The Faith of Generation Y
Sylvia Collins-Mayo, Bob Mayo, Sally Nash & Christopher Cocksworth, Church House Publishing
The Faith of Generation Y is an interesting read. It is essentially a presentation of the findings from research into the spirituality and attitude of young people who attended Christian youth work and community work programs. It intentionally focuses on young people who did not see themselves as practising Christians and did not see themselves as members of any other major world faiths.
In reading the book we can question the applicability of the results given that it is drawing solely upon the experience of young people in the United Kingdom whose culture and context differ in many ways to ours in Australia. However, there are some obvious connection points that resonate with the Australian experience that are facets of youth culture in a global village.
The book is divided into three sections. The first is a more sociological exploration of the empirical research into young people’s faith and its relationship to Christianity. The second section considers the results from the research through a theological and ecclesial lens. The last section is an epilogue from Bishop Christopher Cocksworth, the Bishop of Coventry and formerly a principal of Ridley Hall, Cambridge. This epilogue is perhaps the most relevant part of the book for us in Australia. He puts forward the suggestion that the Church still has much to offer young people, but we may need to do some thinking about the way we approach being church and engage with young people.
This book suggests that young people of Gen Y are not antagonistic towards faith as is sometimes put forward, but at the same time they are not necessarily engaged by it. It seems clear from the research that a social-work oriented approach to working with young people may build positive connections with young people, it has little impact on their faith practice.
Young people don’t want to be told what to do or think and for many of them Christianity is just one of many options in a complicated and complex world where they struggle to find meaning and purpose. The book is thus perhaps one of the pieces in puting together the picture of how the Church might better engage people with the gospel and with the Christian faith. It may not hold all the answers, but for those of us struggling with the questions it is worth reading.