Gen Z is hungry for deep truths, and they’re not going to stick around where they don’t expect to find them. If we want to be effective at transmitting a durable faith to today’s youth, we need to be aware of and respond to three ongoing trends in particular.
1. Compacting Ideas
Generation Z has picked up and run with our culture’s tendency to compact information. Consider the rise of memes as a form of communication among youth. Memes represent how popular language continues to be compressed, moving from pages to words to characters to images and videos embedded with snarky text.
Youth today have an increasing tendency to filter out all information and opinions except for those they already agree with. Moving beyond confirmation bias, teens have become skilled at blocking topics that they or society have already considered closed. People have always processed information through the lens of their own worldview, but when worldviews prevent their adherents from even receiving information for processing, the result can only be extreme polarization.
Our language is undergoing a constant relabeling. Words which once meant one thing now mean something (or nothing) else entirely.And if words can mean anything, then they have no intrinsic meaning – or at least no possibility of common meaning. As a result, the Church can’t assume that words such as “love,” “God,” and “truth” are being understood by young listeners as intended.
With Generation Z seeing through an increasingly compartmentalized, filtered, and subjective view of reality, we can no longer simply communicate head knowledge from the pulpit; as the research shows, they’d just walk away unsatisfied. Instead, let’s consider how we can train their perceptions and intuitions, teaching them how to unpack, de-filter, and recognize truth in the onslaught of communication that bombards them every day.
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