Young people are more faithful and less inclined to attend church services

Faith has grown stronger among the country’s teens and young adults during COVID-19 — even if they now attend church less frequently than they did when the pandemic began.

They also trust their faith communities more and agree that spirituality is important to their mental health.

However, they are not currently attracted to virtual services, although they use social media heavily.

These are some key takeaways from Springtide Research Institute’s newly released report, The New Normal, Updated & Expanded: 10 Ways to Care for Gen Z in a Post-Pandemic World.

The data comes from a survey of nearly 1,800 people aged 13 to 25.

Important Findings

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

More young people say their faith has grown stronger (30%) than weakened (18%) or lost it completely (8%) during the pandemic. That includes a growing segment of respondents who say they undoubtedly have a higher power, 28% in 2022 versus 22% in 2021.

At the same time, the proportion of those who attend daily, weekly, monthly, or less than monthly church services each fell 1% to 5% from 2021 to 2022, while those who say they never attend such services increased from 30% to 44% in 2021. in 2022.

Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess, president of the Mormon Social Science Association, said there are no definitive answers as to why this apparent split exists.

One possibility, she said, is that these findings are part of a larger, ongoing path in which young adults are less interested in institutional religion and more inclined to shape their own spiritual journey.

The pandemic, she added, has simply accelerated this trend.

“Yes, on the one hand it is surprising to see a discrepancy between the number of people who still say that faith is an important part of their lives and the number of people who are not active in a religious tradition ‘ said Riess. “But it’s just a more delineated version of what we’ve been seeing for years.”

This pattern also exists among older Americans, although not to the same extent. What will happen when the world clears itself of COVID-19 is impossible to be certain, although “I don’t think we will recover as much as we would like.”

Worship attendance was not the only metric the Springtide Research Institute studied. The report also states that a higher percentage of Gen Zers say they feel “highly connected” to a higher power: 18% in 2022 compared to 13% in 2021. Conversely, those who say that they do not feel connected to a higher power at all Electricity is 27% in 2022, up from 36% in 2021.

Additionally, around 10% say they found joy in virtual religious gatherings during the peak of the pandemic — although 38% of Gen Zers say they use social media for five to six hours or more a day. Only about a third say they would consider joining an online-only religious community (35%) or that an online-only religious community would be preferable (34%).

Almost 7 in 10 (67%) agree their religious or spiritual life is important to their mental health. Although 48% of Gen Zers say they are currently moderately or extremely depressed, 73% agree that their religious or spiritual practices have a positive impact on their mental health.

About 37% say they now trust their places of worship more or completely because of how they are handling the pandemic, compared to 20% who trust their places of worship less or not at all. Additionally, 71% agree their places of worship did a good job of protecting them from COVID-19, versus 63% saying so about their school and 43% saying so about their government.

There is less middle ground

Patrick Mason, director of the Department of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, said this statistic might seem counterintuitive given how many young adults are leaving organized religion overall.

But for many people, he said, COVID-19 has had the effect of bolstering the attitudes they already had before the pandemic. Those who were already religious clung more firmly to their faith, while those who questioned organized religion hastened their departure.

“What we’re seeing right now in America is much more fragmented, where people are making decisions about whether they’re religious or not,” Mason said. “These are becoming stronger identities in one way or another, rather than some kind of muddy middle.”

The report goes on to suggest ways faith leaders can engage with their young parishioners, including using the arts (such as journaling, drawing, or making music) and exercising empathy.

“Have a conversation with the young people in your life, share your answers and reflections without asking for answers,” the report says. “Inviting them to comment on their experiences feels less risky and doesn’t require them to delve deep into identifying hard-to-name emotions or share those emotions before they’re ready.”

Research on Latter-day Saints

The Springtide Research Institute has also studied trends among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The State of Religion and Young People 2021: Navigating Uncertainty, conducted throughout 2021, argues that “for a large and growing segment of young people, religiosity is increasingly decoupled from institutions, even if it has high levels of religious belief, religious practice and religion express identity.”

More than 10,000 young people were interviewed during the year, including 470 who identified themselves as Latter-day Saints or Mormons. 134 of this group were also given additional questions about their experiences and views.

The report found that Latter-day Saints aged 18 to 25 reported the highest participation in youth group activities; and 57% of the Latter-day Saints surveyed said they “completely” or “very” trust organized religion, compared with 35% of the national sample.

They were the most likely, at 26%, to say that they read a sacred text that helps them get through difficult times. Additionally, at 25%, they were the most likely to say they went to a spiritual or religious service to help them with challenges.

More than 4 in 10 (41%) said they turned to someone in their faith community when they were overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do. This was the second highest behind Buddhists at 42%.

And they were the most likely, at 27%, to agree that spiritual practices offer a lot of meaning and fulfillment.

However, young Latter-day Saints were among the least likely, at 36%, to say that spending time with family is very fulfilling in their lives. Only Hindus (33%) and Orthodox Christians (19%) agreed with lower percentages.

Editor’s note This story is available only to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers. Thank you for supporting local journalism. Young people are more faithful and less inclined to attend church services

Joel McCord

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