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This post was written by Sarah, the Network's content and community manager.

The young generation – my friends, cousins, and classmates – are leaving the church in record numbers. More of Gen Z don’t identify with any religion, including Christianity, than any generation before. 

What caused these changes? To understand why so many young people have little interest in the church, I think it’s valuable to see the world from our perspective. Here’s some things I’ve noticed, and how they have impacted young people’s needs:

  1. The world is an increasingly scary place. And we know more about it. My generation grew up in a politically volatile environment. In the United States, we came into our consciousness of the world during multiple global crises that hit close to home – wars abroad, the global financial crisis, political unrest at home, school and university during a global pandemic. The mental health crisis means many of us know and cared about someone who died from suicide. We struggle finding accommodation with the current housing crisis. Given that we grew up with the internet and 24/7 news cycle, we also are very aware of these issues. As such, we look for Christian spaces that feel safe and that are willing to hold an awareness of the complexity of the world.
  2. Our generation has less trust in institutions. We don’t have much trust in institutions of power, including the church. Seeing stories Christian leaders who have fallen rather spectacularly means that a lot of young people who never went to church don’t have very good reasons to try it out. Those who have grown up in a church community often may feel that there is some level of hypocrisy in Christianity. We may need the time and space to overcome negative experiences in the churches we grew up in. We have lots of questions. We really need church communities that are willing to hold those questions with us.
  3. The world is competitive. Really competitive. Whether we’re looking for a job, searching for an apartment, or trying to get into a particular university, there is a lot of competition in our world. This level of competition often makes feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. We’d love to find Christian spaces that recognize the challenges of being a young person today, and seek fellow Christians who can be the hands and feet of Jesus and help us manage these practical and essential parts of life. Want to help out? Put together a list of open accommodations in your area. Organize a job fair to help us connect with good employers. We’d love your support.
  4. Our relationships and family life look different. Young people today are more educated and less likely to be in long-term relationships. We also get married and have kids later than in the past. And it can be hard for us to find a space in a church where we fit in if  we don't have a family or a spouse. To help make us feel welcome and accepted, try to think of ways to incorporate us into your church family. Invite us to come and sit by you on Sunday mornings. Volunteer to drive us to church if we don't have a car. We would love to attend but sometimes may need help to get there.
  5. Many young people suffer from loneliness. The pandemic took away some of the time young people had in school and university to make vital, life-forming friendships. Social media and the demands of work, school, and other commitments add to our feelings of being isolated. And when we feel lonely, it’s really hard to reach out and find connection. To help battle young people’s feelings of loneliness, invite them into your church community and think of creative ways to help them be involved. Invite them to dinner. Hold Sunday school classes for young adults. Sponsor social events that help them meet and make new friends. 

Despite all these challenges, there are many young people who are eager to discover what life in Christ looks like. We’d love to meet you and get involved! 

If you have any reflections to add, any stories of young people from your own congregation, family, or friend circle, or any ideas, questions, or comments, please add them in the comments section below.

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