The Connected Generation: Australia / New Zealand

The Connected Generation: Australia / New Zealand

A Barna Report Produced in Partnership with World Vision


By Grant Bayldon & Claire Rogers


The concept of a generation gap is not new. Yet, elders and commentators in our public square seem to have a particularly unhealthy obsession with the apparent gulf between emergent generations, like Millennials and their predecessors.

Let’s not be naïve: The gap is real. The generation raised in the shadow of the so-called War on Terror, who graduated into the global financial crisis and are now trying to settle down amidst record housing prices certainly don’t carry the same institutional trust of their forebears.

As a result, humanity’s first digital natives, who came of age with technology that flattened social hierarchies, opened access to information and created the concept of a ‘personal brand’, have taken to ‘disruption’ as their watchword.

Perhaps, rather than bemoaning these changes and belittling lived experiences with throwaway comments, we need to take up the mantle of understanding new perspectives and in turn growing, improving, even changing, as a result.

This generation gap presents a unique challenge for Christianity. Two thousand years into the gift of ‘the Church’ we find ourselves in the era of disruption, worshipping a Saviour who is ‘the same yesterday, today and forever’.

Not only that, but in recent years a string of moral failings within the Church have been laid bare. We have our work cut out not only reaching Millennials and Gen Z, but rebuilding our standing with generations famously short on institutional trust.

Yet there is great hope.

Globally, we see churches thriving, growing rapidly in areas where the gospel has been held back for years. In our own churches, we see young people coming to know a God by whom they are fully known and fully loved, and in so doing, finding not only salvation but a salve for the weariness and detachment that has come to be part of modern life.

That is why World Vision commissioned this research.

For decades, World Vision has been on mission alongside the Church. Core to our organisation is the firm belief that the Church is not only the greatest God-ordained force for holistic transformation, but also at its best in uniting the full diversity of God’s people. We have a responsibility to heal divides, whether they be racial, cultural, class or, indeed, generational.

We didn’t want our mission to be distracted by stereotypes or informed only by assumptions. Instead, we wanted to hear the voice of young adults, to learn how we might unleash them so their communities might thrive and so they may see the love of God on earth, as it is in heaven.

Members of the Connected Generation



For more than a decade and across multiple projects, Barna Group has kept a close eye on the generation known as Millennials (defined in the United States as those born between 1984 and 1998). We’ve watched them navigate new technology, develop passions for community and justice and balance particularly high ideals and ambitions. Our recent research has tracked their entrance into adulthood, career and family – and, among a significant proportion, a simultaneous departure from religion. We see similar trends now among the leading edge of Gen Z (born between 1999 and 2015), who, so far, are even less inclined toward religion than their Millennial peers.

Barna partnered with World Vision, a leading voice in global activism with a shared vision of engaging the next generation, to dramatically widen – and focus – the lens with which we view young adults around the world. We interviewed more than 15,000 adults ages 18 to 35 in 25 countries and nine languages, asking them about their goals, fears, relationships, routines and beliefs. This report represents a summary of the findings specific to Australia and New Zealand.

Though some themes vary by country and context, there are other similarities across borders. In the following pages, you’ll meet maturing respondents who don’t just want to be ‘reached’ – they want to be involved and make a difference. Many of these driven adults are wary and weary, wrestling with questions, longing for deeper relationships and facing significant societal, professional and personal obstacles. Yet we see that faith is one important factor associated with their well-being, connection and resilience. When – or, for many, if – they walk into a church, they’ll need concrete teaching from leaders they can trust and meaningful opportunities to contribute to a faith community.

Through this report, Barna’s aim is not only to help the global Church to better understand 18–35-year-olds around the world, but to truly partner with them in discipleship and activate them in leadership. We invite you to join us in learning more about, and from, this connected generation.

A First-of-its-kind Profile of Young Adults in Your Context


What values are Millennials, and now Gen Z, bringing with them into adulthood? What kind of world are they already building? What is their relationship to faith? The reality is that members of this age cohort are hardly “the next generation” anymore. Newcomers no longer, they are a formidable force, actively shaping the future of our workplaces, media, politics, arts, neighborhoods and, yes, churches.

For a groundbreaking global study, Barna Group combined its research expertise with the reach of World Vision, the largest child-focused Christian humanitarian organization in the world, to interview more than 15,000 adults ages 18 to 35 in 25 countries and nine languages. This report represents a summary of the findings specifically within Australia and New Zealand, providing a regional snapshot of a group we’re calling The Connected Generation.

Through quantitative research, data visualizations and field guides, these pages reveal both sobering and surprisingly hopeful trends among a globally minded generation, including:

  • An overview of young adults’ goals, fears and emotional well-being in an anxious age
  • New data about attitudes toward spirituality, religion and the Christian Church in a secular climate
  • Contextualized insights about how to support and partner with 18–35-year-olds in your area as they fulfill ambitions toward vocation, justice and leadership

In addition to original writing from Barna president David Kinnaman, this country report from The Connected Generation project features commentary from local leaders in Australia and New Zealand, including Grant Bayldon, Sam Bloore, Melinda Dwight, Alan Jamieson, Claire Rogers and Mark Sayers.

Join us in learning more about—and from—this connected generation.

Get more information about The Connected Generation project and related resources at theconnectedgeneration.com.

Next Section


Read Section