It’s not surprising to note that the digital native generation, born between 1997 and 2012, is predominantly digital. To connect and relate with the mobile and hyperconnected Generation Z, churches must plan and expand the way they reach out to members and seekers alike.
Go mobile or go home
The technological influence of Gen Z means that churches must pay renewed attention to their digital outreach.
In recent years, churches have seen an increase in traffic of more than 50% to their websites initiated from mobile devices. Churches should anticipate that this percentage will continue to rise as 95% of Generation Z consume their daily multidose of content using a smartphone.
If your website isn’t optimized for all screens (from phone and tablet to laptop), it’s time to find a theme or builder that can make your site mobile responsive. If your site is slow to load or a menu fails to function on a phone, 60% of the young cohort will tap and swipe away.
Your ads aren’t reaching them on Facebook
While Facebook is an important tool in every church marketer’s toolkit, it’s typically a less effective option for reaching Gen Z and even some millennials. (It ranks well behind Snapchat [69%], Instagram [72%] and YouTube [85%].)
However, Facebook’s ad platform can serve as a generational bridge between Facebook (boomers through millennials) and Instagram (Gen Z). Craft your messages based on the needs of the ages being targeted. For example, highlight a guest speaker’s parenting tips in a Facebook post and their dating advice on Instagram.
It’s time to get serious about video
Church leaders must build a video strategy to reach this generation. Thankfully, it doesn’t require a studio to do so. Gen Z shoots and watches videos on smartphones. Follow suit by using the camera in your pocket but consider adding gear to it can up your video game. Put your worship service online and offer livestreaming. Create short videos that answer questions or offer inspiration while keeping younger generations engaged.
Technology is creating a need churches can meet
Generation Z is aware of the paradox: The disconnect found among the most connected generation. Although the majority readily embrace technology as a way to interact with diverse people, nearly 45% of the generation expresses being overwhelmed by the drama found online.
Youth groups and young adult ministries are at their best when they keep current with issues and aim to equip Gen Z with the skills to navigate the chaos of the digital world. Though becoming a more technologically diverse church, they need to stay consistent in their role as “the church.” They should continue to offer Christian teachings and life application guidance as well as encourage healthy interactions. When spiritual and emotional needs are being met, young people listen and share with their peers.
Reaching the next generation may feel like aiming at a moving target. With informed simple shifts, your message can attract the attention and meet the needs of Generation Z.
Jeremy Steele is the associate pastor at Los Altos UMC in Los Altos, California, as well as a writer and speaker. You can find a list of all his books, articles and resources for churches, including his most recent book All the Best Questions, at his website: JeremyWords.com.