POVs on People, Places & Planting
I’m starting a blog series of sorts writing about what I think is important to some in the Gen Z population. As a team member here at Passion2Plant and as a Gen Z myself, I believe that pastors and especially planters are sometimes not as concerned with what this key demographic is concerned with. For starters, let’s talk about mental health.
The stigma surrounding mental health, thankfully, has lessened over the years. This has helped Gen Zs not only seek therapy more but also have a deeper understanding of the importance of mental health in general. This has led them to value it more as something that can make or break their relationships. In my own experience, if you don’t value my mental health, I have the inclination of not wanting to associate with you. Unfortunately, Gen Zs are also more likely than previous generations to report that their mental health is poor.
Perhaps mental health is important to my generation because we have been the ones to have to go through what other generations didn’t or did but to a lesser extent. A 2021 report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation stated that:
It is also important to note that mental health issues can start young and have more to do with skin color than we think. In the campaign for her new book, Racial Innocence, Tanya Katerí Hernández states “Latino children as young as four years old have higher risks for mental health problems the darker their skin is."1 According to the American Psychiatric Association, racial and ethnic minority youth are more often referred to the juvenile justice system rather than to specialty care when compared to white youth.2
Whether this is because they experience more mental health issues than previous generations or simply because they are more likely to report them is up for debate. However, it is very apparent that mental health is a key issue that is important for Gen Zs. If this is an important issue for Gen Z, how does the church respond?
According to Lifeway Research, 49% of pastors say they rarely or never speak about mental health to their congregation.3 That is a lot of pastors not speaking or rarely speaking about one of the most important things to Gen Zs. Of course, this is not to say that churches everywhere are not taking mental health seriously. If your church is, that is wonderful, but if yours isn’t (or you know you can do more to speak about it), you’re alienating much of the Gen Z population from your church. Personally, if a church attended did not take mental health seriously or only tried to pray away the issues I was going through, I would not want to be at that church. The resources for learning about mental health are out there and are more accessible than ever before to churches and pastors. Church leaders and pastors should utilize them as much as possible in order to understand what Gen Zs are going through relating to mental health but also know how to respond to those in their congregation and be able to provide valid options for healing. Three resources to begin to educate interested planters/pastors are:
Black and brown people report experiencing more mental health problems, therefore it is important for pastors and churches to understand their perspective as people of color. Especially in light of everything that has happened in the last few years in America. Thus, the effort for non-POC pastors becomes twofold – they must understand mental health and its importance and must also try to understand the POC perspective. There are great resources for doing just that. Books such as Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison and Healing Racial Trauma by Sheila Wise Rowe are good books to read on understanding this POV. Additionally, I Bring the Voices of My People by Chanequa Walker-Barners is a good book to read on this subject from a woman’s perspective.
Lastly, I’d like to make you aware that there are few Zs like me who are also Umms not quite feeling like the church building is actually where we find the church family that cares and much rather meet up in places like the comedy club my Dad started in our neighborhood because he says he’s bringing joy and laughter to the community, have dinner at a favorite restaurant with friends to catch up on life and know what we each have to pray about as we try to figure out what God wants to do in our lives and even meet up with a local church pastor who wants to “get us” at the local coffee spot in the neighborhood to shoot the breeze.
This is just my point of view (I'm the one Gen Z) but I hope this post has made you think of the perspective of black and brown people’s mental health and also why mental health is important to the broader Gen Z population, in general. As stated, Gen Zs are more likely to report poor mental health and as such, it has become an important issue for us as we are more aware of how it affects our lives. So perhaps pastor/planter, it should be an important issue for you too.
1. Tanya Katerí Hernández, Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias and the Struggle for Equality (Boston: Beacon Press, 2022).
2. “Mental Health Disparities-Diverse Populations,”American Psychiatric Association, accessed March 31, 2022, file:///Users/mac/Downloads/Mental-Health-Facts-for-Diverse-Populations.pdf
3. “Mental Illness Remains Taboo for Many Pastors,” Lifeway Research, accessed March 31, 2022, https://research.lifeway.com/2014/09/22/mental-illness-remains-taboo-topic-for-many-pastors/