There are a few memories I have from my teenage years that stand out to me. One of them is from an experience I had one night in youth group. That particular night, we were having a discussion about Christian living, and during the conversation I remember saying to myself, “There has to be more to my faith than this.” Whatever we were discussing was shallow, and at that point in my faith journey I longed for depth. I longed for substantive answers to the questions of life and a motivation for my faith that was deeply rooted in truth.
In the same way, I believe the next generation (Gen Z) of women in our churches is searching for the “more” of their faith. Daily they are being bombarded with complex issues and life situations. They are engaging in hard conversations with their friends, discussing topics like gender, sexuality, race, and justice. Even more so, they are trying to find substantive answers for their questions and a way to love those our faith would call them to disagree with. But unlike previous generations, they are willing to let go of the faith when they can’t find the answers they are looking for, or when the world has more depth and thoughtfulness in their responses than we do.
While the biblical principles of disciplemaking always stay the same, there are times when our methods or points of emphasis need to change. When I think about the next generation of women’s ministry, I believe our cultural moment is calling us to make a ministry method pivot. Specifically, I believe there are two key areas of emphasis we need to focus on to faithfully disciple our Gen Z women.
Social media brings the world to our phone and computer screens. With the touch of a button we can learn from and interact with people all over the world! Online communities like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook give us the ability to share our ideas and experiences with ease, and Google provides the answers to any question we could ever have. All of us have been impacted by this inexhaustible access to information. But specifically, it has made Gen Z more open-minded than previous generations. Through what is oftentimes exposure to a global community, they have come to highly value diversity, whether it’s a diversity of ideas, lifestyles, or ethnic groups.
However, this constant access to information also means that they are inundated with different versions of “truth.” According to the world that shows up through their phones, truth is relative; there isn’t just one standard for living. Furthermore, to impose your standards for living on someone else can be seen as unloving and unkind. So, in the age where self-actualization is king, our young women are being told their best life is found in fulfilling their personal feelings and desires. Regardless of where it might lead them or what it might cost, a pursuit of authenticity or their truest self is promoted as their highest goal. But the thing is, with Christianity there is only one standard of truth—our triune God. Which means that to faithfully follow Jesus we have to both know His truth and be able to share it with others, even when it’s uncomfortable or difficult. However, it’s hard to share and stand behind truth you don’t know or understand.
In order to equip this next generation to faithfully live for Christ, we need to help them love God with their minds. We need to give them a solid biblical foundation that includes biblical theology, doctrine, and spiritual formation. These equipping categories will help them not only know how to read the Bible, but understand it comprehensively. This will give our young women the tools they need to think critically about the intersection of their faith and culture.
If loneliness and isolation was a problem before COVID, the past year has caused these dynamics to grow exponentially. As humans, we were designed to live in community with others. So much so that relational connections, or the lack thereof, directly impacts our spiritual, emotional, and physical wellbeing. Unfortunately, Gen Z was uniquely impacted by this past year of isolation. They spent an entire year going to school online. Many missed key life events like prom and graduation, or spent their first year of college in their bedroom at home. Others deeply internalized the chaos of the pandemic, suffering with anxiety or depression.
Furthermore, while benefiting from the blessings of technology, this generation also experiences the isolation it causes. Even though they are considered the most connected generation, this digital connection does not always translate into physical connection. Online friends don’t always translate into real life friendships. Seeing the impact of technology on previous generations, Gen Z is reevaluating their use of social media. But their weaker interpersonal skills show that they have been marked by it nonetheless.
In light of all of this, many young women are looking for a place of belonging. They want to be a part of a safe community where they can be deeply loved and known. Especially in the moments when they are struggling with the weightier issues of mental health, broken families, or sexuality, this generation longs for places where their full selves can be accepted, no matter how messy their lives may be. But more so than previous generations, they long for transparency and authenticity. They want to see what it really looks like to follow Jesus, not the perfect facades we try to show them.
So, in addition to equipping them with truth, our ministries have the opportunity to provide this generation with real, substantive community. Whether it’s through mentorship, small groups, or organic friendships, we can show our young women how to love others well through radical hospitality, commitment, and self-sacrificial service. We can also model for them the beauty of accountability. In a world where love equals unhindered freedom, we can graciously show our young women that biblical love equals freedom within boundaries. Accountability helps us stay within the boundaries that are for our good and God’s glory.
As this next generation of women is searching for the “more,” may our women’s ministries be places where they can find substantive truth and community. But even more so, may this truth and community lead them to deeply know, love, and live for our triune God.