COVID-19 and Generation Z
Dr. James Emery White
- 2020 Apr 13
It’s been frequently quipped that the international quarantine will undoubtedly result in a baby “boomlet,” and that they should be called “Generation C,” as in Generation “Corona.”
I’m sure it will.
But more immediately pressing is what this watershed moment will mean for Generation Z, the now teenagers and young adults who will be forever marked by this seminal event.
Every generation has their defining moment. For Baby Boomers, it was the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. For Baby Busters, or Gen X, it was arguably the AIDS epidemic. Millennials might look to the 2008 global financial meltdown. I would argue that younger Gen X and older Millennials – at least in the U.S. – would point to 9/11.
For Generation Z, it will be the pandemic of COVID-19 and all it will leave in its wake—from lost jobs to lost lives to lost dreams.
Generations are often marked by events that take place during their younger, formative years. This is when so much of their mindset and attitude, worldview and sense of identity is still what might be called “wet cement.” Yet there are some predictions of what this watershed moment will mean for Generation Z that are relatively easy to make.
They will become even more liberal politically, demanding more of what big government can bring (or, in their minds, should bring in the face of human need). Their previous openness toward socialism will only solidify. This is largely because they were already recession-marked; now they are recession-scarred.
While the rest of the world was forced to go online, Generation Z was already there—reinforcing, in their minds, that it is the primary social world that matters.
Their dreams for being social entrepreneurs, wanting to fix what they view as a very broken world, will only intensify. Indeed, the “forced creativity” to respond to the pandemic – from manufacturing to supply chains – may bring an openness to new ideas.
Their strong sense of inclusivity will also be reinforced, seeing how important it was to “get through this together.” The politicization of the pandemic, including the impeachment proceedings preceding it, will forever remain a stench of intolerance in their nostrils (from both parties). Add “political independent” to their list of not wanting to be attached to a defined faith or defined sex.
The term “watershed moment” is often overused, but not now. It is a watershed moment. Just as we speak of life before 9/11 and after 9/11, we will speak of life before COVID-19 and after COVID-19. And yes, Generation Z may be the generation most affected. Meaning it will forever be their watershed moment.
But instead of changing them, it may keep them from changing.
So is there any prediction that isn’t easy to make? Is there any dynamic that is yet to be determined for this generation in light of their watershed moment in history?
Whether this will create a new openness to defined faiths, such as Christianity, or less.
Now you know what to pray for,
... and what churches need to understand as the most clearly defined mission of our day.
James Emery White
James Emery White, Meet Generation Z (Baker).
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His newest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president.
His latest book, After “I Believe,” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast.
Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.