On a recent ChurchPulse Weekly episode, Andy Byrd (leader with University of the Nations, YWAM Kona) sits down with Carey Nieuwhof to share about the missional zeal he’s seeing within Gen Z and what he’s doing to empower and channel the passion of this generation for Kingdom work.
On Gen Z’s Zeal for Christ
Reflecting on Gen Z, Byrd states, “Perhaps Gen Z and young Millennials have had to fight the greatest ideological battle of almost any generation because of the access that ideologies have to their minds, hearts, eyes, attention and affections. We certainly see that battle… [but] when someone decides to go all in for Jesus, the level of wholeheartedness surpasses anything I’ve seen yet. Though the ideological battle has been intense, the fervor and the zeal in Gen Z to reach their generation and truly make a difference has been unparalleled in our experience of working with young people.
“We have not had a hard time motivating Gen Z. It’s more about getting their zeal channeled in the right direction,” Byrd continues “With Gen Z we’re finding so much hunger for the Bible, so much hunger for evangelism and so much hunger to make a difference… I see this zeal and vigor rising up for their generation to experience real love, real truth and real transformation.”
On Gen Z and the Great Commission
Recent Barna research shows that nearly half of churched Christians (48%) say they’ve never heard of the Great Commission.
Reflecting on this data with Gen Z in mind, Byrd notes, “[This] generation is eager, willing and voluntary, but is biblically illiterate and not grounded in the theology of what they’re willing to do. To me, this is a great opportunity.
“When you have eagerness, willingness and voluntariness, I think you have moldable clay. You have everything you could ask for,” he shares. “All that’s needed is that strong biblical foundation… a framework to understand: what does the kingdom of God look like? What is the Great Commission? What is the mission of the Church and the mission of every believer?”
“[Giving people a strong Biblical foundation] is the easy part,” Byrd clarifies. “The hard part is getting a generation to be voluntary, to get a generation to be willing and to be so surrendered they would go anywhere in the world for the sake of the gospel. That’s the hard part. But if Gen Z is willing to do that—with that kind of hunger and teachability—I feel like there’s almost nothing this generation couldn’t do when it comes to global mission and the kingdom.”
On Gen Z and Empowerment
Byrd wraps up his time with Nieuwhof discussing how he invites Gen Z young adults into being on mission for Christ. “One of the main methods for us has been high empowerment. We are really empowering young people at 18, 19 and 20, [telling them] that they can make a difference.They may still be figuring out their strong theology, and they might still be working their way through the Bible for the first time… But even now God can use them and wants to use them, so they can make a difference.”
Byrd continues, “I feel we need to take seriously the gifts and callings of God in this generation, and give them permission and empower them—even in their immaturities, even in their weaknesses, and even as they’re still growing—[to know] that they can really make a difference right now.
“I think we’ve adopted a mindset that says, ‘Jesus empowered his disciples when they were still working their stuff out,’” he notes. “Young people make lots of mistakes along the way, but those types of mistakes are the greatest environment for learning and growth. We see young people accelerating in their maturity and their growth because of the environment of the Scriptures, the power of the Holy Spirit and life-on-life discipleship. This holistic environment allows people to fail forward.”
Byrd concludes, “We’re always going to err on the side of multiplication leadership, empowering young people and walking with them as they make their mistakes… I would say that for any of us who have ever led anything, someone believed in us through our mistakes and our immaturities. And that’s what grew us into [having] a bigger influence or impact.”
About the Research
Missions data: This quantitative study consisted of one online survey of 2,000 U.S. self-identified Christian adults conducted June 8–28, 2021. The margin of error for this study is +/- 2 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. Respondents were quota sampled by region, ethnicity, education, age and gender and minimal statistical weighting was applied to maximize representation (using the U.S. Census Bureau data for comparison).
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2022
Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.
Get Barna in your inbox
Subscribe to Barna’s free newsletters for the latest data and insights to navigate today’s most complex issues.