By Dr. James Emery White, Crosswalk.com
Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2010, fills the current generational news cycle. And well it should. As I wrote in Meet Generation Z:
“[This generation] will come to typify the new reality of a post-Christian world. As the first truly post-Christian generation, and numerically the largest, Generation Z will be the most influential religious force in the West and the heart of the missional challenge facing the Christian church.”
I also wrote that due to its size, “Generation Z will not simply influence American culture, as any generation would, they will constitute its culture.” This remains true to my thinking. However, it’s not too early to at least be aware of the generation coming right behind them—particularly since it will prove, in the end, to be even more influential.
Typically grouped as those born (or who will be born) between 2011 and 2024, they have already been widely designated “Generation Alpha,” courtesy of Australian social scientist Mark McCrindle. It isn’t hard to consider the influences on their young lives. None of them will ever remember a world without COVID-19. They will never know anything other than the constant use of iPads and iPhones. Their social world will know little outside of social media. They will have lived with the anxiety surrounding climate change from their earliest awareness.
But it is how they will be the influencers, not simply the influenced, that is capturing the imagination of many. Forward-thinking businesses are already targeting these “pre-consumers” and understandably so—even at their young age. Far more than the generations preceding them, they hold an unprecedented sway over their parent’s purchasing decisions. They are pre-consumers, yes, but ones who are frequently the family decision-maker.
Then there is the sheer number of them. They are on course to be the largest generation in the history of the world. Globally, more than 2.5 million Alphas are born every week. By 2025 they will number nearly 2 billion. They will shape the social media landscape, become the popular culture influencers and, of course, be emerging consumers. By the end of this decade, they’ll be moving into the workforce and adulthood.
A few more fast facts:
- As children, they have more material things at their disposal than any generation in history.
- They are, and will continue to be, the most technologically savvy generation ever.
- They will enjoy a longer lifespan than any previous generation.
- It’s being predicted that they will likely spend more years in education, begin their work lives later, and possibly live with their parents even longer than their Gen Z and Gen Y predecessors.
There are obvious overlaps between Generation Z and Generation Alpha, particularly in regard to being digital natives. The two generations combined will cement the digital revolution as the wallpaper of our lives. And if the rise of the “nones” keeps rising – or even if it simply holds its own – the parents of these children will do little in the way of preventing another generational dynamic being cemented. Namely, that it will be thoroughly post-Christian.
James Emery White
James Emery White, Meet Generation Z (Baker), order from Amazon.
Mark McCrindle, Ashley Fell and Sam Buckerfield, Generation Alpha: Understanding Our Children and Helping Them Thrive (Hatchette Australia, 2021).
Marcia Lawrence, “Welcome ‘Generation Alpha’— the Youngest Pre-Consumers,” The Emporia Gazette, November 27, 2021, 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 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 and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.