Can TikTok bring Gen Z into the fold?


While TikTok may seem like a frivolous app, teenagers and 20-somethings play with on their phones, the platform — which is relatively new to the U.S. market — has already shown the power to make change “IRL.”

The video-centric app is credited with popularizing the runaway hit “Stunnin’” by Curtis Waters.

In another instance, it exposed to millions of viewers a dance sequence known as “The Renegade” created by a 14-year-old girl in a suburb of Atlanta, resulting in teens mimicking the moves in school hallways around the country.

That TikTok’s 15- to 30-second clips are perfect for making new songs and dances go viral is obvious, less so is its potential to #MakeJesusViral.

But the hashtag garnered 362 million views, proving bite-sized chunks of theology just as edible.

Similarly, #Christian has gotten 10.5 billion views #Jewish 1.1 billion and #Islam a whopping 23.7 billion.

To say that religion is big on the platform is an understatement.

These lessons aren’t lost on young people hoping to build faith communities.

Christian, Muslim and Jewish creators alike are utilizing TikTok to spread the word — with evangelicals, in particular, embracing the platform as they historically have with new technology.

Religion’s outsize presence on the app also calls into question the widely held belief that Gen Z, those born after 1996, is following the decades-old American trend away from religion.

Maybe TikTok isn’t exactly bringing them into the fold — but some religious leaders say the proliferation of faith-related clips suggests the young are searching for something.

In search of the flock

Many TikTok creators making religious content use the same methods as other TikTokers —they ride the waves of the trending content to bring religion to the masses — to maximize attention to their posts.


Father Matt Lowry (@catholic.jacks 73.8K followers) is a Catholic priest who leads a church at Northern Arizona University.

He’s not a Gen Zer but “Father Matt,” as he’s affectionately called, has a team of college students who help him create social media content to reach local students.

When Father Matt and his Gen Z advisers combined two trends — the song “Stunnin’” with the “What I’d wear” concept — he went viral to the tune of 3.7 million views and over 350,000 likes.

Father Matt was shocked at the success of the clip, which simply shows him in different robes for various holy days.

He was also surprised by the popularity of a clip in which he and young members of the church did the “COVID Slide” — a humorous, socially distanced version of the song “Electric Slide” that starts with putting masks on, continues with elbow taps, and concludes with washing hands.

“It got over a million views,” he says.

Out of curiosity, he searched the app to see who else was using the same track.

It seemed to be mostly people between 14 to 21 — “a demographic that the church struggles with right now,” says Father Matt.

“They’re in TikTok. And if this is where the people are, this is where we want to go.”

Using TikTok to reach out to Catholics, Father Matt says, is an “attempt to emulate Jesus, who goes in search of the flock.” Continue reading

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