Survey About the Life of Young People in Chinese-American Churches Affected by the Pandemic and Transition to Re-Opening
Data Collection and Analysis: Presence Survey Team
Report Written by: Monica Chan Yip
The pandemic has continued on since the beginning of 2020, causing churches, schools, and restaurants to be closed. This has seriously affected the social and church life of young people. Youth especially need to interact with others, but due to the pandemic, not only has their mode of learning changed and church life been interrupted, but young people have had to adapt to online classes and changes in life arrangements, which has been difficult. Presence has always placed strong emphasis on the healthy holistic development of the next generation. Through this survey, we hope to understand better how the pandemic has affected youth and young adults from Chinese American churches in the areas of schooling, career path, mental health, social life, and family and church relationships. From September to mid-November 2021, we conducted a survey of people between the ages of 11 to 35 who live in North America through the use of the internet, social media, other digital means, and so on, and we collected 104 responses. Due to the limited number of survey responses, it is not recommended to make general inferences from the results. This report is only applicable as a reference for youth and young adult ministries in Chinese churches. We hope that the results from this survey data analysis can help the church serve the younger generation more effectively and provide timely and appropriate resources and education to meet their needs. (Details of the survey results will be posted on the Presence website in February.)
A total of 104 survey responses were collected. Although the number of responses was not huge, we are happy to see that young people of different age groups participated. The age distribution was about even, and each age group accounted for between 23.1%-26.9%. Youth (11 -18 years old) and young adults (19-35 years old) each represented about half of the total number of respondents (see the figure below).
53.8% of respondents reportedly live in SoCal, 20.2% in NorCal, 25% in other states (with the majority in Texas), and a few live in Canada.
Overall, the survey results reflect that the pandemic has had a more or less negative impact on the next generation (includes youth and young adults), especially because of the new normal created by the pandemic: online classes, reducing social interactions, and avoiding going out—all of which have brought new challenges. Of course, the challenges faced by those in school versus those who have just graduated and started working are very different. From the survey results, we learn that some participants have concerns and fears about the future, especially in the midst of reopening uncertainties. The following summarizes the survey results and preliminary data analysis:
1. Challenges faced by the young generation during the pandemic
The challenges faced by young people in school mainly included loss of motivation, concentration, and enthusiasm when studying online; more easily distracted, poor time management, lack of normal social interactions, and so on. Twelve of the respondents also mentioned that they even thought about dropping out of school. Although the number is small, the problem cannot be ignored.
As for the young people studying at colleges and who were looking for internships during the pandemic, they also faced a number of challenges: difficulty connecting with others, failure to expand social networks, loss of motivation, and an increase instead of decrease in competition. There were also college students who said they felt lost regarding their future direction and did not know what type of work was suitable for them.
Finally, the challenges faced by working young adults during the pandemic are similar in magnitude. What they worried about after the reopening of their communities included health problems, change in work, and re-adaptation to work life. Some found new job opportunities during the pandemic, and a few said that they had considered starting their own companies. Although the pandemic has brought trouble and inconvenience, it has also created new opportunities. Knowing how to seize those opportunities is the key.
2. Mental health of the young generation during the pandemic
From the survey results, we found that it was more common than we had thought for the younger generation (youth and young adults) to encounter mental health problems during the pandemic, with 60% of the respondents experiencing mental health problems, and 27.2% of them having symptoms of anxiety and depression simultaneously (see the figure below).
We also found that half of the young people surveyed turned to friends for help when they encountered problems and difficulties, and 35% turned to their parents for help. This situation is better than expected. However, only 1.4% sought help from church pastors or professional counselors. The pandemic has also affected the social life of young people to some extent. Only half of them could still maintain a consistent social life. Online contact has become a new routine as most youth use social media and communication apps to maintain relationships. 16.3% of the respondents experienced social anxiety during the pandemic. They felt fear, nervousness, embarrassment, and even anger in their interpersonal relationships. The more serious cases sweated or self-harmed, while some adopted an evasive attitude by avoiding contact with others altogether. This situation is a cause for concern.
The mental health of young people cannot be ignored. It is recommended that church pastors, youth workers and parents pay more attention to and care about the young generation’s psychological needs. The church needs to maintain an open attitude and actively connect with them, and effectively use social media and communication apps to maintain communication with parents and young people. When encountering more serious mental health problems and difficulties, one should not avoid doctors but should seek professional counseling as soon as possible to help those in need.
3. Interpersonal relationships of the young generation during the pandemic
In addition to social life, the pandemic has also affected the relationship between young people, their families, and the church. The survey results show that 60% of respondents rated their relationship with their family members as positive, and some of them believed that the pandemic had allowed them to spend more time with their family members and had made their relationships closer. However, some people felt that the pandemic had caused increased friction, constant quarrels, and nagging among family members, thus resulting in negative emotions.
Regarding how the pandemic has affected young people’s participation in church, the survey found that 40% of them significantly reduced their participation in church, but most of them expected to return to physical church gatherings once the pandemic is over. As for the impact on their spiritual life, only 40% of young people felt that there had been no change. 30% said that the pandemic had negatively affected their spiritual lives, mainly because they had reduced interaction with church brothers, sisters, and pastors, leading to decreased mutual support; the lack of motivation to participate in online gatherings was also another factor. Even so, 20% of the respondents felt that they had grown spiritually because they had more time to pray and read the Bible. After the church has reopened, it is necessary to learn more about the spiritual needs of young people and help them re-engage in church life.
From the survey results, we can see that the pandemic has impacted young people greatly in all aspects of life, with a negative impact on mental health, interpersonal relationships, and spiritual life being especially obvious. We hope that church pastors and youth mentors can use the survey results to better understand the needs of the younger generation and provide targeted support to prepare them to re-enter school, workplace, and church life.
As an organization that emphasizes inter-generational culture, Presence looks forward to cooperating with churches to provide appropriate support. In terms of future college major and career selection, we provide professional personal assessments to help young people grasp their learning styles and multiple intelligences, so as to help them better understand themselves and make the most suitable college major or career choices. In addition, we hope to help young people increase their resilience to face an unknown future with confidence.
In regard to youth-family relationships, we offer a “Healthy Dialogue” course for churches who want to help parents, youth pastors, and youth ministry workers understand their respective roles in a young person’s life. This course also helps parents and children cultivate a mutual understanding, through which a more harmonious relationship can be built. Moreover, the “Healthy Dialogue” course helps to build mutual trust between youth ministry pastors and parents and provides more effective communication methods for guiding young people.
For mental health help, Presence also has a variety of relevant workshops and training. We regularly produce mental health-related videos, audio recordings, featured articles, and so on for believers and the community to use for free. We also hold regular faith seminars for youth and provide diverse resources targeting church needs.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”(1 Timothy 4:12)
We hope that in this difficult period of the pandemic, Presence can walk with church pastors and youth workers to help young people face difficulties in all aspects, so that they can continue to grow healthily—in faith, life, relationships, and emotions—to shine and even bless others with their lives.
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