The State of Religion & Young People 2020: Relational Authority

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Our data show that checking “affiliated” or “unaffiliated” on a survey doesn’t tell the whole story on young peoples’ religious identities. The largest data set of its kind, The State of Religion & Young People 2020: Relational Authority, gives you a framework and insights on how to care for Gen Z today.

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Print edition, sold out! Get the digital edition now!

Our data show that checking “affiliated” or “unaffiliated” on a survey doesn’t tell the whole story on young people’s religious identities. It doesn’t tell us all we need to know about the things young people long for and belong to. 

Behaviors tell us more than checked boxes. Relationships reveal more than affiliations. And the most effective relationships practice Relational Authority, a framework that responds to these complexitiesthat is rooted in five practices: listening, transparency, integrity, care, and expertise.  

The largest data set of its kind, The State of Religion & Young People 2020: Relational Authority, collects data from over 10,000 surveys and over 150 interviews with young people ages 13 to 25. With special features on politics, careers, and virtual environments—as well as a comprehensive look at the changing social, religious, and cultural landscape—it not only provides data but also actionable insights and fresh frameworks to help you act on these findings. 

Book Details
Item Number:5930DD
Weight:.8 lbs

Sarah Kapostasy
As a therapist encountering the epidemic of loneliness among young people daily, The State of Religion and Young People offers a clear way forward for caring adults through the framework of relational authority. As a member of a faith community, I am challenged to think about how traditional institutions have alienated young people, and how such spaces can be re-imagined as those which facilitate authentic connection.
Nima Dahir
The State of Religion and Young People 2020: Relational Authority provides incredible insight into the inner lives of young people and provides a glimpse into how religious and spiritual identity do, and do not, shape their worlds. The voices of young people ring loud throughout this publication, and it provides excellent and necessary direction for how to build and maintain connection and empathy. I can't recommend this enough for all those who interact with young people.
Chris Stedman
The State of Religion & Young People 2020 is a revealing resource for anyone seeking a better understanding of the lives of today's young Americans. Engaging and accessible, it provides a valuable window into the needs and identities of an utterly unique generation for whom the old rules do not apply. I will draw on its insights in my work as a writer and educator, and will be recommending it to others I know who are working to support young people in a world that is increasingly religiously unaffiliated, religiously hybrid, and religiously-identified-but-practicing-in-unprecedented-ways. Young people are reimagining our categories and reimagining our world, and inviting us to join them. This resource is a helpful tool for anyone who wants to be one of their co-conspirators in that reimagining.
Abigail Visco Rusert
I work with faith leaders every day who care about the flourishing of young people. These leaders are challenged by what they see young people facing: a growing hopelessness, an acute mental health crisis, and a disjointed sense of spirituality. In a season when parents and leaders feel the pressure to turn these tides, Springtide’s Relational Authority study is there: helping leaders reimagine a roadmap for listening, empathy, and curiosity toward connections that pave the way for transformative change. Springtide’s study on Relational Authority is transforming the way I train and resource youth leaders to listen and engage the young people they serve. Relational Authority invites faith communities to reimagine their spiritual practices through the stories and experiences of the young people they are trying to reach.
Andrew Zirschky
How do young people find meaning for their lives that guides their actions in an increasingly complicated world? This question is at the heart of Springtide’s The State of Religion & Young People 2020 report as it explores the way in which youth are constructing meaning and responding to religious communities. What sets Springtide’s research apart from other data on religion and young people is the way in which Springtide constructs an actionable framework to help religious communities understand, digest, and form a response to the research. Over the past 20 years in Christian youth ministry, we have been inundated with possible reasons for and responses to the declining importance of faith communities in the lives of youth, and it’s easy to get both lost (and paralyzed) amidst the forest of responses. Without being overtly prescriptive, The State of Religion & Young People 2020 helps religious leaders find focus in their attempts to respond to the needs and realities of young people. First, it appears that the frameworks we’ve employed in the past for helping youth find meaning and purpose in their lives have largely broken down. Springtide’s research reveals that the ways that young people express their religious impulses are changing, and more importantly, the sources and influences that shape these religious impulses are changing as well. Second, what is particularly helpful is the report's focus on the growing disconnect between religious affiliation, religious practice, and religious beliefs. There was a time when religious affiliation often determined a young person’s beliefs and faith practices, but that time has largely passed. As I work with Christian groups, I’m often confronted by those who desire a return to the way things were, and who are readily willing to turn to tactics such as guilt or coercion to realign beliefs with affiliation. Not only are such responses detrimental, they don’t appear to work, and yet these communities are often unable to see other options. Springtide’s research helpfully charts another way for faith communities to powerfully influence the spiritual lives of young people. Through a research-backed look at the nature of relational authority, Springtide points to a new way for faith leaders to think about contributing to young people’s spiritual identities grounded by meaningful relationships with trusted adults.
