The Connected Generation: Western Europe

The Connected Generation: Western Europe

A Barna Report Produced in Partnership with World Vision


Andrew MorelyBy Andrew Morley, President and Chief Executive Officer, World Vision International

I believe God wants to teach the Church through young people. I am convinced this powerful emerging generation (in this report, 18–35-year-olds) can be a faith-filled and creative force for change in our world. Through this important and comprehensive study, we see many young adults thriving in unexpected ways. But The Connected Generation also points to a generation of contradictions and reveals a need to rethink the way we and churches connect with and mobilise young adults.

The data show young people think churches are not (yet) doing enough to fight injustice or to create opportunities for this generation to make a difference. In other words, they want to see the Church living out Jesus’ calling in Matthew 25 to care for the hungry and thirsty, the stranger and unclothed, the sick and imprisoned.

I can relate to Millennials’ and Gen Z’s desire to make a lasting change. During my 20s, I channeled my energy into innovative technologies and groundbreaking areas in business. After I became a Christian at the age of 29, my priorities changed. I still wanted to change the world— but now by bringing hope to the most vulnerable. That led me to becoming an ordained Anglican minister (I still serve on the clergy team at Holy Trinity Brompton in London today) and eventually to joining World Vision.

These experiences have bolstered my belief that, now more than ever, it’s time for the Church to lead. We are at a critical juncture in human history. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals set 2030 as the date by which extreme poverty could end. To achieve that historic objective, a new generation of caring, globally connected people must bring its energy and resources to the struggle.

World Vision believes the Church is the greatest God-ordained force for holistic transformation. We see faith leaders as the gatekeepers of social change – either guardians of the status quo or champions of new ideas and behaviours that improve the well-being of people. Churches are indispensable partners in our work.

That’s one reason World Vision partnered with Barna Group on this one-of-a-kind global study: to understand young people’s perceptions about the Church as well as issues of social justice and transformation. Barna’s commitment to gathering solid evidence will help us ensure our actions are well founded, leading us to deeper connections with this generation and progress toward ending poverty. I hope we help young generations glimpse the world-changing possibilities of the Kingdom of God.

Our prayer is that this study will help church leaders understand, disciple and ultimately activate this connected generation to become all that God created them to be. In making a lasting impact on these young adults, we make a lasting impact on the world.

Members of the Connected Generation

An Overview of the Study’s Sample by Region and Country

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 Austria, Germany, Spain and Switzerland.

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.

Members of the Connected Generation

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