A recent study on teens and young adults confirmed that those who pray and have a relationship with God were more likely to flourish in life more than their peers.
Springtide Research Institute released its annual study on the religious and emotional needs of Generation Z, according to Baptist News. The report, entitled “The State of Religion and Young People 2022: Mental Health — What Faith Leaders Need to Know,” found that young people are experiencing the biggest mental health crisis ever recorded. But, the good news is there’s a proven and effective way to help them.
Faith and spirituality are good for you. If you’re a person who believes in some kind of higher power and has a connection to that higher power, you’re generally flourishing more than your peers. —Dr. Josh Packard, executive director of Springtide Research Institute
Dr. Josh Packard, a sociologist of religion from the institute, revealed that understanding the faith and spirituality of 13 to 25-year-olds is one vital approach in this crucial time. In an interview with CBN News, he said, “Faith and spirituality are good for you. If you’re a person who believes in some kind of higher power and has a connection to that higher power, you’re generally flourishing more than your peers.”
The survey asked 10,000 people about their religious beliefs, practices and attendance habits, and the quality of their relationships with adults and peers. The report found that to cope with the pandemic, 51% of the participants said they developed a prayer practice and 45% started meditation. Some coping mechanisms mentioned were reading (42%), being with nature (32%), and yoga and the arts (31%).
“A majority of young people who say they are religious agree that their religious or spiritual life matters to their mental health (66%),” the report revealed. “Nearly three-quarters (73%) agree with the statement, ‘My religious/spiritual practices positively impact my mental health.'”
Packard said the extensive research proved that, “Those who pray more tend to be flourishing more in all areas, including their mental health.”
The report also confirmed that being religious or spiritual cannot be bound into just one category or religion. “About one-third of young people claim to be ‘just Christian,’ ‘nothing in particular,’ or ‘agnostic,’ and more than 60% of young people agree with elements of multiple religions.” Regardless of their religious affiliations, these young people benefit from their spiritual community. “Those who report currently being connected to a religious or spiritual community claim greater mental and emotional health than those with only a prior connect and those who never had such a connection,” the report explained.
The findings of the survey are rich with information on how the church can reach out to help young people. Religious leaders are advised to learn and develop new ways of connecting with the youth, especially those who are overwhelmed or withdrawn.
“A lot of times young people don’t feel like they have any relationships. Something like a third of young people have one or fewer trusted adults in their lives,” Packard said. “So, creating more belonging inside our organizations with young people really starts to fill this gap. These connections are absolutely vital for young folks so that they don’t feel like they’re going through these struggles alone.”
In addition, he explained that the thirst for spiritual knowledge is still there for Gen Z. While religious leaders need not have all the answers, it’s preferable to have someone to discuss and explore conversations on life’s meaning and purpose. “Seeking answers and leaning into mystery can be holy activities for young people, especially as they navigate some of life’s biggest questions. In fact, this is a generation that is more skeptical if they see a completely packaged answer being offered to them.”
Packard clarified that new ways of helping the youth going through mental and spiritual struggles doesn’t mean watering down traditional practices and beliefs. “We can be there to support them, and we can be there in a way that reflects the values and learnings of our own faith traditions and bring those things into concert with one another,” he said. “We’re seeing not so much that religion doesn’t matter to Gen Z. It’s that they don’t see those places, and they don’t see those people, as helping them discover their sense of purpose in life.”