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The State of Religion & Young People 2023: Exploring the Sacred — Launch Day | Springtide Research Institute


The State of Religion & Young People 2023: Exploring the Sacred — Launch Day | Springtide Research Institute

Hello, everyone. So great to see everyone and welcome you to this exciting day for Springtide Research Institute. My name is Dr. Tricia Bruce, and I am the Director of Springtide Research Institute. And we are here today to launch our latest study and report, which we’re going to get to share with you and actually do a live boxing with you. So this is a really fun moment and a wonderful way to share and celebrate the work that we are doing and what we are learning about young people. I am here today with two fabulous folks from our team, and I want to first allow them to introduce themselves with their name and their title role here at Springtide, as well as where they are in the world because we are scattered all over the place. I will first turn it to Dr. Patterson, if you would start us off, please.

Absolutely. I’m Dr. Angela Patterson, and I’m Head Writer and Editor here at Springtide, and I’m in Dallas, Texas. Hi.

It’s so great to be with you both today. I’m Dr. Nabil Toomei, and I am Senior Research Associate at Springtide, and I’m joining from Worcester, Massachusetts.

Yes, love it. And we’re welcoming you from wherever you are in the world. So we at Springtide Research Institute are especially committed to understanding the inner and outer lives of young people in whatever form it might take. And in fact, we throughout the years have done this by way of social scientific research. So we use the tools of social science, both quantitative things like surveys and also qualitative tools like interviews to be able to actually listen to and understand what young people themselves are telling us about how they see and understand the world from their vantage point. And oftentimes there are surprises in that. We learn new things every time. We have actually released a number of reports throughout the years that we’ve been in existence. Spring Tide itself originated in 2019, and we came out with our first State of Young People and Religion in 2020, and this is actually our fourth report. This is an exciting moment for us to be able to build upon the work that we have been doing for some years. This year, we actually wanted to ask some of the questions that we ask every year, things that are often on our minds about religion and young people, like do they describe themselves as religious or spiritual?

How? What kinds of words or language do they use? Do they attend or participate in a type of religious community? Do they pray? Do they read scripture? These kinds of questions that we actually ask and answer in every one of our reports. But we also wanted to turn our attention to another question in particular, which is how young people themselves understand and talk about the sacred. This is a question that allows us to expand beyond how we might think about religion and spirituality and even the words that we might use to think about religion and spirituality. So the report, the research that we do is really almost like a mystery. It’s a puzzle that we’re piecing together and in its own way, unpacking, because through that listening, we’re learning new things. So we’re actually going to have a little fun with that idea during our live launch here and actually unpack this report. And let me just tell you that we as a team, actually have not yet put our hands on this report. So we literally got the boxes in the mail. I can show you my cardboard box that was mailed to me.

I’m here in Knoxville, Tennessee. And so we, just like you, are excited to see what’s inside as a way to celebrate this moment, but also to reveal that the mystery of what we learned from listening to young people and thinking through the ways that they’re talking about religion and the sacred. Angela and Nabil, are you all ready for this opportunity? Okay, show us your boxes. We got this.

I’ve been dying to open this, so I’m excited the moment has finally come.

Okay, any last thoughts before we rip into these boxes, what do you think you’re going to see? What do you think? What are you expecting here?

I cheated a little bit. I just peep. But I’ll just tip it up when we’re ready.

Okay, well, I’ve got my scissors. Okay, so let’s actually do…


Slicing? Yes, the formal slicing.

Yes, the formal- Okay. All right.

I know.

Oh, my God. I love it.

Double-sided people.

Pretty intense, actually.

Okay. It’s hard to do.

Right here. Okay, this is really my favorite delivery of one of the reports we’ve had.

Oh, my God. This is the other officially in ready everywhere. Okay. There it is. How festive, though. I’m going to spread some over my computer.

There’s a whole vibe here. It’s a whole vibe.


