Survey About the Life of Young People in Chinese-American Churches Affected by the Pandemic and Transition to Re-Opening
Research Design and Data Collection: Presence Survey Team
Data Analysts: Joan Hsiung & Casey Hsiung
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.
Freeform responses are categorized into general themes that are suggested to be the best fit for the response. These categories are then assigned rankings based on the number of instances that best fit the category.
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% of total responses. 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 1.1).
Figure 1.1: 25 respondents (24%) were from the age group of 11-14, 28 respondents (27%) from the age group of 15-18, 27 respondents (26%) from the age group of 19-22, 24 respondents (23%) from the age group of 23-35.
The school status groupings, for the most part, correspond to each age group as expected in a normal school setting (i.e.; 11-14 year-olds in junior high, 15-18, and a few 14 year-olds in high school, etc.). It is important to note for the rest of the report that the majority of the ‘N/A’ school status respondents fall under the 23-35 age group, meaning that although we consider this age group to be young adults, they are likely to not be receiving any schooling. (see figure 1.2)
Figure 1.2: 22(88%) of 11-14 year-olds age group were in junior high, 20(71%) of 15-18 in high school, and 23(85%) of 19-22 in undergraduate, and 21(87.5%) of 23-35 were reported “N/A”.
53.8% of respondents reportedly live in SoCal, 20.2% in NorCal, 25% in other states or Canada (with the majority in Texas and a few living in Canada).
Overall, the survey results reflect that the pandemic has had mixed impacts 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.
Another interesting finding to discuss is that most respondents seek help from their parents or friends when they encounter problems and difficulties. Only 1% sought help from church pastors or professional counselors. This may suggest that people lacked connection with their church pastor/youth workers during the pandemic. In the same token, we also learn that while 20% of the respondents felt that they had grown spiritually through relying and talking to God more, 30% said that the pandemic had negatively affected their spiritual lives, because of the lack of connections with God and the church community.
The following summarizes the survey results and data analysis:
I. CHALLENGES FACED BY THE YOUNG GENERATION DURING THE PANDEMIC
According to the freeform responses, many students described having problems staying focused during the pandemic. The top challenges in schooling were all related to online learning/stay-at-home distractions or lack of social interaction, including loss of motivation, concentration, and enthusiasm when studying online; feeling 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. This may suggest that within a normal youth group setting, the chance that some members have thought about quitting school might be more frequent than previously understood. The top reasons for those considering quitting are either mental health-related stress, burnout, etc. or negative/cynical attitude. When asking about any plans to quit school, most people have either no plan or just want to get a job. Although it appears that respondents may not be serious about quitting school, youth leaders should still seek to understand the prevalence, gravity, and origin of these thoughts amongst their members.
- Presence Possibilities’ Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences – To help students and their parents recognize and understand each other’s learning style and multiple intelligence in order to enhance the child’s learning experience, and to grasp the prime time to develop the child’s potential talent.
- Homeschooling Reflection – A Journey of Faith – One mom shares about her decision to obey God’s leading to homeschool her sons and the resulting fruit of her faith.
Although the survey questions about career paths mostly targeted college students and those already working, the finding was that most respondents across all school status categories were unsure of the career path they want to pursue and are searching for something that best fits their interests/passions (see figure 2.1). Younger demographics such as junior high and high schoolers are ideal groups to start exploring college majors and career paths.
Figure2.1: 56(54%) respondents across all school status categories are in the ‘Not sure what career to pursue’ category and ‘Currently looking for a job that matches my passion’ category.
CAREER RESOURCES (For those unsure of the right career path or looking for a career that fits their passion/interests, please check out these resources)
- Career Stories: Interviews and spotlights on different careers that best fit your personality and strengths (Artistic, Conventional, Enterprising, Investigative, Realistic, and Social)
- College Major and Career Exploration Service – Support and services to help you identify the college major and career path most suitable for you
- How to Find God’s Calling – Article by Warren Hino on how God helped him find his calling
- Four Dream-Pursuing Stories – Encouraging stories about individuals who overcame challenges to reach for their dreams
- 2021 Renew Career Panel Recap – A recap article from a panel discussion among career professionals talking about the current career trends
- RE:NEW Magazine’s Issue No. 1 on Creative Ministry – RE:NEW Magazine’s first issue focused on stories of people who have used their gifts, talents and professions to minister to others and be a light for God
- Theology of Work Faith Seminar Recording (MP4) – Youth Pastor Alex Liu shares his testimony about his experiences of trusting God in the workplace and how to have a Kingdom-oriented mission in our work
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. Only half of the respondents indicated that they saw an increase in new career opportunities through working from home and telecommuting. These opportunities fell mainly within content creation, tech/Internet, music, graphic design, and Investment industries.
- How to Increase Your Competitive Edge and Land a Job After You Graduate – Article with tips on how to increase your ability to stand out from the rest when trying to find a job.
- Why is it important to have a mentor? – Article on the importance of both spiritual and career mentors and how to choose one.
Finally, the challenges faced by working young adults during the pandemic are similar. What they worried about after the reopening of their communities included COVID related health issues, 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. For respondents who indicated an interest in starting a business, food-related businesses (ex. bakery, restaurant) were the top choice. Although the pandemic has brought trouble and inconvenience, it has also created new opportunities. Knowing how to seize those opportunities is the key.
- Prayer for Changes in Work, Finances and Living Style Coming Out of the Pandemic – Suggestions on how to pray for changes in our work situations and finances along with encouragement to trust God with our challenges.
