Survey finds young Catholics disconnected from organized religion

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The report suggests adjusting outreach practices to counter the rising trend of “unbundled faith”.

A new report analyzing surveys conducted by young Catholics in 2021 shows a clear disconnect with traditional religious practice. The study, conducted by the Springtide Research Institute, titled “The State of Religion and Youth 2021 – Catholic Edition,” looked at Catholics between the ages of 13 and 25. The report suggests that new forms of outreach are needed to engage those of Gen Z.

Of more than 10,000 people surveyed, 1,630 identified themselves as Catholic. Of these, 87% consider themselves religious while 85% consider themselves spiritual. Although these are promising figures, only 26% said they use faith as a guide when they feel uncertain about life.

Additionally, 52% of young Catholics said they attend Mass once a year or less, and of these, 27% said they never attend. Only 23% said they attend Mass weekly or more, and 19% were monthly attendees.

Organized religion

The study found that while the majority of young people identify as religious or spiritual, they are moving away from organized religion. Fifty-four percent of respondents claimed that Jesus Christ was their saviour. Of these, however, the largest group (22%) consider themselves to be “righteous Christians”.

Along with this estrangement from religious institutions comes a wide variety of non-traditional activities that this group considers religious practice. These included physical activity, mediation, art or music, being in nature, writing or acts of service.

Among young Catholics, listening to music and spending time with family and friends are cited as the most rewarding activities. Caring for pets and spending time outdoors were also high on the list. Only 27% said their faith brought fulfillment to their lives.

unbundled faith

The report also speaks of “Faith Unbundled,” a term that describes a new trend of young Catholics drawing their religious activities from a range of religious and secular traditions. The report describes “Faith Unbundled”:

“‘Faith Unbundled’ is a term that describes how young people are increasingly constructing their faith by combining elements such as beliefs, identity, practices and community from a variety of religious sources and non-religious, rather than receiving all these things from one, system or tradition intact.

The report compared unbundling his faith to selecting music from a streaming service. You don’t have to listen to an entire album at once, but instead you can select a variety of tracks from numerous artists to create a playlist.

An unbundled religion may seem problematic, as the younger generation may draw inspiration from aspects of other religions that may be contrary to Catholicism. On the other hand, this exploration of the practice of faith, combined with non-institutional worship, suggests a desire for faith.

Natalia Imperatori-Lee, who contributed to the report, suggested that this attitude could foster evangelism in Gen Z. She noted, however, that adjustments in how we approach the conversation might be needed:

“Too often we present the faith to young people as a kind of checklist – if you do this and you don’t do that, then you will be Catholic. It’s a kind of sterile faith that doesn’t work with this generation. She continued, “We must present the Catholic life as an invitation to conversion, a passionate engagement with the world and with God that can be a life-changing experience. Young people are looking for meaning, not a list of do’s and don’ts.

The pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has heightened feelings of uncertainty in Gen Z. According to the report, the Church has missed opportunities to draw the flock into the faith during this tumultuous time. Only 10% of Catholics aged 13-25 said a religious leader had contacted them during the pandemic. This number dropped to 6% in younger age groups.

About 20% said they had stopped attending religious or spiritual services during the pandemic; of these, around 20% said they were happy the connection was lost. Only 23% of young Catholics said they felt safe going to church during the pandemic.

Disconnect

The pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty about the lives and futures of young Catholics, but few have turned to the Church for grounding. The study asked a wide range of questions to determine the reason for this trend.

Fifty-four percent of respondents said they disagreed with some things the Church teaches, while 52% said they would rather discover answers on their own than be told . Additionally, 51% said they didn’t feel able to be themselves in church, while a good half said they had no idea how to connect to a church. religious group.

Conclusion

The study suggests that while the younger generation is open to faith in their lives, they have not identified religious institutions as a place to find answers. The global pandemic and the growing trend of “unbundled faith” have created obstacles to reaching Gen Z, but adjustments to evangelism methods could be the answer.

The report suggests the best way to reach the younger generation is to listen to their thoughts and questions. It is also important to revitalize awareness, in order to be a consistent and positive presence in their lives.

Learn more about Springtide Research Institute.

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