Fewer than 10% of Generation Z youth say they’re committed to reading the Bible regularly, according to a survey that was part of a newly released report by the American Bible Society (ABS). In their “State of the Bible USA 2021” report, ABS concluded that Gen Z, defined as being between ages 9 and 24, have a “precarious relationship with the Bible.” Researchers polled individuals as young as 15 and split the generation between “Gen Z youth,” aged 15-17, to separate them from “Gen Z adults,” aged 18 to 24. ABS found that only 9% of Gen Z youth were classified as “Scripture Engaged,” which means being centred on reading the Bible. By comparison, 14% of Gen Z adults and 23% of millennials were classified as “Scripture Engaged.” Additionally, 47% of Gen Z youth were labelled “Bible Disengaged.”
“Half of all American adults qualify as a Bible User today, those who use the Bible at least three to four times per year,” stated the report. “However, only one-third of Gen Z youth (34%) are Bible Users, while 43 percent of Gen Z adults qualify. Compared with Gen Z, millennials have a much higher percentage of Bible Users, approaching the national average (49%).” ABS also found that, during the pandemic and widespread protests over racial injustice in 2020, Gen Z youth were the most likely to report decreasing their reading of the Bible. “The turmoil of 2020 did not spark greater Bible use among teenagers. Gen Z youth (27%) are more likely than Gen Z adults (19%) or millennials (9%) to say they decreased their Bible use in the past year,” continued the report.
“Millennials, on the other hand, are more likely to say their Bible use has increased in the past year (29%) compared with Gen Z adults (27%) and Gen Z youth (21%).” An additional finding of the report was that Gen Z, in general, had a “significant uncertainty about Scripture’s value” in addition to the “lower-than-average Bible engagement.” “When asked about the Bible’s importance to sustaining key American ideals, youth in Gen Z (ages 15–17) were more likely than adult members of their generation, and far more likely than older adults, to be undecided,” the report added. “Gen Z youth may continue to form their opinions as they age into adulthood, but Gen Z as a whole are still more likely than millennials to questions the Bible’s relevance to issues like liberty (37% vs. 27%) and unity (29% vs. 20%).”
As they begin to enter adulthood, Gen Z has become a major focal point for research. In 2018, the Barna Group released a report concluding that Gen Z teenagers were more likely than older generations to identify as atheist, agnostic or religious unaffiliated. That study indicated that 35% of Gen Z teenagers considered themselves atheist, agnostic or unaffiliated, while only 30% of millennials, 30% of Generation X and 26% of Baby Boomers responded the same. However, a Religious Freedom Index report found that 74% of Gen Z respondents felt that faith was “at least somewhat important” during the pandemic, which was above the 62% average of all generations. Furthermore, Gen Z respondents were also the most likely to consider faith “extremely or very important,” with 51% saying so. By contrast, millennials were the lowest for this at 31%.
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