Considering the drop in attendance at places of worship and the so-called increase in nuns, it may be surprising that the majority of young people say they are spiritual and / or religious.
But according to those who took part in Springtide Research Institute’s State of Religion and Young People 2020, 78% of people aged 13 to 25 consider themselves to be at least slightly spiritual, of which 60% are unaffiliated young people (atheists, agnostics and not). . And 71% say they are at least slightly religious, including 38% of the unaffiliated.
This might surprise their elders, as their spiritual or religious life often does not take place in a temple, synagogue or church. Take weddings, which historically have led even religious people to adopt the rituals of a traditional faith.
Although 75% of Gen Z members polled by The Knot in 2019 said they had a religious background, only 18% said they plan to observe formal religious traditions when they marry, while nearly 87% have had their own traditions created, including by modifying religious practices.
Instead of having religious ceremonies led by ordained ministers in places of worship, Gen Z offers more personalized wedding rituals, inviting friends to officiate in beautiful outdoor settings. Often, these ceremonies weave secular or cultural sources – poetry, music, family histories – and religious: biblical readings, broken glass, blessing.
Eclectic beliefs, practices
This eclecticism is also manifested in their daily practice. Young people seek to rely on religious and spiritual support to overcome life’s challenges and celebrate its joys, but increasingly they do so outside formal structures and places of faith.
And even though they find their religious identity or community in a cohesive source, more and more GenZ are drawing on various traditions, family lineages and sources of wisdom. New data we released recently showed that 51% of young people of various religious identities engage in tarot cards or other divination practices.
The next generation may invest more in the faith because of the stress and loss. After a year of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020-2021), more than a third of young people (35%) said their faith had strengthened, while only 11% said their faith had weakened (half said their faith remained stable). Even more, 46% started new religious or spiritual practices during this time, far more than the 27% who stopped certain religious or practices.
The caveat for anyone hoping to make Gen Z the Gen Z that has returned to church is that if today’s youth take what they find useful in religious traditions, this group has trust issues. important for formal religious institutions. When asked about their confidence in organized religion on a 10-point scale, 63% of young people answered 5 or less, including 52% of those who say they are affiliated with a religious tradition.
You read that right: More than half of young people who claim religious affiliation have little confidence in the very religious institutions with which they identify.
Where trust in religious institutions is low, however, trust in dealing with people in those institutions is extremely high.
Respond to trends
Religious leaders who want to appeal to Gen Z need to focus on gaining trust through relationships rather than relying on their institutional authority – their title, role, or accomplishments. Granted, Gen Zers respect expertise, so long as it comes with genuine concern and concern for their well-being – an approach Springtide calls relational authority.
Religious leaders will also have to make the effort to go out and find Generation Z. Many religious leaders today are asking how they can reach this generation, but few are actually doing it. Only 8% of young people say there is a religious leader to turn to if necessary, and only 10% of young people say a religious leader has contacted to register in the first year of the pandemic.
But in meeting Generation Z, pastors, rabbis, imams and gurus would be well advised to make room for this generation’s organic and fluid approach to spirituality, in their communities and their liturgy, by resisting the temptation to see it as some sort of selfish spirituality. path. Gen Zs do this vast and curious work of building their faith whether or not religious leaders show up to guide them – but when caring adults walk by their side and invest in their lives, it makes a difference.
The question is not whether Gen Z will abandon religious institutions – they are already well advanced. The question is whether religious leaders will walk alongside them when they encounter the divine in new ways.
EDITOR’S NOTE – Co-author Josh Packard is executive director of the Springtide Research Institute and author of âChurch Refugeesâ. Co-author Casper ter Kuile is the co-founder of Sacred Design Lab and author of “The Power of Ritual”. This article is a commentary and the opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of TAB Media or Religion News Service.