Barna Group Identifies Five Trends Changing Pastors’ Outreach to Millennials and Gen Z

Millennials and Generation Z are facing some of the greatest challenges at this moment thanks to the disruption and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing demonstrations for racial justice. Engaging with and discipling teens and young adults can be equally challenging. Here are five trends about these generations, according to a Barna analysis.

While young people are questioning their place in the new reality they are living in, half of the pastors say they are struggling in their ministry to kids and youth right now, says the evangelical Christian polling firm Barna Group, which looked at how the Church has come alongside emerging generations and helped them navigate change, based on decades’ worth of its research.

One: The Church must help younger generations wisely navigate screen time

Daily screen usage by millennials and Gen Z has significantly increased during the pandemic, and 85% of pastors are concerned about it, Barna has found. But 86% of pastors say their church does not have a plan to teach on wise tech usage.

The study uses the term “Digital Babylon,” which David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock, co-authors of the Barna report Faith for Exiles, coined as a framework for the high-tech era 15- to 23-year-olds are living in. In this era, “spiritual input is at risk of being drowned out by other forms of screen time,” Barna says. “Innovation in youth ministry in the current moment requires creatively connecting with ‘digital natives’ on their turf.”

Two: The Church must integrate its response to injustice into student ministry

Barna says its research shows that teens and young adults are willing to listen to stories of injustice and are hopeful to be a positive change in the world. “But they are also looking to the Church to answer some of their questions.”

Recent data show that more than 90% of millennials and Gen Z would say our country “definitely” or “somewhat” has a race problem. And 75% of millennials and 68% of Gen Z also express motivation to address racial injustice in their society.

However, “many believe that the Church does not have the best reputation for addressing justice.”

Three: The Church must address issues of loneliness and anxiety in young adults.

Studies around the world have shown that despite being part of the most digitally connected generation, young adults and teens are prone to feelings of loneliness and anxiety, Barna points out. “Concerns around the mental health of both old and young generations have grown since the pandemic’s disruptions began.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Anugrah Kumar