The Connected Generation: Southeast Asia

The Connected Generation: Southeast Asia

A Barna Report Produced in Partnership with World Vision


By Daniel Boey, Lilian Chung & Doseba T. Sinay

It’s trite, but true: The world is changing, and it can be hard for leaders to keep up. Business, culture, technology, government – every sector of society has been affected by rapid, often seismic shifts, particularly here in Southeast Asia.

As the world’s first digital natives, today’s young adults have been at the forefront of change. Millennials and now Gen Z have grown up with different experiences than previous generations, which have shaped their values and expectations across society.

At World Vision, our vision is a world where every child can enjoy life in all its fullness. This dream can only be possible if this generation brings its passion and innovation to address the root causes of poverty and injustice. As a Christian organisation, we also believe this is only possible when the Church is leading her people to realise God’s dream for the world. For these reasons, World Vision and the researchers at Barna Group partnered to understand this generation and the values that guide them. We wanted to learn how faith impacts young adults and, in turn, the world they are creating.

The Connected Generation project is the result of surveys of more than 15,000 young adults, ages 18 to 35, across 25 countries and in nine languages. The global report includes critical insights and commentary from thought leaders worldwide, equipping leaders to understand and engage this connected generation. The regional report you’re currently reading takes a deeper look at the responses of young people in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. It also includes field guides to help you put this research into action and better apply it toward your ministry.

The research points to signs of hope, as well as concerns. Around the world and across Southeast Asia, we see that this generation is globally minded and connected. They are more open to faith and spirituality than many might assume. However, the research also reveals that far too many young people are lonely and anxious about their future and the world. This generation may be at the forefront of change, but many are still struggling to find their place. While they may be more connected than ever before, they long for deeper community that the local church is well positioned to provide.

Our prayer is that this research will help Christian leaders worldwide better understand this generation. More than anything, we believe this body of work gives us a unique opportunity – to listen to this generation, to learn from them and ultimately to collaborate with them as they become who God created them to be and lead our world into tomorrow.

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 comprehensive summary of the findings specific to Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

Though some themes vary by country and context, there are other similarities that reach 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 better understand 18–35-year-olds around the world, but also 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.

Members of the Connected Generation

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