By 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.