Over the last few weeks, Barna has been taking stock of the information we’ve gathered on the next generation—first Millennials and now Gen Z. Concerning trends have been surfacing around this emerging group, including their skepticism about faith-sharing, an increase in the church dropout rate among those who were raised Christian and a general longing for connection—despite being the most globally connected generations the world has ever seen. How can the Church respond to this data and offer strong, lasting relationships to young people, even in the challenging social context prompted by the COVID-19 crisis?
In Faith for Exiles, co-authors David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock discuss five practices that contribute to resilient discipleship and flourishing faith in young adults. Today, in an excerpt from this research, we’ll take a closer look at one of the main aspects of resilience—relationships—and discuss how churches and parents can come alongside young people to support and encourage them in their spiritual walk through strong connections.
Connection Is Key in Building Resilient Disciples
We often see young people who grew up Christian express negative reactions when the Church is brought up in conversation, reactions that are often rooted in strong emotions, including pain, disconnection, emotional distance, skepticism and withdrawal.
While some church leaders act more like entrepreneurs and showmen than prophets and shepherds, churches have generally lost their influence in local communities. This generation is the first to form their identities—and their perception of church—amid high-profile scandals and sky-high levels of skepticism.
At the same time that the Church is fighting back perceptions of irrelevance and extremism, social pressure is leading to more isolation. All of this means that young people have to travel a long road in order to find supportive relationships, inside or outside the Church.
Resilient disciples’ connections in the Church are far and away more extensive than those young people Kinnaman and Matlock categorize as habitual churchgoers, nomads or prodigals. The vast majority of resilient disciples firmly asserts that “the church is a place where I feel I belong” (88%) and “I am connected to a community of Christians” (82%). Fewer than half of habitual churchgoers experience this kind of relational connectedness. Further, the emotions resilient disciples feel in their church are far warmer and more positive than others experience. Their churches feel like a family and are made up of the people they want to be around.
Read More at Barna