What Your Church Needs to Know About Generation Z
Engaging Middle School Students in Large Group
The story of Gen Z is one currently being written—one that will continue to morph as they continue to grow up. We can’t predict their defining moments or the key cultural and historical movements that will shape their story, but that doesn’t mean they are unknowable. In fact, maybe our best bet at understanding where Generation Z is going is to take a glance at where they come from.
After all, the characteristics that define a generation tends to be a reaction to, not a reflection of, the generation that came before them. If this is true, then it’s safe to assume that Gen Z is a product of their Gen X and Millennial parents.
So what does that mean for Gen Z?
Navigating the Awkward in Middle School Small Groups
Have you ever been in front of a room full of middle schoolers and wanted to throw something at them? Have you ever felt like they make it simply impossible for you to teach?
If you have, then you’re not alone. Because there’s something about being in a room full of middle schoolers that leaves you wondering, “Are they even capable of listening?”
The truth is a room full of middle school students requires a lot more room management. While you can let middle schoolers in a Small Group setting have a little more freedom, middle schoolers in a large group space need a lot more structure in order to avoid total and complete chaos.
The Biggest Difference Between Recruiting Middle and High School Small Group Leaders
Have you ever walked into a room full of middle schoolers, and they just stared at you?
Or avoided eye contact?
Or pretended not to notice that you walked into the room?
Or immediately looked down at their phone?
Or started whispering?
Have you ever tried to talk to a group of middle schoolers that you didn’t know very well?
You asked a question, and nobody wanted to be the first one to answer.
And if they did answer, it’s with only one word.
A Crash Course on Middle Schoolers
One thing I would guess most youth pastors have in common is that they don’t have enough volunteers. And when you don’t have a ton of volunteers, you can’t really be too picky about who you choose to lead your students.
Or can you?
At a conference this past year, I was asked this question: “What are the qualities and characteristics you look for in a middle school Small Group Leader versus a high school Small Group Leader?”
The Recipe for Developing an Authentic Faith of Their Own
When you really understand the way a middle schooler thinks, relates, processes, and connects, it changes the way you are able to reach them. It shapes every decision you make about your programming and the people you invite into it.
When you really understand middle schoolers, you will better be able to relate to and reach them where they are right now.
Here are some resources I suggest you start with:
Hacks on What Your Volunteers Really Want
If you have worked with middle schoolers for more than a week, I would bet my bank account that after you tell people what you do and who you serve, they look at you and say, “Oh bless your heart. I’m sorry. That’s a hard job that I’d never want.”
Early in my career of middle school ministry, I would just respond with a simple, “Oh yeah, thanks.” But over the years I have learned to respond differently.
7 Undeniable Characteristics of (most) Middle Schoolers
In this episode I had the chance to chat with the one and only, Justin Knowles, about what volunteers really want from you as a leader. There are many times in which try and do all these random things to get our leaders on track or to make sure they are taken care of, but in this episode of the Youth Ministry Hacks Podcast, we talk about what they really desire.
What YouTube Channels Are Middle Schoolers Watching?
I have worked with middle school students in educational, athletic, and ministry settings for more than 14 years now. Although each context was uniquely different, there were still a few basic things about (most) middle schoolers that remained the same no matter what.
We asked middle schoolers from all over the country what their favorite YouTube channel was as of today (because we all know it changes in the blink of an eye). Here’s what they said…