What Purpose-Driven Means to Generation Z
Dr. James Emery White Dr. James Emery White's weblog
- 2019 Oct 28
My friend Rick Warren famously wrote about the purpose-driven life, but before that he wrote about the purpose-driven church. In The Purpose Driven Church, he contends that the church has a five-fold purpose (worship, ministry, evangelism, community and discipleship) and should therefore be driven by those purposes (as opposed to what commonly drives churches such as tradition, money, programs, personalities or events).
The idea of an organization of any kind being “purpose-driven” is not only strategic, but it is what will most capture the attention of the youngest, largest generation on the planet—Generation Z. I wrote about this in my book Meet Generation Z, but the studies continue to confirm and even enlarge upon understanding how important this is to this generation.
The 2019 Porter Novelli/Cone Gen Z Purpose Study set out to find Generation Z’s “expectations of and attitudes toward company involvement in social and environmental issues.” It once again confirmed how deeply this generation wants to make its mark on the world.
The lessons held for the church are important. For example, 94% are tired of the “divisive narrative that has taken over the national news” and wants to see the country come together to make progress on important issues. This sentiment runs so strongly that “85% would rather focus on the positive progress we’ve made rather than the negative.”
This is an important reminder to churches that seem to be known more for what they are against than what they are for. So little surprise when nearly nine-in-10 “are inspired when their peers like Emma Gonzalez and Greta Thunberg take stands on issues” (respectively, gun control and the environment).
Generation Z does not simply want to make a difference personally. The vast majority (90%) “also believe companies must take action to help social and environmental issues. And they’re holding these organizations accountable. More than nine-in-10 (93%) say if a company makes a commitment, it should have the appropriate programs and policies in place to back up that commitment and three-quarters (75%) will do research to see if a company is being honest when it takes a stand on issues.”
The bottom line? “Companies that demonstrate authentic purpose to this astute demographic will be rewarded, as Gen Zers use purpose as a core filter in deciding which companies to associate with.” As Alison DaSilva with Porter Novelli/Cone notes, “companies need to clearly communicate how they are making an impact to appeal to this driven but discerning generation.”
Clearly a purpose-driven church is needed now more than ever. But do our purposes align with theirs in a way that would prove attractive? You might be surprised.
The top priority they would like to see companies address is the environment (26%), followed by poverty and hunger (19%) and human rights (19%).
When it comes to cultural headlines, again their greatest concerns might surprise. Job-creation at 91% is at the top of the list, followed by racial equality (90%), sexual harassment (90%) and women’s equality (89%). Religious freedom and tolerance came in at 83%, higher than immigration, gun control or LGBTQ rights.
In other words, what they would like to see organizations purpose to address, and what they are most personally purposed to see addressed, are all biblical purposes that the church should be known for purposing itself.
After all, we are called to be stewards of creation, caregivers to the poor, fierce advocates for justice, and passionate believers in the innate worth and value of every human being. That pretty much covers all of their concerns.
So why isn’t the church attracting more Generation Zers?
Perhaps we need to get back to being a little more purpose-driven—particularly in regard to what the purposes of the church are supposed to be producing.
James Emery White
Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church.
James Emery White, Meet Generation Z.
“90 Percent of Gen Z Tired of How Negative and Divided Our Country Is Around Important Issues, According to Research by Porter Novelli/Cone,” Yahoo! Finance, October 23, 2019, read online.
“2019 Porter Novelli/Cone Gen Z Purpose Study,” Cone, read online.
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 latest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is available for preorder on Amazon. 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.