Sadiri Joy Tira gives an insightful review of Mobilizing Gen Z. He then shares thoughts about mobilizing Canadian Gen Zers, who have unique contributions to make to world missions!
Title: Mobilizing Gen Z: Challenges and Opportunities For Global Mission
Authors: Jolenne Erlacher and Katy White
The authors are an educator and psychologist respectively. Both are committed to help fulfill the Great Commission; they are experts in “generational missions.”
The title of the book is self-explanatory; that is, Generation Z can be mobilized for global mission. However, it is vital to understand Generation Z—what are their challenges, and what are the opportunities for them to become a major force in global mission.
The book is practical without losing its scholarship. This volume is for researchers, reflective partitioners, disciplemakers, and even for parents who are dedicated to praying for their children to serve the Master and the kingdom advancement. There are four main sections of the book:
- Changing Missions Context—this section is the context in which Gen Z is being mobilized
- Understanding Gen Z—included here are portraits of Gen Z including their culture, education, technology, and mental and emotional health
- Mobilizing Strategies—this section includes strategies for mobilization
- A Vision for the Future—the final section gives global missiological implications
- Changing Missions Context
According to the authors, globalization and technology are transitioning and reshaping the values and worldviews of the global youth culture. In the Introduction, the authors write: “Younger generations today often share more in common young people from different backgrounds than they do with older adults in their own families or cultures.” However, generational relationships are fast changing and very challenging.
Christianity’s epicenter is moving geographically from North America and Europe to Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania. This situation has major impact on younger generations in the West and North America. Young people are searching and trying to understand their roles the fast changing “post-Christian context” (Introduction).
- Understanding Gen Z: Diachronic and Synchronic Analysis
Who are Generation Z? These people are born from 1996 to 2010. The authors portray them—and their predecessors, the Millennials—as “postmodern”; that is, they are educated in a world that advocates post-Christian values and worldviews. They are growing up in polarized cultures and moral relativism, they are atheists or agnostics, and they are concerned about social and gender equality.
Gen Zers are a culturally and racially diverse generation. They question their identity, and they live in pluralistic communities as the result of diaspora and (legal and illegal) immigration. They are growing up during turbulent, confusing, and stormy years: they experienced the COVID-19 pandemic; they see the horror of a Eurasian war; many experience the breakdown of their family; they watch on their screens the massacres of their school mates in schools and malls.
Gen Zers are distinct in that they are natives of the digital world. Due to social media, they face great relational pressures, anxiety, and loneliness. They are questioning and skeptical of traditions and institutions, but they are diverse and tolerant of ideas and identities. They are innovative and creative. They are pragmatic about their educational career choices. They are interested in making a unique contribution (p. 160, appendix B).
The authors focus on American Gen Zers, although they do discuss the “Global Youth Culture.” This reviewer would like to see more synchronic descriptions of Gen Z outside North America (e.g., Europeans, Africans, Middle Easterners, Australians, and Asians), as well as the hybrid Gen Zer—the children of mixed racial and intercultural couples, and those that are the 1.5 children of “new immigrants.” The Gen Zers in the Majority World experience hunger, chaos, and displacement because of environmental disasters, earthquakes, air pollution, and a scarcity of food and clean water. They are exposed to fear, confusion and emotional trauma.
Despite the challenges Gen Zers are facing, they have unique talents and qualities. I have four Gen Z grandchildren. As a “digital immigrant” baby boomer, I need my grandchildren to help me navigate in the technological world. Only these Gen Zers, who are digital natives, can help! They are well connected and skilled technological communicators, but because of their fast-moving lifestyle, they have limited attention spans.
- Mobilizing Strategies: Innovative Mobilization
After the authors extensively describe the changing missions context—the diachronic and synchronic analysis of Gen Z (Parts 1 and 2)—they give five excellent mobilization strategies: Tangible Relationships; The Coaching Approach; Coaching Conversations; Communication and Language; and Motivation and Calling.
- A Vision for the Future: Missiological Implications
The last section is insightful. Current missions and agency leaders must revisit their fundraising approaches. Some traditional funding projects must be put to shelf. They are not going to work among these young people. Today’s mobilizers need to understand not just the global culture, but the new way that Gen Z communicates.
My denomination still use offering envelops, but Millennials and Gen Zers do not like this—they use online banking, Venmo, and GoFundMe options. Dinners to raise mission funds will no longer work.
I know of a new congregation in my city (Edmonton) that was planted at the height of the pandemic. This new Millennial and Gen Z church is growing—they bought a space debt free in their first five months. Amazing! They do not pass offering plates, but they are self-sustaining. They need to improve their little space, but there has been no mention of money in public. They pray and ask God to provide for their needs.
Resources for Further Study
This book is complemented by an extensive resource list. These resources are helpful for researchers, serious students, and youth pastors. The Mobilization Assessment Guide and Mobilization Question List (see Appendixes C and D) are useful for personal reflections, for small group studies, and for missions strategists aiming to mobilize the younger generation. I also encourage these resources for parents who are walking closely with their Gen Z children.
This book focuses on Gen Z in the USA; however, the authors do briefly discuss the global youth culture. As a Filipino-Canadian, missiologist, clergyman, missions mobilizer, and book reviewer, I would like to add my own observations about Gen Zers who are children of “1.5 Generation Immigrants.”
Canadian Gen Z 1.5/2.5
Santi is a 17-year-old. He started kindergarten at the Chinese school. I asked his parents the reason for sending their son to the Chinese school. Their response was: “When he reaches the age of 25, China will be an economic and military superpower. We need to prepare him to engage the Chinese immigrants in Canada. He needs to be prepared to live out his faith.” Today Santi is in junior high school. He is now a brown belt Jujitsu and a Brazilian martial artist. He has become a good musician and has joined the worship team of their church. He is a good leader, and he sometimes speaks to the young people in his church.
Isa is 14-year-old. She is good at the arts, is a good painter, and a ballet dancer. She serves in their congregation in the nursery and children ministry program. I asked why she is doing this? She gave a straightforward answer: “I love Jesus, and I love children.” She has a gift of entrepreneurship, she loves cooking and baking, she is gentle and kind.
Zenaida and her brother are third-generation Filipinos. Their parents were both born in Canada. Their father is a pastor, and their mother is a teacher at an elementary school. Zenaida is an honor student. Her younger brother is very athletic and hopes to be the first Filipino-Canadian professional hockey player. Professional hockey players are supported, coached, trained, and mentored from a very young age. The mission mobilizer must follow the same model of recruiting, training, coaching, and mentoring Gen Z kingdom builders. They must be identified while they are young, while playing in community back yards, before mobilizing them in global mission arena.
The God of the Christians is the same God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the “generational God” who will bless the nations around the globe. These Gen Zers, given affirmation, inspiration, training, and mentoring support can be effective missionaries in the coming years, particularly in the second and third quarters of the 21st century.
I join the global mission leaders, credible scholars like Ruth Hubbard, Darin Kindle, Brian Heerwagen, Dave Jacob and Rebecca Hopkins, in endorsing this significant and timely publication in our tumultuous, pluralistic, and hybridizing world. I recommend this book not only for North Americans but also for global missions strategists and mobilizers.