Earlier this year, a research institute that focuses its sociological studies on teenagers and young adults conducted a study concluding that "members of Generation Z, ages between 13 to 25 years old, were socially disconnected and less likely to turn into a faith community for coping."
The Washington Times reported that Springtide Research Institute found out that 63% of respondents in their study were being "unsettled, uncomfortable, or stressed" over uncertainties about their lives, while a low percentage of 19% said involvement with a faith community "helped them cope." There were several factors behind this disconnect according to Jessica Olsen, a Youth for Christ ministry director.
Olsen shared to The Christian Post the ways how Churches can reach the younger generation. She has been serving as a middle school site director with Lane County Youth for Christ. She primarily handles students aged 11 to 15 from Cal Young Middle School and Monroe Middle School.
First, "The Bible is made up of books, and in those books are chapters and not all of them are the same. Some of them are historical. Some are poetry."
Olsen specified how churches have a tendency to oversimplify Sunday School lessons based on her experience as a member of a youth group and seen while serving the youth ministry. From what she had observed over the time, "a lot of the students don't know the basics of how to read the Bible or theology."
Adults tend to classify Bible lessons as complex things for young students. "I think because of the internet and their access to other people telling them what they should believe about the church, it's made them want real answers. But sometimes churches want to talk topically and share specific stories that they think would be enticing to youth instead of just being honest and talking about what they want to talk about," she explained.
Second, "Youth must be willing to explore what they heard or read online about Christianity instead of presuming it to be true."
Olsen noted that due to the rise of deconstructionism spreading mostly on the internet, a measure within American Christianity drives to split from conservative, evangelical views and seeks to "deconstruct" contemporary expressions of Christianity.
She mentioned her non-Christian brother who once learned something negative about Christianity, and found out that assumptions weren't existing in the Bible. "I think that people hear something and they just mistake it for truth," Olsen said.
"That can be pretty hard because when people hear something once, they like to believe that's the truth," she said. "It's really hard to combat all of the negativity that's out there on the internet that kids see before they see anything encouraging or thought-provoking that would be a positive for the Church."
Third, "There is a huge need for authentic relationships among youth."
Olsen perceived that the Global Pandemic let young people spend more time isolated at home and online which made it harder for them to ask their questions and concerns regarding faith-based topics.
"There is a lack of knowing how to relationally connect," Olsen said. Knowing this as an effect of the global crisis people had experienced, Olsen encouraged the Church to meet young people where they are, to build bridges again.
Fourth, "Churches need to adapt their programming and avoid only asking youth to come to them but strive to meet youth where they are."
Olsen pointed out the importance of reaching out to youth for many churches died out because they failed to reach the next generation.
"That's why it's so important to reach youth as a trusted adult, as someone who can be their friend and care for them and love them and that might be the first time, they'll have an adult in their lives that they can trust and help them not only in their spiritual life but in their ability to grow emotionally in general," she said.