Telling research for reaching young people

10 January 2024

By Laura Treneer

This month Youthscape has published the first part of its ambitious ‘Translating God’ research, exploring how young people understand and respond to the Christian story. After more than two years of work and research, it lays the ground for churches and charities to understand the young people they are seeking to reach.

This first phase presents general findings on key themes for all young people in the UK:

·      Life online

·      Behaviour and lifestyle

·      Mental health and wellbeing

·      Identity, values and beliefs

·      Relationships

·      Education, work and transition to adulthood

Phase 2, in partnership with Scripture Union, will explore young people's understanding of Christian belief and faith. Phase 3, in partnership with Bible Society, will draw this together and give practical steps to respond to the findings. We will update you on these when they are published.

Valuable data

Some of the findings from Phase 1 will not surprise, although it is of huge value to have the data behind what we may have already noticed. For example, Christianity is in decline amongst teenagers, who are now more likely to have no religion. Young people have moved ‘off the fence’ in their views about climate change, and young people’s everyday climate-saving behaviours are changing, but slowly.

Online, gaming has become more popular as a way to socialise. Young people are spending an hour more each day chatting to friends online than they did a decade ago.

Some surprises

There are also some findings which may challenge our perceptions. For example, Youthscape has found that, despite their progressive social views, sexist and racist bullying has increased among young people. Today’s teenagers are much less likely to engage in ‘risky behaviours’ such as smoking, drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs – and they are also less likely to perceive these behaviours as risky.

Most young people are still growing up in households with married parents. More young people talk often to their parents and say they get on very well with them – and while it used to be that young people wanted to leave home by the age of 20, the majority now want to stay living with their families until their mid-20s. Young people are more likely to feel lonely sometimes, and struggle with those feelings.

Time to invest

Findings like this are a reminder of the potential positive impact of close-knit, multi-generational communities like churches. The research is useful for all charities that want to understand, support and reach young people, with a strong and well-organised evidence base to make the case.

For churches and Christian organisations that have been at the forefront of frontline youthwork for generations, this is a time to invest more than ever in understanding the changing needs of the next generation.

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