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Generation Z and the Search for Hope

How do you form an identity without a map, or face the future when the ground beneath your feet is turning to mud?  Who and what is trustworthy in a ‘post-truth’ world where institutions are distrusted, and where the ‘adults’ often seem impotent or negligent?

This is the reality our young generations face, and studies repeatedly report that they are among the most unhappy and anxious in the world. This year the Covid pandemic has taken the lives of the elderly and vulnerable but it is also stealing the economic future of the young. And 2020 is the icing on the culture-quake cake enveloping the Western world.

However, despite the fact that so few of them follow Jesus, I believe seeds of God’s kingdom are planted deep in the soul of many in our younger generations. The cry of justice for the poor – demonstrated by Marcus Rashford. The environmental campaigners – led by Greta Thunberg. The passionate truth-tellers – like Billie Eilish. The fierce seekers of equality – such as Stormzy. The fearless confronting of poverty, corruption, and darkness has much in common with the ancient prophetic voices in Scripture.

Of course, we can dismiss the young: they are naïve, ignorant of the complexities of these issues. What about those who flouted Covid regulations to party? Who self-destruct whilst glued to the ‘god-screen’ in their pocket? But they are the product of what they have inherited and the world they face. Jesus, to them, is a mythical figure about whom they know almost nothing.

And yet… I am still optimistic. Many of the values of these authenticity seekers, who ache for community, for justice, and who want to protect the planet, carry echoes of the divine vision of human thriving. Whether it manifests in protest, activism, or depression, their anxiety and longing for meaning and hope are profound.

There is also an opportunity for the body of Christ – if we will take it – to reach out, in genuine relationship, to introduce them to the God who exhorts us ‘to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly’ with him (Micah 6:8). If we model authentic faith, generous hospitality, sincere community, and concern for the poor then I believe we will gain ourselves a hearing for the gospel of Jesus with a generation who are simply unaware that there is a way to know God, or that his heart and theirs have so much in common.

Ruth Perrin
Ruth is a research fellow at St John’s College, Durham, and writes extensively on emerging adult faith


  1. Love Ruth Perrin’s so pertinent outline of the dilemma facing Gen Z and the church. More openness and frankness (on both sides) might break down the communication barriers and allow Jesus in. Have we really got it all right? I’m compelled to say no. The distance between the church in general and Gen Z is a more eloquent example of the task before us than I can put into words.

    By Greg  -  20 Nov 2020
  2. Can I be first to say a huge AMEN to this, yes Ruth!

    By Tim Yearsley  -  20 Nov 2020
  3. Wonderful article Ruth and YES we should be full of hope for our young

    By Kevin Reynolds  -  20 Nov 2020
  4. Such an honest, and yet hopeful article, Ruth. Thank you. I agree with Greg that there’s a challenge here for the church (yes, another one!), but it’s an opportunity too.
    The ideas behind Steve Aisthorpe’s new book ‘Rewilding the Church’ are relevant to this: just as we can allow nature to ‘break free’ and thrive, can we do the same with/for the Church, and for ourselves? Perhaps a rewilded Church would resonate much more with our young people, and meet them, incarnationally, on their own ‘turf’.

    By Nick Tatchell  -  20 Nov 2020
  5. Thanks for trying to waken my generation zzzzz (Over 60) to the issues

    By John Howard Stothers  -  20 Nov 2020

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