Feb 22, 2023

How the Church Can Fuel Black Gen Z’s Desire for Justice

New data on American Gen Z show that, when it comes to addressing injustices in society, racial injustice is a shared top concern among both teens (32%) and young adults (35%). When looking at the data segmented by race, Black, Hispanic and Asian Gen Z all clearly identify racial injustice as their top concern.

With this in mind, Barna Group returned to data from our recent project The Open Generation: United Statescreated in partnership with Alpha, Biblica and World Vision, with additional support from Christian Vision, Bible Study Fellowship, Christ In Youth and the Association of Christian Schools Internationalin an effort to see how racial or ethnic identity might connect to how young people in the U.S. see issues of injustice.

As we observe Black History Month, this article also centers the responses of Black teens and young adults, highlighting their perceptions of injustices in society today, how they hope to address them and what might help along the way.

The Open Generation: United States

How U.S. Teens & Young Adults Relate to Jesus, View the Bible and Make an Impact

Across Races and Ethnicities, Faith Is Important to How Gen Z Understands Injustice
While racial injustice is named as Gen Z’s overall top concern when it comes current injustices in society, Black Gen Z also name human trafficking (28%), mental health issues (27%), sexual abuse (22%) and extreme poverty (20%) as issues that concern them most.

Despite the numerous concerns ranked by Gen Z respondents (Barna offered a list of 17), Black Gen Z and their peers of other racial backgrounds are largely motivated to continue learning more about injustices throughout the rest of their lives.

Christianity has a major impact on how Gen Z understands injustice in society—in fact, nearly half of Black Christian Gen Z (48%) agree strongly that this is true. Another 35 percent agree at least somewhat that their religious faith is important to how they understand injustice.

This belief persists across all races, with the majority of Gen Z—regardless of race or ethnicity—agreeing at least somewhat that their Christian faith is important to their understanding of injustice.

Who might Black Gen Z turn to for support when addressing issues of injustice?

The Open Generation: United States

How U.S. Teens & Young Adults Relate to Jesus, View the Bible and Make an Impact

Black Gen Z Want Action Steps and Financial Support for Addressing Injustices
When asked what, as an individual, Gen Z believe would help them address injustice in society today, the majority of all Gen Z (29%) says “for my generation to step up as leaders.” Teens also say that having “more people act on the issues I care about” (26%) and “the encouragement of family and friends” or “someone to present steps for action” (24% each) would be helpful for them as individuals.

Looking at responses by race, Black Gen Z tell Barna that having “someone present steps for action” or “financial support to start an organization, charity or initiative” (23% each) would be most helpful to them. A similar percentage says having “my generation step up as leaders” or having “someone teach me how to address injustice” (22% each) would empower them.

Gen Z also emphasize the importance of attending churches that take action on issues that matter most to them. Overall, Gen Z say that they want to attend churches that support positive mental health, ending hunger and famines and ending sexual abuse. For Black Gen Z in this same group, the priorities shift. A church that accepts people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity (28%) is top of the list, while a similar percentage wants to be part of churches that support positive mental health and promote racial justice (27% each).

Beyond growing their understanding of the issues that matter most to Gen Z, how else can Christian churches or leaders empower this emerging generation to make a positive impact in society? For Gen Z who believe churches and Christian leaders should play a role in addressing injustice, “advocating for meaningful change” and “encouraging people to address injustice” are top of the list (25% each).

Among Black Gen Z, there is an added emphasis on scripture as a resource for addressing injustice. Black Gen Z who believe Christian churches and leaders should play a role first point to the importance of “teaching that the Bible encourages special kindness to people who are experiencing injustice” (25%). They also say that “creating relationships with people who are experiencing injustice” (23%) and “advocating for meaningful change” (22%) would be important steps for Christian churches and leaders who are looking to address injustice.

The Open Generation: United States

How U.S. Teens & Young Adults Relate to Jesus, View the Bible and Make an Impact

Gen Z—regardless of age or race—seem to offer some clear expectations of their peers, family and faith leaders when it comes to addressing injustices in society today. This data also shows how young people who are members of racial and ethnic minorities may have varied and at times far stronger opinions on these matters. The opportunity to partner with and empower Gen Z to address the issues that matter most to them is great, and this generation is inviting the U.S. Church to step up to the plate.

Further reading and resources:

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About the Research

This study is based on online, representative public opinion surveys conducted by Barna Group. Teens were recruited to participate in the quantitative survey through their parents. Parents answered seven screening questions about their teens, which included demographics such as age, gender and ethnicity. In each country, quotas were set to obtain a sample of teens representative by region, race / ethnicity / nationality, socioeconomic status and gender. A total of 24,557 respondents ages 13 to 17 across 26 countries were surveyed between July 21, 2021, and August 24, 2021. An additional 313 responses were collected in February of 2022 in New Zealand. (See page 7 for sample distribution by country.) The margin of error for each individual country is assumed to be +/- 2.1%. In the United States, responses were collected from 1,010 18–22-year-olds to support a full Gen Z study (2,025 respondents total, including  teens and young adults). The margin of error for the U.S. data is assumed to be +/- 2%.

Photo by Brad Neathery from Unsplash.  

About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

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