02 Engagement with Spirituality & the Church

Engagement with Spirituality & the Church


Religious Affiliation Across the Connected Generation

Religious Affiliation Across the Connected Generation

Relationship to Faith


Only about one out of 10 is completely certain a spiritual dimension does not exist. Young adults’ feelings toward faith specifically are more complex, but they lean toward seeing religion as good and important.

Relationship to Faith

The Church’s Mixed Reputation


Young adults with some proximity to religion in general or Christianity specifically hold respect for the Church, while those furthest from religion – and particularly those who have detached from it – show great opposition.

Many young Christians are considered ‘church dropouts’ – respondents who either grew up Christian and no longer affiliate with the Church or still identify as Christian but attend a place of worship infrequently (less than every few months).

The Church’s Mixed Reputation

Ideas About Christianity, Christians & Christ


Groups who are distant from the Church struggle not only to see value in the institution but to connect to its tenets. Many young adults who aren’t part of the Church identify Jesus as an historical figure or just a man, and their metric for Christian identity is built around church attendance, rather than certain beliefs or virtues that Christians indicate is central to their faith expression.

Ideas About Christianity, Christians & Christ

Resilient Discipleship & the Impact of Church


In Faith for Exiles, Barna president David Kinnaman examines four groups who grew up with Christian backgrounds. This study extends those categories across 25 countries and observes similar groups and patterns of Christian faithfulness around the world, among:

Prodigals – grew up Christian but no longer identify themselves as Christian.

Nomads – identify as Christian but do not regularly attend church.

Habitual churchgoers – identify as Christian and attend church at least once a month, but do not qualify as resilient disciples.

Resilient disciples* – identify as Christian and (1) attend a local church regularly and engage with their faith community above and beyond worship services; (2) trust firmly in the authority of the Bible; (3) are committed to Jesus personally and affirm his death and resurrection; and (4) express a desire for their faith to impact their words and actions.

Resilient Discipleship & the Impact of Church


*See Methodology on page 46 for sample details.

Worship Practices & Perceptions


Why do resilient disciples in Southeast Asia continue to attend their place of worship? Learning about God and commitment to their faith top their list of reasons.

For resilient disciples, opportunities to fight injustice and vocational training are the two main needs not being met by their worship community. Habitual churchgoers also want to fight injustice and are looking for connections through both mentorships and social gatherings.

Worship Practices & Perceptions


*’Vocational training’ could refer to programmes, classes or groups that provide practical or spiritual instruction related to one’s job, workplace or sense of calling.

Field Guide 2: Engagement with Spirituality & the Church


In the first part of this field guide, we explored how a lack of connection may be contributing to the anxiety that many young adults feel. We also looked at how your community could offer a real and authentic source of connection and hope to young adults in your midst.

Now comes the difficult part: understanding your surrounding culture and church culture enough to connect young Christians with God’s Church. Field Guide 2 will help you think through some practical steps your congregation can take toward this end.

Guiding questions

Before you dig into this field guide, consider the following questions as a team:

  • How does our surrounding culture perceive Christianity? How might that impact the young Christians who come to our church?
  • Look at the chart on page 20 showing how young people in your particular country struggle with belief in spiritual matters. Why do you think these are the specific questions or doubts expressed by young people in your culture?
  • How is your church equipped – or not equipped – to help address the things young Christians say are missing in their churches? Do you think those desires are important for your church to consider? Why or why not?

Considering context

Worldwide, many members of this generation show a deep ambivalence toward religion – and, in some cases, a deep antagonism. However, that isn’t the case in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. The number of respondents in Southeast Asia who view religion as ‘harmful’ is much lower than the global average.

Still, while a significant majority of young adults in these countries says they believe in spiritual forces, as soon as that spirituality is tied to a religious faith, doubts and questions crop up. Consider that there are few ‘church dropouts’ in Southeast Asia, but young adults who have left the church identify significant issues within it, including corruption, and see little need for church and faith to be linked. Even among current Christians in this age group, issues like hypocrisy and human suffering pose significant challenges to faith and spirituality, and many see church attendance as something that is more important for later in life or during difficult times.

This reality is hard for many churches, but there are still steps you can take to help the young adults in your churches seek and know God.

Remedying misconceptions

Addressing the doubts and hurts expressed by young Christians won’t be easy. A young Christian coming to your church might have wounds from a different tradition or theology you personally find terrible or corrupt, or they might have questions or accusations that come from your surrounding culture. You and your church might be blamed for the sins or doubts of others, and it won’t feel fair.

But it’s also an opportunity to show how the Church works. Every expression of the global Church is responsible for helping people heal from past wounds. You might not have the same theology or church structure as the Christians who have truly hurt the young people in your congregation, and you are not to blame for how others view Christianity, but you do have the responsibility to work toward making things right with those willing to listen.

Think about how your community can work toward healing. Think about what seeking reconciliation and asking forgiveness looks like (and how it may look different from place to place). And then do the hard work of continuing that ministry each day, as you continually follow the sanctifying power of the Spirit.

Who is Jesus – and who are his followers?

In Southeast Asia, there are many understandings of who Jesus is. While a significant number of young adults say Jesus is the Son of God, there are significant numbers of people who believe Jesus is simply a prophet or a character from a story – or who are just not sure who he is. There is also some confusion about what makes a Christian. While most young Christians or church dropouts say the main marker of a Christian is a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, many other young adults outside of the Church say that being a Christian simply equates to church attendance or prayer. These ideas are likely impacting the young people who are in your church, even if they don’t realise it. You may need to work on educating the young adults in your community to fully understand who Jesus is – and what the Christian faith both is and is not.

Help people find what they’re missing

Young Christians say they attend church to learn more about Jesus and to grow in their faith – all important things in the Christian life! But even young adults who are active and happy in local churches still report some things they miss. They say they want more opportunities to fight injustice and oppression and need help connecting their job and career to their faith, among other things. Where can you easily offer new opportunities for young Christians to find community and connection in your church?

Does Your Church Have:

Discipleship sessions that reinforce the Bible’s teachings?

Social gatherings?

Mentorship opportunities?

Opportunities for social action?

Training to connect career to faith?

Opportunities to connect with older Christians?

Previous Section

Life in an Anxious Age

Read Section
Next Section

Potential For Impact

Read Section