. Actually, it’s hard to label them, if you wanted to at all.

How do we deal with this as a church? Are we willing AND are we equipped to help this generation flourish in this new cultural landscape, while helping to do justice to their faith in Jesus?

Barna Group

The Barna Group, a well-known American Christian research group, not long ago completed a study on this generation.i While the 2024 group is pretty much between the ages of nine and 25, the study looked mainly at people in the 13–18 age group. As a whole, therefore, their views may change as younger members of the generation mature.

According to the report, Generation Z is characterised by six key facets: world-view, identity, technology, parents, assurance, and diversity. Well, you can seem to go either way with that, of course, yet it offers us, churches, Christian leaders and parents important opportunities, but certainly also challenges.


These young people are growing up in a society where religion, especially Christianity, is no longer seen as the most important thing. Everything around them has gone haywire, and they now live amid prevailing relativism. According to the Barna report, young people of this generation are more likely to call themselves atheists. The Christian world-view is no longer the starting point and therefore irrelevant for many of them.

In general, it seems that this generation is much better at accepting dissenters. They are open to the most diverse views. This also makes it difficult for them to take a hard-line stance on morality. They are afraid of hurting the other person. You often see this in heated discussions where they are asked to take a stand. For someone like me, this is terrible to see. Their moral compass seems as flexible as a rubber band, and it is unclear which path they actually want to take. And as mentioned, if you push them a little, they can only do a poor job of making decisions or judgements based on solid values and beliefs.

Yet here lies a tremendous opportunity for the church! The Christian world-view teaches that we should have compassion for others. Jesus showed us that we should care for others, especially those who are left out. We may teach young people what it is to show true love. The love we have for our fellow man is rooted in the true God.

Deuteronomy 32:4

He is the Rock, his work is perfect: For all his ways are judgment: A God of truth and without iniquity, Just and right is he.He is the rock, Whose work is perfect, for all His ways are one and only straight. God is truth and not injustice; just and true is He.

In turn, we may learn about their diversity. In the Netherlands we know a saying which translates something like "Our dear Lord has strange boarders." In other words, we have had strange people within the family of God throughout the ages. People who never really fit in. But if we are honest, those strange boarders were always greatly outnumbered. Often we have seen those ‘weirdos’ leave the church and join a congregation with more room for their ‘weirdness.’ Gen Z can help us be more understanding of people from other backgrounds. They can teach adults the importance of loving people who are different from them. It’s not rocket-science. I regularly ask my children why some young people do or say this or that. Generally, my children can articulate just fine what the motivations might be.

Speaking of world-views. Many of the Gen Z people did not grow up in the church and have no idea about what Jesus did. Then come the Christians, and they start talking about their sin and that they need to be saved from it. “Yes!” they say “Jesus died in your place so that your debt to God can be forgiven.” If time permits, we will quickly tell the anecdote of the judge who passes judgement, but then takes off his gown to bear the punishment himself … This explanation of Jesus’ redemptive work is very legally approached and fits nicely into a biblical framework. But …

Many Gen Z-ers will look at you like you’re crazy! They have hardly heard about sin and Christianity overall, except that what the social media told them. Mind you, they are aware of the misery in the world. Often they themselves sense that something is wrong. Because of all the media pressure, insecurity, and lack of identity, deep down many just feel pretty lousy. Instead of the usual penal substitution doctrine, it might work much better to talk about all the other work Jesus accomplished: He removed the shame between man and God; He conquered the dark powers; He promises peace and a light burden. And so on and so forth. Jesus’ work is much more than a legal settlement. I’ve written a bit about that before in an article on missions.ii


Surprise! The report also shows that almost 1/3 of Gen Z have no problems with transgenderism. A large proportion of these young people believe that you can be born a boy but feel like a girl. So for them (69%), gender does not depend on your chromosomes, but on how a person feels. This also makes many of them struggle with whom they really are.

We sometimes jokingly say that transgenderism seems to be a hype that is highly contagious. What emerges out of this research? It seems that many young people tend to adapt their own sexuality in order to show empathy to groups that have been left out. Their inclusiveness and empathy is the most important aspect in their relationships.

