Although no one knows for sure what the long-term impact of the pandemic will be, it is likely to have a lasting effect on people of all ages and walks of life.
And whilst these times affect us all to varying degrees, how the different generations are responding and coping makes for interesting reading indeed.
This week’s blog explores how Generation X, Y, and Z are navigating faith, family and finances during the unsettling times of COVID.
Born between 1965 and 1979, Generation X are probably the most prepared to cope with isolation and social distancing.
After all, this is the generation that learned to busy themselves in the hours after school before parents got home from work. Sometimes known as the ‘sandwich generation’, Gen Xers feel the pull of many demands at once, caring for both their own kids and their ageing parents.
When it comes to faith, research shows Gen-Xers are surprisingly loyal to their religious beliefs.
In a study published in The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, University of Nebraska-Lincoln sociologist Philip Schwadel noted that Gen-Xers are – in comparison with their Baby Boomer predecessors – far more likely to adhere to discipleship practices.
For example, praying for (and asking for prayer) to cope with health worries around ageing parents and children is just one way this generation is navigating the challenges of the pandemic. By and large, Gen-Xers trust God’s divine influence and intervention: that God will carry (transition us) through.
On family, Gen X is juggling competing demands, and sometimes stressing about older parents not taking the pandemic seriously enough. Employment upheaval means many Gen X-ers are either working from home or facing an uncertain job future, so finances are also top of mind.
Here’s the take-away message for this generation during transition: continue to trust in God and in the proven value of spiritual practices to strengthen you at this juncture in history.
And remember also to adopt healthy boundaries, carving out time for self-care and rest. Over-functioning never did anybody any good!
People born between 1980 and 1994 – also called Millennials – are likewise worried about their older relatives, their money, and their vocation.
For older millennials, this is the second time facing a major financial crisis. One report has found that close to 50% of Gen Y-ers are deliberately scaling back their spending as a result of COVID.
School closures mean some millennial parents are trying to juggle their own work-from-home duties with the role of stand-in teacher for kids trying to complete classwork online.
And whilst millennials have borne the brunt of blame accusations that they are being careless about the pandemic, in fact surveys show that in the main Gen Y-ers do take the health crisis seriously, and sometimes more than older and younger adults.
On faith, many Generation Y-ers tell us they were less engaged in church activities during their formative years, and have entered adulthood with less interest in faith and/or traditional church communities.
However, the shock of the COVID pandemic may be starting to disrupt the current pattern of behaviour for this generation, with many Millennials reporting they are open to creative faith expressions and practices, especially those that centre on mutual relationships rather than top-down hierarchies.
If you are a Millennial or care for one, here is something worth pondering: because Christianity has been handed down to us over time through a great tradition of thinkers, it’s easy to think that tradition itself calls us backward. But if you look at the history of the church, the Christian concept of tradition is meant to propel innovation, not stifle it. We need people like you to creatively apply God’s timeless principles for living in new ways, to serve a changing world in dire need.
Also, remember that faith involvement is associated with a range of positive social and health outcomes, so it is good for you! (if you haven’t yet, you may want to check out the book “God is good for you’’ by Greg Sheridan).
As one of the youngest age cohorts coping with the pandemic (the oldest of which is 23 and the youngest being just 8), the concerns of Gen Z are a bit different than those of older generations:
- they are the least likely to experience health complications as a result of COVID
- they tend to take a more individualistic attitude toward the pandemic
- they have more mental health concerns (the poorest of any generation, according to some studies)
- they experience more stress about housing and accommodation – especially if they are international students on a university campus
- they are lukewarm about organised religion, but open to relationship-based connection.
Our message for Gen Z is one of hope. God is both personal and trustworthy, and is for you in a million different ways – including and especially as a sure refuge in times of trouble.
What is more: because love is the surest sign of God at work, consider that He is more present to you than you may realise, in the caring, loving action of any friend or family member.