How engaging Gen Z can help keep your church doors open.
In 2020, for the first time, church membership in the U.S fell below 50%. Of the people whose membership declined, older and younger Americans were far more common than those who were middle aged. Luckily, since then church attendance has mostly returned to pre-pandemic numbers, only dropping a few percentage points overall.
Though there was little effect of COVID-19 on general worship attendance, the pandemic did accelerate the longstanding trend that young adult attendance is declining. A staggering 30% of young adults stopped attending church after the pandemic.
The young generation, called Generation Z or “Gen Z,” encompasses anyone born between the mid-1990s to around 2010. Gen Z makes up one quarter of the entire population. With 330 million people in America, if 30% of Gen Z stopped attending church after the pandemic, that means nearly 25 million young people have stopped going to church.
The importance of Gen Z to keeping church operations successful
Since even before the pandemic, thousands of churches have been closing every year. A large reason for this is decreased membership. Young people have reduced their church attendance in particular. In 2017, 7 out of 10 people between the ages of 18 and 22 said they stopped attending church regularly.
Members between the ages of 18 and 22 typically begin to stray from the church as they transition into adulthood. It’s during this critical time that churches should pay particular attention to and engage with young congregation members.
Here's 3 things we’re seeing:
Studies have shown that Gen Zers in particular struggle with loneliness more than previous generations. During the pandemic, 42% of young people reported that no one outside their home had reached to them to make sure they were okay. These statistics represent an opportunity for churches to play an active, caring role in young people’s lives.
During the pandemic, many people sought out groups to meet and stay in touch with people. Because this trend has carried over, it’s a good idea for your church to create a set of groups that your members can participate in to meet like-minded people and further strengthen the tie between members and your church.
These groups can be in-person or online. If you’d like to start an online chat group but aren’t sure how, here’s some easy instructions from Facebook. Google Meet is an easy, free way for groups to video chat. Groups can represent people’s interests, like animals or hobbies, or they can be more social justice and community-oriented.
Organizing Projects with Intent
The Church has a lot to do in this world and Gen Z cares deeply about modern issues affecting society. They want to make a difference in those spaces – or at least discuss them. Statistically, they are shown as a philanthropic generation who are committed to making the world better.
Use this cross section of the Church’s mission and the desire for change to make a difference in your church’s community. A luncheon for the homeless. A mission trip to Uganda. A clothing drive. These are the kinds of intentional events you can inspire from your young parishioners to better engage them and naturally attract more church attention and membership.
Though the Gen Z congregation is declining, there are hundreds of churches across the country that have seen the opposite by following these 3 trends and others. What have you tried in your church? What worked and what didn’t? Please share with us in the comments below!
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