It’s crazy how to actually hold it.

This is interesting. I mean, after working on it for the past year to actually think of it in physical form is.

So cool. I know.

I can’t even get past all of this to actually think of it. Oh, wow.

Oh, wow.

Wow. All right, the state of religion and young people 2023, exploring the sacred.


I love it. I love the little windows. My camera is a little blurp here. But to think about the ways that we could represent some of, like you said, Dr. Bruce, the mysteries of what we found is peering through these windows at the inner and outer lives of young people is such a cool way to represent what this report is all about.

Absolutely. It truly is a snapshot. I mean, that’s how we think of our reports. It is a snapshot in time. But what I love about this is that the front of it has the questions that we tend to ask year over year. Then we dive into the sacred. You get a little bit of a macro view and then a more micro dive into this very specific topic, which as we know about Gen Z, their religious and spiritual lives are not necessarily linear. They’re nuanced, they’re textured, and that definitely shows up in this report.

Yeah. Oh, my gosh. I am so glad that this made it in here. Yeah. There’s so much great data that we have, and you always wonder what’s going to make the final cut here. But this is just so beautiful.

Shout out to Steve, Nina, for making this happen.

Yes, absolutely, our amazing designer, Steve. But this might be actually my favorite part of the project.


So for me, this part is so special. This is on page 20. It’s the section called defining the sacred. And it’s so special because we, social scientists, often have to decide at the outset how we’re going to measure the phenomenon that we’re interested in. And that’s really helpful. It helps us sort through large amounts of data in a systematic way that lets us really understand that phenomenon. But the downside of it is that sometimes.


Might miss some things that we didn’t expect to find. So I love this section of the report because actually, when we say defining the sacred, we’re talking about young people’s definition of the sacred. So we actually asked young people how they would define it. And I just love the way that we ultimately ended up displaying it and these word bubbles that show all of the different terms that young people use and have smaller bubbles and bigger bubbles to represent the frequency with which those words were used. I got to say, that’s my favorite part, I think.

I appreciate that, too, because there’s a richness here that comes from the different ways that we gathered data. Sometimes I think there’s an understandable fear about data not being able to tell us useful information, for one, because it’s hard to understand or it’s hard to see, or it doesn’t get into this complexity even that you just pointed to. But what’s neat about this report is that it does so many things. It has the quantitative pieces, so it has numbers. So it gives us a sense of part of the landscape of what’s happening here among young people this year and updates what we know already. But it also flushes that out in really meaningful ways in, as you said, in the ways that young people themselves, the words that they’re using. And also, and this is a hint to pieces at the end, too, it also has these really cool ways that practitioners themselves talk about how they think about the use of this information and understanding this information in their context, so in their own work with young people, too. I love how it makes it come alive in a way that we don’t often see and reports from social science, right?

Absolutely. What I loved about working on this particular report was we really tried hard to incorporate the voices of young people and then tried to pick practitioners who were really in the trenches with young people who would be able to speak to what was going on from their particular vantage point. I think that really comes alive. Yes, that’s a Screamtide voice, and there’s some really rich insights from both young people and adults in this report.

I love that.


Another thing that really stands out to me in terms of the actual day-to-day data and some of these pieces that we’re picking up is here we’re trying to understand young people in their current context, 2023. We know still too, that in 2023, we’re still trying to understand the full impacts of the pandemic and the transitions and digital spaces and online forms of community. There’s some really interesting connections to that in here and questions to young people that really hone in on the idea of the sacred in online spaces even, in digital spaces. Again, both through asking young people questions directly, but also through the interviews, it’s really exciting to hear how young people talk to you about, Well, are they experiencing the sacred online? If so, what does that look like? To hear people talk about what they experienced even throughout the time where they were making this transition to online worship for some of them who wanted to seek out those opportunities, what that looked like, what that felt like. So it’s neat to see those online pieces come up in here, too.

As a self-professed media nerd, that was one of my favorite parts.

Absolutely. I know. I love there’s an entire call out just on the ways that young people are encountering the sacred online. It’s really interesting, especially in light of all of the things we had to do, all the ways we had to commute online in light of the pandemic.


I think that that’s a great segue into thinking about, okay, well, place matters, obviously. And yet, regardless of place, there are some common themes in the way that young people are experiencing the sacred in the ways that people are talking about sacred moments. So did you catch that, Dr. Patterson? What are some of those, I think, three themes? I see it page 26.

Absolutely. It’s really interesting because, like you mentioned, place matters to a degree. We noticed that when people were telling us their definitions of the sacred and their descriptions of the sacred, what really came through was there’s a variety of places and spaces where these things could happen, situations, all sorts of things. But there were three threads that wove through everyone’s definitions and descriptions. They noted that sacred moments were personal. They felt very unique to them and tailored that they were extraordinary. They felt set apart from what happens from day to day. And perhaps most importantly, they felt relational, which based on our other work, we are not necessarily surprised to see the focus on relationship as a part of this experience for them. But it really is that sense of interconnectedness that tends to take these moments from special to sacred. We know that in many of these definitions and descriptions, there’s always some element of how I’m connecting to a higher power or to nature or to humanity or to just the person next to me, my mom, my sister, whoever it is. And that just lines up so well with so much of what we understand about young people and their experience in religion and spirituality in general.

And it was great to see it reflected. And that is still at the heart of how they think about the sacred.

Yeah. I was struck too by we have questions in here about, again, where they’re experiencing it and the ties to nature that come up in this report. I also find both intriguing and also inspiring in the sense of for folks who might be reading this report and thinking, what are some creative connections here? How can I begin to think about opportunities to foster or talk through the sacred with young people in my life, when I see these examples of nature, I think, wow, there are some really powerful pieces here that might actually translate into meaningful actions or activities or things that really would help to cultivate that experience and that feeling in young people.

So true. Yeah. Seeing that 69 % of young people who said they’ve had a sacred moment have said they’ve experienced it in nature. And that’s the top place really for young people followed by in the privacy of my own home or room. So I love this transcendent nature. I mean, by definition, right? Of the places this can happen are not just limited to the walls of any particular place.

Absolutely. Well, I don’t think we want to give it all away. So we’ll quit talking.

But you’re…

There is one thing. There is one thing that I do want to point out for everyone watching. We’re so excited to bring this to the world and to let all of our fans and followers know about the great work that we’ve been doing. And so we are so excited to have a sweepstakes. And I know you want something else to enter. Absolutely. So why not try your hand at this. It’s a short window. It’s only open until Friday, November 10th. You can enter to win five copies of the State of Religion in Young People 2023. Who does not want that? Everyone wants that. You just go to this landing page, and then enter your email address. For bonus entries, you can tag friends on our social posts. And so try your hand at that. Your odds are good. Throw your hat in the ring for this. You need five copies of this for your closest friends and family. And it’s the holidays. I’m just saying you can wrap them up. We just showed you.

The wrap. Wrapping up.

Best of experience. But seriously, this week, you all visit springtideresearch. Org and enter this sweepstakes to win some free copies.

Love it. Well, there’s no greater joy and responsibility, really, than what we hold as researchers and folks who are really committed to understanding young people and sharing what we learn here at Spring Tide Research Institute than to share that through these reports. So we have so much fun with it. And we also just really highly value what we have learned and are so eager to share it. So thank you for being a part of this special moment where we got to inbox and experience this news latest report. Please tell us what your experience is like when you have the report in your hands. What are you excited about? What are you noticing? What does it make you think about? What does it inspire you in terms of next steps and next questions. Stay connected. Follow us online and keep in the conversation. Thanks, everybody.

Thanks. I’m going to clean this stuff up now.

Yes, exactly.

Bye. Bye.


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