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Barna: Over half of Gen Z Teens Feel Motivated to Learn More About Jesus

April 2, 2024
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This title bears repeating so that you can let the words sink in: Over Half of Gen Z Teens Feel Motivated to Learn More about Jesus!1

This is the headline from a Barna report that surveyed teens across America to gauge the influence of Christianity in their lives. There are a few lessons that can be learned from this report. The most prominent among them is that youth are not wholly closed off to the Gospel. Not only are they open to hearing the Gospel, but many are interested in hearing its message of hope and love.

The Barna survey reveals that while a sizable percentage of U.S. youth identify as Christians, there is still a great deal of room for outreach and discipleship. Nearly half of young adults (48%) and roughly two thirds of youth (65%) in the United States still identify as Christians, according to recent studies. Although these numbers on their own could give one a rosier picture of Christianity among youth, roughly one-third are only nominally Christian.

These numbers present both a challenge and an opportunity for the Church. While many youth identify with Christianity on a surface level, there is a need for deeper discipleship and engagement with the community of faith. Barna notes, “Digging into their top trusted sources, we find some challenges to instruction about Jesus. Nominal Christian teens, after turning to scripture or a family member, are quick to look to themselves. In fact, teens without a personal commitment to follow Jesus will trust themselves before they go to a pastor, church leader, Christian or the Bible to learn about Jesus.” In other words, they will look to themselves for information about Jesus.

As we think about this statement, it becomes clear that we must be working on two levels. First, we must evangelize youth and young adults (and equip adults to do that). Second, we must consistently empower youth to both articulate the Gospel and defend the faith. By providing them with the tools, resources, and support they need, we can cultivate a generation of passionate and articulate ambassadors for Christ. This includes not only catechizing them on foundational Christian doctrine, but also equipping them with practical skills for engaging with others in meaningful conversations about faith.

An often-overlooked benefit in training students in evangelism and apologetics is that not only does the Kingdom advance when students evangelize other students, but the “back door” is closed. By that, I mean that students who have a better grasp of their faith tend to hold on to it. When students are trained to understand logic, reason, and the hope that is within them, they will be less prone to be swayed by the arguments of those who are hostile to the faith.

While training youth in how to evangelize effectively, we must remember that while traditional methods of evangelism may still have their place, today’s youth are navigating a digital landscape where conversations about faith often take place online and in bite-sized portions. By empowering them to use social media, blogs, and other digital platforms as tools for evangelism, the Gospel can reach a wider audience and engage with individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

Additionally, it is vital to create spaces within our churches where young people feel valued, supported, and encouraged to explore and grow in their faith. This includes providing opportunities for youth-led worship, Bible studies, and service projects, where they can develop their leadership skills, deepen their connection to the Christian community, and provide opportunities to invite friend and neighbors along.

While it is not a “be all, end all,” the youth track of the Equipping the Saints conference in April 2024 will help to equip our youth to face the challenges of our current age, by helping them to think critically about their surroundings. We will be addressing:

  • Identity: helping them see their own place in God’s Kingdom
  • Purpose: the scriptural perspective of meaning and worth
  • Belonging: learning how to navigate the social pressures they face, and
  • Witness: giving them biblical guidance on sharing their faith.

By equipping them with the necessary skills and resources and empowering them to share their faith boldly and compassionately, we are training our youth to take up the ministry of reconciliation, and reach their schools with the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

[1] This is the title of the article from Barna Research Group’s Faith & Generations, published 1 February 2023. You can access that article here: