Barna & World Vision Partner to Create Largest Study of Its Kind, Offering New Insights into Millennials & Gen Z Worldwide

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Lauren Fisher
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Highlights

  • The Connected Generation reveals sobering—and surprisingly hopeful—trends among the world’s first truly global generation
Small moments add up to a picture of what life is like for people living in Colomi and Soracachi, two towns where World Vision works in Bolivia.
Keeping the faith: A Reformed Church of God service in Soracachi is conducted in Aymara, an indigenous language of Bolivia, and in Spanish. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Eugene Lee)

Ventura, CA — What values are Millennials and Gen Z bringing with them into adulthood? What kind of world are they already building? What is their relationship to faith, even in increasingly secular environments? A new Barna-World Vision research partnership finds out.

In order to study the first truly global generation—a maturing and formidable force that is actively shaping our shared future—Barna combined its research expertise with the worldwide reach of World Vision, the largest child-focused Christian humanitarian organization in the world.

The study findings are based on 15,369 survey respondents, ages 18 to 35, in 25 countries and nine languages.

The Connected Generation project finds:

  • Connected but Alone. Despite being a hyper-connected and globally minded generation, many young adults say they feel lonely. Fifty-seven percent of 18–35-year-old respondents sense a connection to people around the world, but just one in three (33%) says they feel deeply cared for by those around them.
  • Longing to Make a Difference. More than three-quarters (77%) say events around the world matter to them. When young adults engage with a community of worship, they’re looking for concrete teaching, opportunities to fight injustice and friends to join them along the way.
  • Spiritual Openness. There is a general openness toward spirituality and religion, including Christianity; more than half of the 18–35-year-olds polled feel that religion is good for people and society. But there is less warmth toward the Church among those who have left their faith.
  • Age of Anxiety. Worry and insecurity, often tied to finances and vocation, are prominent. Four in 10 young adults are anxious about important decisions, uncertain about the future or afraid to fail (40% each).
  • Looking for Answers. Human suffering and global conflict are among the top issues that raise spiritual doubts for 18–35-year-olds. Among those with some connection to Christianity, almost half (47%) feel the Church cannot answer their questions.
  • Resilient Discipleship. Across religious climates, the data point to keys for forming faithful Christ-followers, even among those Christians who lapse in religiosity. About three-quarters of practicing Christians (73%) say there is someone in their life who encourages them to grow spiritually.

Barna president David Kinnaman, who has been researching religion for 25 years, commented on the project:

“Through the largest single study in Barna’s history, we’ve gained unique insights into spiritual development today and a wide-angle lens on the most pressing issues and concerns facing Millennials and Gen Z—cohorts who are much talked about and often misunderstood. In addition to providing many hopeful signs about the opportunities ahead of these generations, the study shows powerful connections between practicing faith and overall well-being. We anticipate the findings will help Christian leaders of all ages partner with the emerging generations globally to take advantage of their unique ‘connected’ moment. Toward that end, we have been privileged to work with World Vision’s team to shape this important study in order to serve church leaders here in the U.S. and around the world.”

Edgar Sandoval, president of World Vision U.S., says of this research partnership:

“Millennials are one group that is often misunderstood, and therefore all too easy to judge—especially with regard to their faith. Although cynicism toward this generation abounds, I do not share it. I believe Jesus is lighting fires in the hearts of young people, just as he has done with all generations since he walked on this earth. Further, we at World Vision want to engage them in striving to realize God’s plan for the world, particularly in the fragile places where even a small act can make a huge impact. That’s why we commissioned this study from Barna Group. Understanding 18–35-year-olds and separating fact from assumption enables World Vision, and the Church at large, to help unleash young people’s passion for Jesus. We want to equip faith leaders to connect and collaborate with this generation.”

On September 10, 2019, Barna and World Vision will host a free, live webcast called “Faith for the Future” to introduce findings from The Connected Generation study and unveil corresponding key insights from Faith for Exiles, a newly released book by David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock, a pastor and former executive director of Youth Specialties. “Faith for the Future” will feature some of today’s most inspired thinkers and leaders—including Christine Caine, Francis Chan, Danielle Strickland, Eugene Cho, and more—and is intended to help churches, nonprofits, parents and today’s young adults put insights from these new initiatives into action.

 

CONTRIBUTORS

In addition to original insights from Barna president David Kinnaman and commentary from World Vision leaders Andrew Morley and Edgar Sandoval, The Connected Generation features  experts, ministers, activists and scholars from around the world, including: Ruth Yimika Afolabi, Juliette Arulrajah, Jason Ballard, Jefferson Bethke, Amanda Bowman, Christine Caine, Francis Chan, Abel Cheah, Jayakumar Christian, Eugene Cho, Sam Collier, Jonathon Douglass, Stephen Foster, Daniel Flynn, Marco Tulio Gómez, Nicky Gumbel, Brooke Hempell, Dorit Reichstein Hejslet, Archbishop Jackson, Alan Jamieson, Krish Kandiah, Konstantine Kruse, James Mallon, Mark Matlock, Chine McDonald, Percy Mongwai, Daniel Muvengi, Lydia Mwaniki, David Oginde, Brianna Parker, Stephen Proctor, Sifiso Pule, Jo Saxton, Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, Mark Sayers, Joy Beth Smith, Taya Smith, Danielle Strickland, Wesley Teixeira, John Thornton Jr., Tracy Trinita, Sandra Maria Van Opstal, Tish Harrison Warren, Peter Wojcik, and more.

Barna Group is an independent research firm dedicated to providing actionable insights on faith and culture, with a particular focus on the Christian Church since 1984.

World Vision is a Christian relief, development and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice.  

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About World Vision:
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization conducting relief, development, and advocacy activities in its work with children, families, and their communities in nearly 100 countries to help them reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.WorldVision.org/media-center/ or on Twitter @WorldVisionUSA.