By Sarah Mac Donald - 24 June, 2020
Young adults are deeply connected to social media and online activity but they use social media less than was assumed in order to connect to faith or the church.
A survey of young adults active in faith-based activities has found that faith helped 55% of them spiritually during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The survey, ‘Young adults and their Faith experience during the Covid-19 Pandemic May 2020’ is an ecumenical initiative with the backing of the Archdiocese of Dublin, the Church of Ireland’s United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough, as well as other evangelical leaders involved in the Foundational Leadership Programme (FLP).
The survey was live from 1-31 May 2020 and a total of 256 people took part, the majority of whom (84%) were aged under 34. Young people from a variety of backgrounds – Catholic, Anglican and Evangelical – participated.
From the responses collated, it appears that most youth and young adults coped and adapted well faithwise during the Covid-19 crisis but some struggled.
One of the observations drawn from the survey findings is the fact that “many youth and young adults are not present in a faith capacity or perspective on platforms that we (the churches) use for communication”.
Six weeks into the Lockdown period, 60% of the survey’s respondents said they felt they were doing fine and had adapted, coped or adjusted to the new reality of the Covid-19 restrictions. Apart from the obvious changes to daily routine and trying to find new motivation for work, college or school, most appeared to have got on fine.
Another observation arising from the survey is the fact that young adults are deeply connected to social media and online activity. However, younger generations use social media less than was assumed in order to connect to faith or the church.
Phone calls and WhatsApp messages scored highest with just under 50% saying they always use it to communicate, while 38% never use Facebook. Roughly 47% seldom or don’t use SMS messages, or Skype, while 80% never use Twitter.
Asked how they have connected with their faith since the Covid-19 restrictions had been introduced, the respondents were clearly online but few bring their personal faith to the online platforms they use. Over 50% of respondents said they rarely use online measures to join a prayer meeting.
Some noted that their local church’s online presence appeared to be amateurish and lacked professionalism. During Lockdown many churches and clergy scrambled to get online. One of the observations arising from the survey is that more training is needed for parishes and clergy in the use of these resources.
In their comments, the young people who took part in the survey indicated their appreciation of their local parish/faith community’s efforts. However, some pointed out that apart from some non-Irish online resources, the local Irish offering was tolerable, but not engaging.
“It can also be observed that people are mainly ‘watching’ Church but not listening to platforms such as Irish faith-based Podcasts”, the survey’s analysis concludes.
Many gravitated to international faith sites and apps based on religious leaders who have an established digital faith presence.
Forty-six percent of the respondents said that they were “neither satisfied nor dissatisfied” in the practice of going online to practice their faith.
The analysis concludes, “We know they are online. However, we can conclude they are not online with us. Faith leaders have to discover and redirect their attention to where this generation spends its time online.”
Asked about what gives them hope for the future, three words the young respondents cited repeatedly were family, friends and God.
Amongst the conclusions from the survey’s findings was the observation that young adults “clearly differentiate their faith life between online resources for entertainment but not as means about publicly communicating their faith.”
“Whilst many respondents have personal faith and relationship with God, it remains personal. Youth leaders and Church leaders need to reflect on what is needed to assist this generation to find ways to express their faith online as digital disciples and in real life as ordinary disciples.”
To read more about the survey findings: https://evangelisation.dublindiocese.ie/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2020/06/Young-adults-and-their-Faith-experience-during-the-Covid-19-Pandemic-May-2020-Final-Final.pdf
Live streaming of Masses and Services from churches in Ireland and the UK can be found here: http://churchservices.tv