The question, of course, is what we do with that in the church. I don’t know about you, but I have heard very few Bible studies or sermons on sexuality. Many church leaders are uncomfortable about the subject. If it is discussed at all, it is quickly done from a viewpoint of condemnation. It is time to put the biblical theology around sexuality on the agenda. It is okay for the church to take a clear but loving stance on identity and healthy sexuality. Are we also willing then to learn from Gen Z how we may respond empathetically to others? Education is not a one-direction monologue like it used to be. We should not immediately close all doors if we do not quite agree on Biblical beliefs. Again, we need to show what Christian charity means.


There is no escaping this. The vast majority of young people spend 4 or more hours a day on the internet. This is the first generation to see that their parents also spend a lot of time behind a screen.

The problem is that many young people lead a kind of double life. Online, they are often very different from how they really feel. Online, they are happy, joyful, and confident. Many have a different identity and act downright bad while in real life they are insecure.

When I had to write a paper I used to go to the library on my bicycle. I got most of the news from TV. My little world was pretty simple. Today’s youngsters have a huge amount to digest. Much more than they can handle. They are presented with the most diverse moral ideas without having the time to process them properly, let alone react to them properly.

And let’s face it. This development is a challenge for all of us. But when all is said and done, we adults have developed our identity, but it is particularly problematic and damaging for young people who are still in the process of developing their identity.

Teaching about our identity in Christ and our intrinsic worth and dignity as image bearers of God is extremely important! We should not be afraid to offer help to parents who struggle with parenting.

Church leaders need to be aware that technology could serve us. Terrible as it may be, but platforms like TikTok and Instagram lend themselves well to sharing the Christian message. At the same time, it would be good to organise fun outings with the youth. Just apart from the smartphone. Outings, get-togethers, BBQs or whatever! As long as it focuses on personal interaction. Churches should try to let young people experience that they don’t have to be happy, joyful, and successful all the time. They may learn who they are in Christ.


Just a heads-up for us parents. Gen Z looks up to us! They like to look to family when it comes to role models. At the same time, they no longer put family ties at number one when it comes to their own identity. You used to be the son or daughter of such and such. Now, young people very quickly tend to hang their identity on a group outside the family.

Unfortunately, we also see this generation suffering from the effects of many broken families. We also see many parents who seem to understand little of the issues facing their teenagers. And then we also see that parents have no time, resources, or energy to educate their kids thoroughly. They prefer to leave biblical teaching to the youth leader, and they assume that that brief Bible reading at the table, if at all, is enough.

Serious churches should invest in parenting and family training. If we expect fathers to raise their sons in the ways of the Lord, we should also help those fathers shape that.

In addition, it is important that as a congregation, or church, we are a place where young people from a broken family may experience love and security. Young mothers and fathers should actively approach and engage these young people in the things of the Lord. Many people find this uncomfortable, but I have actually never come across a young person who was annoyed when I had a quick chat with him. You don’t have to make yourself look cooler, or speak the young people’s language on purpose. What you do have to do is listen and ask and listen again.


What strikes me is that many young people are very concerned with financial success. A lot seems to be focused on their achievement. And what do I read in the Barna survey: About two-thirds (65-66%) of Gen Z want to finish their education, start a career, and be financially independent by the age of 30. On the other hand, only one in five (20%) want to get married by then.

I mentioned earlier that Gen Z looks for role models, preferably within its own family. It is therefore extremely important that we within the church pay attention to Bible teaching regarding money and possessions. It is too short of the mark to just exclaim that the desire for money is the root of all evil. Just a lesson about the rich young man who went away sad when Jesus told him to sell his possessions is not enough either.

Biblical teaching on money and possessions go much deeper. We need to discuss things like rest, sleep, and leisure. The Bible is very clear that we need these things for a healthy lifestyle. What good is it if, like that farmer, you only amass possessions and end up not being able to do anything with them because you died of heart-attack?

God can use rich people just fine! But we need to be constantly reminded that our security or assurance comes from the Lord.

Psalm 20:7

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

Our young people may learn that they cannot buy life with their money. Life is in God’s hand.

Luke 12:15

And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

Education and guidance is also important because we also understand that not everyone actually becomes financially successful. Then it is good to know that Jesus gives to us abundantly.

