by Becky Chappell
Peninsula Fellows Assistant Director
I am not Gen Z.
I grew up in the era of VHS tapes, Beanie Babies, Boy Meets World, Skip-It, and mix-tapes. Yes, I’m a Millennial. And I absolutely loved growing up in the ‘90s. But as someone who works closely with Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, younger Millennials and the Gen Z generation, I have come to value the importance of researching and understanding generational differences.
Why does this matter? Why should you care which generation you belong to, or the generations of your coworkers and friends?
The generation in which we are born is one of the defining aspects of our cultural identity. When we understand our cultural identity, we can more thoroughly understand the person God created us to be. When we understand others’ cultural identities, we can more effectively interact with and love our neighbors as commanded by Jesus in Matthew 22.
There is also beauty in diversity. Just as Paul explains the beauty of diverse spiritual gifts within the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12, so there is also beauty in generational diversity. Generational diversity gives opportunities for shared life wisdom, offering different viewpoints, problem-solving, and encouragement.
When studying generational characteristics, it’s important to understand that these characteristics are generalizations. Every characteristic doesn’t universally apply to everyone in a specific generation. Take me for example. When studying generational characteristics, I actually relate better to the Gen X generation than I do Millennials, even though my birth year places me in the Millennial generation. Does that mean that I should just ignore all of the Millennial characteristics as if they won't apply to me? By no means! Rather, we need to use wise discernment when studying our generations and the generations of those around us. This also means we shouldn't make blanket judgments about someone based on their generation; rather, use your understanding of their generational characteristics as a conversational starting point. (See below for recommended resources.)
With that being said, studying generational characteristics has made me even more excited to work with recent college graduates from the Gen Z generation through the Peninsula Fellows program. Why? Because this generation is an open field waiting to be planted with the seeds of the Gospel, and our Gen Z Fellows are in strategic positions to do this important work among their peers. As the Assistant Director of Peninsula Fellows, I have the unique opportunity to help our Fellows prepare for this work during their time in our program. Our Fellows learn deep theological truths and how to apply them, practice culture care, serve the local community and church, get valuable hands-on experience of living out their faith in their workplaces during their paid internships, and engage in discipleship relationships with those both younger and older than themselves.
I eagerly await the work God will do in and through the Gen Z generation to bring about His Kingdom for His glory.