- JO KADLECEK
Despite what some Christians perceive as a culture hostile to religion, Australians – especially young people – are generally open to conversations about faith and spirituality, according to two recent surveys on Christianity and the church.
The changing landscape of faith in Australiaa recent study by McCrindle, a Sydney-based social data research firm, and the 2021 National Church Life Survey both suggest that while Christian engagement has fallen to 44% – the first time in recorded history – there are many attributes of culture that signal positive opportunities for the church.
Houses in a suburb of Melbourne. PHOTO: Ingrid_Hendriksen/iStockphoto.
The main of the two surveys is the role of young people. McCrindle’s study and the NCLS suggest that young adults who attend church are the most likely of all age groups to have confidence in their local church and the most interested in active engagement in global issues. to the Christian faith, i.e. caring for the environment, ending racism, reducing poverty. They are more likely of any age group to support new initiatives in their church community.
“It’s an encouraging picture,” Ruth Powell, NCLS research director, said in a statement. “Young adults in Australian churches offer the most positive view of their church experiences. In general, they know little about the Christian faith, but are rather curious than hostile.
Three in 10 young Australians say they attend church services at least once a month and nearly half of all young adults (15-30) have joined their church in the past five years. Fifty-three percent of Gen Z are open to spiritual conversations, compared to just 34% of baby boomers.
“Who is Generation Z? Aged 18 to 27, they are the most formally educated, digitally integrated and globally minded generation than any other,” said Stephanie Razey, head of research at McCrindle, during a recent webinar on their report which included 700 registered viewers.
“COVID-19 has exposed more problems for Gen Z and made them sympathetic to the world. Yes, 75% check their phone within three minutes of waking up, but 73% are willing to change their minds , which means there is no harm in talking about religion.”
What attracts or repels emerging generations towards religion or spirituality? Sixty-six percent said experiencing a personal trauma or significant life change made religion appealing, while 54 percent were most repelled when they heard of public figures or celebrities who are examples of a certain faith. In general, seeing people’s actions in life consistent with their authentic faith appealed more than repelled young people.
“Emerging generations are looking to be active participants, that’s what motivates them,” Razey said. “They appreciate having their voice heard and want the opportunity to contribute. And 60% say they grow the most serving on a team [at church] with 57% growing by attending Sunday services.
Public perceptions of the church, according to the McCrindle survey, suggest that LGBTQ+ issues and the church’s traditional stance on homosexuality have the most negative influence on Gen Z, gender issues, and gender issues. money and the role of women also negatively affecting their view of Christians and Christianity. While 90% of Australians say they have heard of Jesus, they admit to knowing little about his life. 2.2 million Australians say they know no Christians, one in three Australians has at least one long-term health condition and 54% identify with a religious affiliation.
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People from a host of nations also brought new opportunities and perspectives. While McCrindle reports that 27.7% of Australians were born overseas – or one in four Australians, the NCLS 2021 notes that the ethnicity of worshipers has also increased over time, with 37% of worshipers born in Australia. abroad, against 28% in 2006 .
“About a quarter of the faithful [24 per cent] speak a language other than English at home, with most being bilingual or multilingual,” Powell said in the statement. And out of 350 languages nationwide, 167 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are spoken at home.
The fastest growing international communities are those of Nepal (124%), India (48%) and Pakistan (45%). According to the census, nearly 44% of all Australians identified with Christianity, 38.9% with no religion, 3.2% with Islam and 2.7% with Hinduism.
But 53% of Australians say they don’t know their local church at all and when asked about the impact of churches in their area, 37% didn’t know enough to answer, according to survey data. McCrindle. Forty-four percent of those who identify as non-religious would be marginally likely to attend a religious service or event if personally invited by a friend or family member. Biggest barrier to participation? Occupation.
“Despite the stories in the media, three out of four people are either warm or open to Christianity,” said Geoff Brailey, director of solutions at McCrindle. “Population growth, long-term health conditions, cultural diversity and digital adoption are all contributing to the changing religious landscape. So takeaway [for Christian leaders] would be to get to know your community and have conversations to build bridges.