Gen Z Are Leaning into Their Gifts—Will the Church Help?


Articlesin Millennials & Generations•January 5, 2022

Eighty-two percent of self-identified Christians and 97 percent of practicing Christians view developing their gifts as a way to grow closer to God, according to new research in Gifted for More, a recent Barna report created in partnership with Lutheran Hour Ministries.

Today’s article takes a look at how each generation perceives gift awareness and development, paying special attention to responses from Gen Z, the youngest polled generation and a group faith leaders have an opportunity to better engage by addressing this topic.

Gifted for More

Gen Z Is Eager to Know and Grow Their Gifts
Across the board, younger respondents have bigger and more emphatic responses to the topic of gifting. This could reflect their generational ambition and passion as well as their youth as they navigate new seasons of personal and occupational development.

Practicing Christian Millennials are significantly more likely than those in older age groups to say it is “extremely important” for one to know or understand their unique gifts, skills and abilities (43% Millennials vs. 32% Gen X, 28% Boomers). Accordingly, practicing Christian Millennials and Gen Z are more likely than older generations to say they know their gifts at least “mostly well” (86% Gen Z, 89% Millennials vs. 82% Gen X, 76% Boomers).

Younger generations are significantly more likely than their older counterparts to agree they often define themselves by their gifts and talents when introducing themselves to others. One in four practicing Christian Gen Z and Millennials agrees strongly on this point, nearly double the amount of Gen X and triple the number of Boomers who say the same (24% Gen Z and 25% Millennials vs. 13% Gen X and 7% Boomers).

Christian Gen Z Name Friends as Greatest Supporters of Gift Development
Younger practicing Christians—namely Gen Z and Millennials—are significantly more likely to say they “definitely” have gifts they’d like to develop (69% and 56%).

When it comes to people and places who support gift development, practicing Christian Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to credit small groups with friends (54% Gen Z, 47% Millennials vs. 40% Gen X, 42% Boomers) and educational environments such as campus settings (30% Gen Z, 24% Millennials vs. 18% Gen X, 10% Boomers) as places where they can see gift development happening. Half of practicing Christian Gen Z (50%) name church as a place for gift development.

Nearly all practicing Christian Gen Z respondents (93%) say they have already invested in their skills, significantly more than their immediate elders, the Millennials, three-quarters of whom (78%) say the same. Even so, Millennials are still more likely than Gen X or Boomers to have already invested in their gifts (78% vs. 68% Gen X, 58% Boomers).

Is this an overestimation? Hyperenthusiasm? Or a true shift in the opportunities and priorities for adults coming of age today? It’s likely a combination of factors driving this seeming giftedness-boom, which ultimately relates to respondents’ stage of life; younger generations—currently making their way through school, work and the early stages of building their adult lives and families—are more likely than older adults to have gift development at the front of their minds.

These findings highlight an opportunity for churches to connect and engage with young adults further by offering teachings, small groups or classes that help identify and develop congregants’ unique gifts. Indeed, younger respondents are more likely than those in older generations to agree that someone has invested in helping them develop their unique skills and talents. This and past Barna research continues to urge churches to put time and effort into closing the gaps in how congregants’ gifts are supported.

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About the Research
This quantitative study consisted of three online surveys. The first was a survey of 1,504 U.S. adults with an oversample of 1,000 additional practicing Christians (meaning they self-identify as Christian, say their faith is very important in their life and, over the past year, on average, they attended church at least one time per month). In total, responses from 1,374 practicing Christians were analyzed in this report. This survey was conducted from June 16–July 6, 2020. The margin of error for the sample is +/- 2.3 percent for all U.S. adults and +/- 2.5 percent for practicing Christians at the 95 percent confidence level.

The second quantitative survey focused on the 12 giftings explored within this publication and mastery measurements within giftedness. This online survey was conducted among 1,019 U.S. adults from September 3–12, 2020. The margin of error for this sample is +/- 2.9 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

For these two general population survey efforts, researchers set quotas to obtain a minimum readable sample by a variety of demographic factors and weighted the samples by region, ethnicity, education, age and gender to reflect their natural presence in the American population (using U.S. Census Bureau data and historical Barna data for comparison). Partly by nature of using an online panel, these respondents are slightly more educated than the average American, but Barna researchers adjusted the representation of college-educated individuals in the weighting scheme accordingly.

The third quantitative online survey was conducted among 491 U.S. Protestant senior pastors from June 23–July 28, 2020. These pastors were recruited from Barna’s pastor panel (a database of pastors recruited via probability sampling on annual phone and email surveys) and are representative of U.S. Protestant churches by region, denomination and church size. The margin of error for this sample is +/- 4.4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

U.S. adults are U.S. adults ages 18 or older.

Practicing Christians are self-identified Christians who have attended a worship service within the past month and strongly agree their faith is very important to their life.

Photo by Aditya Wardhana from Unsplash.

About Barna
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

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