What is this research about?
Every generation needs to discover how to contextualise the Christian story in the culture and lives of young people. This task feels particularly urgent in light of evidence showing that the Church is rapidly ageing, and that it is young people who are most likely to describe themselves as having no religion. It is not necessarily the case that they have ‘left’ the church, but that they were never in church to start with. With each generation becoming more secular in its outlook, the Church can no longer rely on young people accessing a residual memory of the Christian faith when it comes to communicating its stories and sharing its practice.
Why are we doing it?
Previous research has explored the contours of this new landscape, and has helped the church understand its task in response.[i] However, this research is now ten years old, and ‘Generation Y’ are now adults. The data we have to draw on was largely collected before the launch of the iPhone. There is a need for new research that describes the key landmarks of youth culture and spirituality for ‘Generation Z’, or ‘i-Gen’, and helps youth workers and church congregations translate faith once again. We propose to bring together social research, theological reflection and Youthscape’s innovation process in one project to bridge the gap between the language and theology of the Church, and the concerns and spirituality of young people.
DIAGRAM 1: THE THREE STAGES OF THE RESEARCH
How are we going to do it?
We believe that this is a task that can only be done with the help of young people themselves. So, we are inviting groups of 14-18 year-olds across the UK to help us reflect on research about youth culture and spirituality, and on what Christian theology offers in response. Other studies have identified the disconnect between the language and stories of the Christian faith and teenagers today, but haven’t sought to address this issue. This project will therefore be a piece of theology with young people, given that their perspective is vital in interpreting the language and signs of their culture. We will employ principles of theological action research in our design, involving ‘insider’ focus groups of young people and ‘outsider’ focus groups of formal theologians and theologically trained youth workers.
DIAGRAM 2: THE RESEARCH PROCESS
What are the key objectives?
- To map the key issues that define young people’s culture and spirituality in 2021.
- To identify the most salient theological narratives, concepts and practices that speak to young people’s culture and spirituality in 2021.
- To understand how young people view Christian theology and explore how this might shape our own understanding.
- To produce a research report with insights that can be used as part of a new cycle of innovation.
- To produce a tool/resource that helps paid and volunteer youth workers and churches use these insights in their work with young people.
How can I get involved?
We are still looking for a few groups of young people to take part in our focus groups. We want to hear from young people from a range of backgrounds and a range of contexts, in particular those from less wealthy neighbourhoods, and young people of colour.
If you’re a youth worker, and think your young people might be interested in getting involved in the research, we’d love to hear from you. Fill out the short form below and we will get back to you shortly with more information.
We are also looking for academic theologians and theologically-trained youth workers to participate in the online formal theology focus groups. Please contact us via the details below if you are interested in finding out more.
The research team
- Dr Lucie Shuker, Director of Research, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Gry Apeland, Research Assistant, email@example.com
[i] Savage et al., 2006, Collins-Mayo et al. 2010, and from the US, Smith and Denton 2005