We are all asking the same question: how do we engage with Gen Z–a complex but passionate generation? As we overlay all that we know about them, we can see areas of real alignment with church teachings–inclusion, social justice, human rights, and care for our common home. Additionally, the Church provides many of the things Gen Z needs and wants: purpose, meaning, and acceptance. In these areas, their generation could be a powerful force within the Catholic Church because when Gen Z feels strongly about something, they act on it.
The areas of difficulty in alignment with this generation also point to the issues the Church has in engaging with them: the basic mistrust of organized religion and the rejection of hierarchy and dogma.
4 Strategies Church Leaders Can Engage with Gen Z
Here are just four strategies church leaders should consider to engage with Gen Z in the short and long term.
- Leveraging a variety of digital platforms will be key to making contact because Gen Z will rarely, if ever, go looking for answers on parish or Catholic websites. This means thinking about where Gen Z “hang out” online, like TikTok, YouTube, X, or even virtual event platforms like Zoom. It will require boldness and out-of-the-box thinking on the part of the parish or diocese. But remember: to build trust with Gen Z, content must be visually appealing, authentic, and aligned with Gen Z values and interests.
- Remember that optics matter–meaning that when Gen Z pays attention to the Church, they will notice if there is a lack of inclusivity in leadership. Promoting and celebrating women and minority leaders will be important. Highlight the stories and contributions of diverse leaders through newsletters, social media, and other channels. Use inclusive language in communications and demonstrate the parish’s commitment to making a positive impact beyond its immediate community.
- Gen Z is inquisitive and seeks to understand the world better. Parishes can offer educational initiatives on topics that appeal to Gen Z individuals, featuring well-known and popular speakers. Within this context, the parish can concisely and engagingly explain Church teachings and Scripture. This can help bridge the gap between the Church’s traditional teachings and the values of the younger generation.
- Participation in community service and humanitarian efforts will appeal to Gen Z’s passion for social activism. Consider sponsoring a community clean-up day, hosting a donation drive for struggling families, or organizing a mental health awareness workshop. These types of activities align with the Church’s mission of charity and serve as practical ways for young individuals to see that these things are also important to the Church.
Engaging with Gen Z is essential for the Catholic church to remain relevant and vibrant in the modern world and to pass the faith on to the next generation–and the next. Many of these strategies are already being implemented, but we have more to do. In each of these areas, we should invite the Holy Spirit to inspire our creativity and help us discern the new and best ways to reach Gen Z. Then, share those ideas and insights with others in the Catholic community so that we can replicate what is working, move fast to make course corrections, and share results.
Finally, as ministry partners, we should add another strategy to this list: prayer. Praying for Generation Z in a specific, intentional, and purposeful way, we can take their precious souls to Christ and his Mother and entrust them to their care.
Mary, Mother of Good Counsel, pray for us.
About Polly King
Polly King has over 30 years in the marketing and communications field, the last 12 in Catholic publishing. As a convert to the Catholic faith, she has a deep passion for helping parishes engage and evangelize their communities. This led her to join ACS Technologies as part of their mission to serve the Church with technology and solutions that support their ministries. Polly currently resides in Indiana with her husband Bob and their 14-year-old Australian Shepherd, Riley. Her commitment to her faith and dedication to her profession make her an inspiring figure for those looking to make a positive impact in their communities.