DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Diversity is a Key to Gen Z

Written by: on May 9, 2019

Diane Zemke holds a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies from Gonzaga University, with a focus on enacting congregational change. Zemke, in Being SMART About Congregational Change, writes about the tools and resources necessary to enact, embrace and encounter congregational change.

Zemke provides an easy to read but insightful book that is laid out in three sections. Section one covers her understanding of how congregations’ function and imagine themselves as a group of people and as individuals within the group. The second section discusses theories of change, such as “adaptive change,” which was developed by Ronald Heifetz. The third section and final section is deals with self-care for change agents.

One of the most simple but powerful observations Zemke makes is that “no two congregations are the same” and cites “culture” as the determining factor.[1] On the surface, this is neither a positive nor a negative but merely a statement of truth. One quick positive aspect of this observation is that it speaks to the diversity of the big C church. On the other hand, as Zemke points out, if the congregation is founded upon a common bond, then the diversity of the local congregation is slim to none.

I point out diversity because as I continue my research into Gen Z, diversity of cultures is a significant factor in this generation. Globalization and connectedness have enabled individuals to experience the world and its varied cultures without leaving their environments. In this way, they are exposed to the diversity that exists in unfamiliar places and populations; however, as postmoderns, they determine the meaning of what they find individually and are free to redefine it to their liking.

With boundaries and distance dissolved and people more connected than ever before, the culture as shifted toward complexity. The acronym VUCA, coined in 1987 and derived from the leadership theories of Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, stands for “the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situations.”[2] Within the VUCA framework, C denotes complexity, which “refers to the interconnectivity and interdependence of multiple components in a system.”[3]

For the purposes of this blog, components are people. With people comes diversity, and with diversity comes complexity. According to recent statistics, Gen Z is the most diverse generation to date, with 52 percent being “non-Hispanic whites.”[4] Again, although diversity is neither positive nor negative in and of itself, it can either help or hinder a particular system’s desired outcome. Erin Meyer states, “If your goal is innovation or creativity, the more cultural diversity the better, as long as the process is managed carefully. But if your goal is simple speed and efficiency, then monocultural is probably better than multicultural. Sometimes, it is simply better to leave Rome to the Romans.”[5]

In complex systems, knowing the desired outcomes or time constraints is helpful but not necessarily determinative, because complexity can typically be resolved in more than one way. Inherent in diversity is a plurality of perspectives, which requires a different set of questions leading to various solutions. As Jennifer Garvey Berger says, “The complexity of the world requires that we understand the grays, that we resist black-and-white solutions, that we ask different questions about unexpected and tangential options.”[6]

Simply put, for all leaders and pastors, it is important to know your congregation’s culture to enact change,[7]. Moreover, we need to begin to understand Gen Z’s culture as they are not next but now.




[1] Diane Zemke. Being SMART About Congregational Change. (2014) location 79.

[2] “Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity,” Wikipedia, acccessed April 9, 2019,,_uncertainty,_complexity_and_ambiguity.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Richard Fry and Kim Parker, “Early Benchmarks Show ‘Post-Millennials’ on Track to Be Most Diverse, Best-Educated Generation Yet,” Pew Research Center, November 15, 2018,

[5] Erin Meyer, The Culture Map: Decoding How People Think, Lead, and Get Things Done Across Cultures, international edition (New York: PublicAffairs, 2015), chap. 3, Kindle.

[6] Jennifer Garvey Berger, Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps: How to Thrive in Complexity (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2019), chap. 1, Kindle.

[7] Ibid., 109

About the Author

Mario Hood

Most importantly, I am married to the love of my life, Misty Hood, and I'm kept on my toes all day every day, by my son Dalen and daughter Cola Hood. I also serve as the Next Generation Pastor at Church On The Living Edge in Orlando, Florida, under the leadership of Senior Pastor, Dr. Mark Chironna as well as being a Youth and Family Life coach.

7 responses to “Diversity is a Key to Gen Z”

  1. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    You summarized, “Simply put, for all leaders and pastors, it is important to know your congregation’s culture to enact change.” What would be your counsel as to how a church planter might determine this within the locale they are planting? Probably, more complexly, how would the pastor of a replant determine their congregation’s culture? Thanks again for your thoughts and insights.

    • Mario Hood says:

      Great question Harry, I think one answer might be to simply get to know the people. Many times we come in/are a part of a church for so long that we think we know our culture but perhaps we don’t truly or fully. We replanted our church with the same pastor about 5 years ago. We literally had a burial service for the old church, changed the name and vision, because the old church was basically a studio audience for my pastor and kudos to him for hearing the voice of God and being humble enough to follow it. In the last five years we had to change the culture but also listen to the people to see what was “wrong” and “right”. It has been a journey but one I’m grateful for.

  2. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Excellent reminders, Mario. It seems a mixed culture is the way of the “now” and is more complex than ever to lead. I look forward to your research as it will be an important resource for us and could help us redefine leadership with true diversity.

    • Mario Hood says:

      Times have changed for sure. I’m learning as leaders that the more comfortable we become with being un-comfortable the better leaders we become.

      • mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

        That statement is awesome Mario. Jim Forbes, former pastor of Riverside Church used to say that everyone needs to be uncomfortable for 20% of every worship service. Think how radical that would be for the church . . . or how well that would prepare someone to be a leader that is comfortable while being un-comfortable.

  3. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Mario Mario Mario, won;t it be great when we can call you Dr Mario (which will be quite cool. In our denomination, we are all Revs. But I get to be The Very Reverend because I was Dean of the Cathedral. However, I’m quite keen on The Venerable Reverend too. But, all going well, you’ll be able to write, as you did with Diane Zemke, “The Venerable Reverend Dr Digby writes….” Hahaha – You’ll be looking forward to that.
    However, on a less serious note do you think Gen Z is more interested in individual identity or unique group identity? If Meyer is right and monocultural is better (Leave Rome to Romans) then how do groups connect? Is intersectionality enough? Is there something else? Can we even have a common purpose or common identity, or is that an idea long dead? Personally, I have trouble working out how.

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