Understanding Your Students Part 3
I started writing this blog a few weeks ago with a goal in mind for all student ministries in America. I think that Generation Z stands at the doorsteps of our church and community in need of wanting more from our ministries. I know that may seem very vague or general, but students do not want to be part of something that we did in the church 15-20 years ago. They want something that has been written or created for them.
Today’s blog has the goal of helping each Student Pastor become stronger in reaching students and helping them find a place to belong and serve the local church. Below I have labeled what I believe is the final three categories for understanding Generation Z.
Generation Z wants the local church and ministries to provide more creativity and uniqueness. They have seen the church mature in different areas since they have been alive, but they want the student ministry to also mature in the way they are set up. What do I mean by being more creative or unique?
What makes your ministry different from the one 3-5 miles down the road? If you are not sure, then start by taking a few moments to figure out what makes your ministry unique. CATC Student Ministry where I serve we have some things that make our ministry unique. I have never served in a Student Ministry similar to where I am serving now. We are a diverse ministry where we have 6 different language communities that exist within our Student Ministry. Our Student Ministry has Students leaders who are in the 9th-12th Grade who help oversee our Outings, Social Media, Greeting team, and Outreach. Our MDWK Service was designed to be a place where students can bring friends for crazy games, fun video announcements, where we worship in song and dive into topics the students are working through regularly.
Our ministry understands the need for creativity, and we created crazy games to play as students arrive, but we also learned that our students like taking notes and studying in their own time. Because we understand that need within Generation Z, we train our students to ask questions and dive deeper into the text than just the surface level.
I know that your ministry is unique and has some fantastic things going on within the community. Use that to your advantage as a Student Pastor. I would also recommend you to give the students ownership of the ministry. Allow them to use their creative skills to be applied to the student ministry.
If you have been doing student ministry for any time at all, you know that students love their phones and being on social media. I would say that you need to be creative in the way that you share about things happening in your student ministry. I have found that using social media has led to us reaching more students.
I have been using different applications, but one website called later.com has been a huge timesaver. Our ministry plans out the weekly posts ahead of time and all I need to do is schedule it a week or two in advance, and the posts go out. I would recommend you using social media as a tool for reaching students. But, let me dive a little deeper, only use Facebook to posts things for parents, church members, and adults within your ministry. If you want to make an impact on students in Generation Z, then look to Twitter for more conversational pieces and Instagram or Snapchat.
While researching Generation Z one of the things that came up was that teenagers are using Twitter as their primary source to talking with fellow peers. Why? According to one Generation Z student, “I use Twitter most to communicate with friends in the same age group, with very little parent users.”
Generation Z has social media outlets for different things, and each platform serves its purpose within their lives. The church needs to use every avenue we can to reach out to engage this generation. There a lot of ways to be creative and promote events, but whatever you do make sure you are creating posts that will catch their eyes and interests.
We have used our social media to promote our mid-week services because we can use a one-minute video, a snapshot, or even the logo to share in the description that we will be talking about anxiety, stress, and why the Bible is essential. I would recommend using your social media outlets as a tool for engaging and reaching a Generation who is looking to own their belief system.
Generation Z stands at a crucial time for each of our student ministries where we serve. I know that for the last 15 years I have been doing ministry, I say, “The student ministry exists for students to serve fellow students.” But the reality is, I have caught myself promoting my ways for ministry, and have at times kept our students back from full ownership of ministry. Recently over the last few years, I have come across some fantastic resources that have helped me to create a ministry where I can allow the students to have full ownership and I assist and help mentor students to ministry to fellow students.
The generation before us today in our ministries are looking for ownership of their student ministry. They want to serve as leaders, small group teachers, help run media, be in charge of the social media accounts, and they want to help seek the vision of the Student Ministry be accomplished. I would highly recommend that we as their pastors begin to allow the students to have ownership within our ministries. We need to walk beside them and disciple them, but they must have ownership of the Student Ministry. Why? Because when they become active leaders in the church in their teen years, they begin to stay in leadership roles doing ministry post-graduation of High School and College.
Let us love and treasure Generation Z.
Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace, Generation Z Goes to College (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2016), 79.