Dr. Onnie Rogers
Across disciplines in the sciences, there is growing recognition of and appreciation for the social and emotional capacities and needs of human beings. Despite prevailing narratives that privilege individualism, meritocracy, grit and competition as the necessary ingredients of success and wellbeing, the science is clear: human beings are wired for meaningful, authentic relationships and it is our collectiveness and cooperation that allows us to succeed and thrive. "The State of Religion and Young People 2020: Relational Authority" report presents high-quality data with compelling narratives from young people that affirms this reality. The model of “Relational Authority” is a powerful and functional framework that offers clear language and toolkit for parents, educators, and spiritual leaders and mentors to engage and connect with young people in meaningful ways.  Perhaps most importantly, this report is a call to all of us to reconnect to our relational nature and core capacities so we can thrive – together. Thank you for listening to and elevating the voices of our young people!
Seher Siddiqee
The State of Religion & Young people 2020 is an incredibly important resource for me in my work with youth as a Pediatric Chaplain. Every day, I hear stories of youth who are deeply thinking about the world and how they fit into it. For many of my patients, they are quick to reject affiliation with any specific community or religious tradition, rather they are finding ways to build their own communities. As Springtide's research suggests, connection with a trusted adult mitigates feelings of loneliness. These connections are essential to young people cultivating their own worldviews, making meaning of their experiences and finding purpose. Trust is not assumed because of a role or position one may have, but the commitment to building a relationship with them -showing up is one of the most important step. Imagining all the unique ways that individuals are consuming and integrating the world around them can feel like a daunting task for a provider who may not be familiar with all of it. This report is a helpful tool for me to think about how I am engaging with youth and building relationships with them so that I can provide as best care as possible for them.
Br. Ernest Miller
This powerful and relevant report will be read and cited for a long time to come. Filled with keen insight, the report offers us incisive data and analysis to wrestle with the current predicament affecting the lives of young people. This report issues a call to reckoning with the new realities of young people in an increasingly complex world. Providing Relational Authority as a new model, this report challenges, illuminates, and points us toward a hope-filled vision for a better future.
Rabbi Elan Babchuck
Relational Authority is a must-read for anybody in a position to serve, uplift, or connect with young people. Unlike so many reports that report on metrics and categories that no longer describe the lived experiences of young people, Relational Authority speaks in the language, about the experiences, and from the perspectives of young people today. Moreover, the "Tide Turning Tips" offer clear, actionable steps for religious leaders, practitioners, educators, and all those who seek to better understand the complexities of the inner and outer lives of young people. The concept of relational authority is also a new one in this well-studied field and offers a revelatory insight into something young people are really yearning for: trusted adults and mentors. And if those of us in a position to take action take heed to this opportunity, we stand to not only better serve young people in meaningful ways, but to reweave the fabric of our torn society, one unbreakable thread at a time.
Kenji Kuramitsu
This report contains cutting-edge research presented in a clear, incisive way. I found myself nodding and taking notes as this text provided me with new language for experiences I have had as a youth worker, chaplain, and psychotherapist working with young adult populations in Chicago. You too may recognize in Relational Authority some of the very same phenomena that our most skilled practitioners, pastors, and theorists have relied upon for a long time: sustained and authentic relationships, caring and sacred encounters. This is a resource for coaches, clinicians, clergy, and those of all ages who are interested in becoming more attuned to young adults' inner and outer worlds. In this particular political moment, I'm moved to witness Springtide‘s commitment to conducting this research in a way that is socially engaged, sensitive, curious – not only asking the right questions but paying careful attention to what is said, to what is not, and to who else needs to be at the table!
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