John 10:10

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.


Diversity is one of those typical buzzwords that gives me the creeps. Yet we cannot escape it. Barna notes that Gen Z is the most diverse group in terms of ethnicity we have ever seen. The funny thing is that the research shows that black and Latino teens place more importance on family and communal matters in general than white teens. In doing so, they seem to be closer to the Biblical ideal than the other groups. This is an American study so it may well be slightly different in the Netherlands. Still, it is good to know this.

Gen Z seems to have less trouble with these differences. They have less difficulty dealing with the way Christians form the Dutch Antilles worship versus the Calvinist Dutchman, for example. In this respect, Gen Z people are perfectly capable of helping us interpret and accept these differences. Gen Z is more passionate when it comes to inclusion and acceptance of the ‘strange boarders’ than previous generations. In general, multi-ethnic communities are more attractive to this generation.

Christian leaders, regardless of their cultural background, would do well to learn about the history, heritage, and contributions of other ethnic groups, including the country and church they are in. Church history is more than Luther, Zwingli, or Calvin. Church history is incredibly diverse. Not everything is good! But let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. For many of us, listening to an enthusiastic jumping up and down speaker from Suriname will take some getting used to. But for the average Gen Z-er, it is the most normal thing in the world.


Jonathan Morrowiii said the following:

the biggest gifts you can give to your Gen Z-er in your household is a safe place for them to ask questions and express doubts, and process what they interact with, because their whole experience is being narrated by the culture, by the media, by Netflix, everything else.

I could not have said it better. There is a need for radical discipleship. Many young people really do not consciously reject Christ. What they just can’t come to terms with are so-called ‘Christian’ views when it comes to politics and other sociological insights that cannot necessarily be traced back to the Bible. Many of our insights are based on certain traditions. That is not necessarily wrong, but as soon as they contradict Biblical values, they can go out the window as far as I am concerned. Gen Z-ers can’t stand hypocrisy, which is what keeps many of them from wanting to know Christ.

However, it needs to be said that many of them fail to reflect on their own hypocrisy. Many are quick to note that Christians are intolerant but at the same time they fail explaining anything concrete about moral standards. Many of their moral are emotional based. We need to be fully aware that this is not an unwillingness from their side, it is the whole atmosphere they mostly grow up in.

We need to pay more attention to the challenges facing Gen Z. We must learn to hang out with them instead of retreating in our safe bunker. In this post-Christian society, it is more appealing for Gen Z to hear a fully committed follower of Christ than to have to listen to Christians who know everything better and who are unwilling to change certain ideas. We need to be willing to put aside men-made traditions. No, not all traditions are bad! But sometimes it can’t hurt to put them aside.

Gen Z forces us to look seriously at our own lives with Jesus. It won’t always be easy, and we may be reviled by our ‘own’ party. Jesus was not much appreciated for His high-profile actions either. Genuine consideration for sinners? Respect for women? Compassion for the sick? How dare He!

Luke 15:2

And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

But how much joy there will be in heaven if we are allowed to lead our young people to the Lord with devotion, love and attention:

Luke 15:10

Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

Just this

Let me give a little justification. Don’t think I am watering down the Gospel! Certainly not! But we need to realise that not everything we do can always be traced back to God’s word. Many of our church and Christian customs simply stem from human traditions. These can often be fine in themselves, but can sometimes get in the way of unbelievers seeing the truth.

All right, I’ll leave it at that.

Anyway, thanks very much for visiting.

I wish you God’s blessing!



i Barna Group, Gen Z: Your Questions Answered, (06-02-2018) [Internet], accessed 01-05-2024.

ii Hofmann, J., Why Mission Matters, Seen from a Secular Viewpoint, (under the header: ‘Missionary of Culture,’ second alinea), [internet], 20-10-2016.

cf. Hofmann, J., Christus Victor Explained, [internet], 26-04-2021.

cf. Hofmann, J., Penal Substitution Theory Explained, [internet], 26-04-2021.

iii Morrow, J., Understanding Generation Z, Think Biblically, (07-06-2028) [Internet], accessed 01-05-2024.

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