Two recent surveys on Christianity and the church in Australia found that Gen Zs are generally open to conversations about faith and spirituality. This gives the church many opportunities to engage young people and the local community to build and strengthen their faith.
Findings from a study from McCrindle, a Syndey-based social data research firm, and the 2021 National Church Life Survey suggest that there are many positive opportunities for the church despite some downward trends in the faith landscape, reports Sight Magazine.
Young Australians are growing up in a changing Australian landscape with much more diversity. — Stephanie Razey, McCrindle’s Research Lead
Both surveys noted the great role of young people in Australia’s changing spiritual landscape. McCrindle and the NCLS found that young adult church attenders are more likely than any other group to be confident in their local church. Young Christians are most interested in being active with global issues related to the Christian faith, such as ending racism, caring for the environment and alleviating poverty.
“This is an encouraging picture,” said Ruth Powell, NCLS research director. “The young adults in Australian churches offer the most positive view about their church experiences. In general, they know little about the Christian faith, but are curious rather than hostile.”
Almost half of Australians are extremely or very open to a spiritual conversation—53% of Gen Z compared to only 34% of Baby Boomers. Nearly two-thirds are at least slightly open to changing their current spiritual views.
Gen Zs are aged 18-27 which McCrindle characterized as the most formally educated, most digitally connected age group, and globally minded generation. “COVID-19 has highlighted more issues for Gen Z and made them sympathetic toward the world,” said Stephanie Razey, McCrindle’s Research Lead. “Yes, 75 percent check their phones within three minutes of waking up, but 73 percent are open to changing their views, which means it’s OK to talk about religion.”
Razey added that young Australians are using social media, with 46% of Gen Zs engaging with TikTok at least weekly, followed by Instagram and YouTube, to help them in their spiritual life. “Young Australians are growing up in a changing Australian landscape with much more diversity.”
What factors influence young people to religion or spirituality? McCrindle found that a death in the family (31%) is the top cause for Australians to think about spiritual matters. This is followed by conversations with people (26%), health issues of a family member or friend (25%), and personal unhappiness (24%).
“Given the times when people are prompted to think about spirituality and reach out to communities of faith, this means our places of worship need to be spaces where people can feel safe to come along during their challenging times and be a place where they can feel heard,” Razey pointed out.
The study also showed that seeing genuineness to one’s faith attracts young people to religion. Sixty-six percent of respondents said personal trauma or significant life change made religion attractive while 54% claimed they were most repelled when hearing from public personalities who are examples of a certain faith.
Christianity has been practiced for about 2,000 years and some of its beliefs and practices are seen as outdated by emerging generations. According to the McCrindle study, LGBTQI+ issues and the church’s stance on homosexuality have the most negative influence of Gen Z followed by issues on money and the role of women in church and society. These topics paint Christians and Christianity in a bad light.
“These are the areas that we need to think about, what the Church’s actions and behaviors are doing to either perpetuate these perceptions or maybe to start to contradict and to build a different perception,” Razey said. “It’s really important to dig into the generational differences because we can see that for our younger Australians, the LGBTQI+ experience is significant for 45 percent of Gen Z. The Church teaching on homosexuality is a massive or significant negative influence for 40 percent of Gen Y. That’s compared to 28 percent of Boomers and 26 percent of Builders.”
Using the findings, the McCrindle research specialists urge the church to modify and cater their content to young audiences who are the group to have a lower level of trust in the Church.
“Think through the eyes of the people that you are trying to reach. Are there any things that could be misinterpreted?” asked Razey. “It’s a good moment for faith leaders to consider what are the practices that we have in our community that maybe could be misperceived outside of the church and what do we need to maybe explain better?”