- Thinking about a career change? –Important questions to consider before changing careers
II. MENTAL HEALTH OF THE YOUNG GENERATION DURING THE PANDEMIC
From the survey results, the finding was 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 figure 3.1 ).
Figure 3.1: total of 103 responses (1 did not respond to this question); 28 respondents (27%) had experienced anxiety; 6 respondents (6%) had depression; 28 respondents (27%) had both during the pandemic; a total of 60% had symptoms.
Although it cannot be determined that level of school status correlates to higher levels of anxiety and/or depression, a higher number of respondents within the 19-22 age group were more likely to experience anxiety and/or depression. Between having anxiety and having depression, more than four times more respondents indicated that they experienced anxiety than depression. The number of people experiencing only anxiety and both anxiety and depression were equal. (See figure 3.2)
Figure 3.2: the total number of respondents who had experienced some form of mental issue (either anxiety or depression or both) was 62 (60%); the highest number of respondents (21) who had experienced either anxiety or depression and both anxiety and depression was from the 19-22 age group, the second highest number (17) was from the 15-18 age group, the third (12) was from 11-14 age group and 23-35 age group.
MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
- Mental Health and Self-Care During the Pandemic – Helpful tips for living a healthy and balanced life in light of the rise in anxiety and depression from the pandemic
- Living Smart Under the Pandemic – Importanttips to manage stress and worry caused by changes from the pandemic
- Presence Life Planning Curriculum – Stress (Coming soon) – Learn how to manage the use of social media, build self-esteem, and learn stress management skills
- Gaming Addiction (MP3) – A professional gamer shares his own story as a resource to help parents understand their child
- How to Deal with Teenage Depression, Suicidal Thoughts and Self-Harm (English MP4) – For more information, please choose this product in the survey form
- Understanding the Grieving Process (Mandarin MP4) – A course to guide and help one understand their moods and emotions during the grieving process of coming out of a tragedy such as losing a loved one, facing a disaster, losing a job, coming out of a serious illness, etc.
Figure 3.3: 41 out of 103 respondents (40%) reached out to seek help from friends, mostly (17) from the 19-22 age group; 30 turned to parents, mostly (13) from the 11-14 age group.
Almost 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. (see figure 3.3)
However, it is important to observe that the older the age group, the more likely the respondents were to turn to their friends instead of their parents.
Another interesting finding to discuss is the number of respondents that selected people outside of immediate family and friends to rely on (i.e.; church pastor, youth worker, trusted adult, etc.). Only three respondents turned to sources other than close friends or Although the majority of respondents indicate that they do not want to see a therapist, a small number would still like access to therapy resources. Even though respondents may indicate that they do not need help, there is a possibility that having access to therapy and counseling resources could open the option of exploring them.
PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING RESOURCES
- Access to Presence’s counseling resources can be found here
- CBT Training (MP3) – Self-Help Exercises for Mild Depression and Anxiety
- Depression pamphlet (PDF) – Pamphlet to help one understand the signs of depression and how to get and receive help.
* Please reach out to us for PDF resources at firstname.lastname@example.org *
SOCIAL LIFE AND SOCIAL ANXIETY
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, with most socializing very little. (see figure 3.4). The majority of respondents also rely on technology to maintain relationships during the pandemic. Online contact has become the main form of reaching out as most youth use social media and communication apps to maintain relationships.
Figure 3.4: the highest number of respondents, 47 (46%) socialized very little and 3 respondents did not socialize at all during the pandemic; while 34 respondents socialized often, 8 socialized very often and 12 socialized everyday.
16.3% of the respondents felt they experienced social anxiety during the pandemic (see figure 3.5). Several elaborated that they felt nervousness, embarrassment, and even anger as a result of their social anxiety. 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.
Examples of symptoms/ feelings from the pandemic
- Fear: of a new relationship, conflict, unwanted attention, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) , big crowds.
- Nervousness: worry aboutgoing out, being embarrassed, sweating, stuttering, peeling skin, biting nails.
- Anxiety: anxiety attacks, talking in a group, stuttering.
- Anger: upset at being judged by others.
- Isolation: distance from others.
Figure 3.5: 63 respondents (61%) did not have any social anxiety symptoms; a total of 41 respondents (40%) suspected that they might have symptoms or had experienced symptoms.
The majority of people did not have any worries about reopening. However, those in the 19-22 age group were more likely to feel the opposite, perhaps due to university or new company reopenings and not knowing what to expect. The main overall worry of survey respondents is related to safety issues surrounding Covid-19, i.e.., wearing a mask, vaccination, social distancing, etc.
RESOURCES AND RECOMMENDATIONS
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.
SOCIAL LIFE AND SOCIAL ANXIETY RESOURCES
- Prayer for Social Adjustment after Reopening – Prayers and encouragements in how to re-engage with others after the pandemic
- Same resources as mental health (see above in mental health resources)
III. 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 felt that the pandemic has allowed them to spend more time with their family members and had made their relationships closer. (See figure 4.1)
Figure 4.1: most respondents, 38 and 22 respectively (58%) rated their relationship with parents/family positive or very positive during the pandemic, the number among the age groups was relatively even; 39 respondents felt neutral about their relationship with parents/family; only 5 respondents rated the relationship negative.
On the other hand, some people felt that the pandemic had caused increased friction, constant quarrels, and nagging among family members, thus resulting in more negative emotions.
Examples of challenges in the relationship with parents/family during the pandemic
- Always being together – This category is related to having family around 24/7, and having to stay home all the time. Respondents indicated arguments, tension , and getting annoyed as the top reasons causing challenges.
- Communication – Challenges related to communicating with parents or family members. Example responses related to miscommunication, anger, and frustration.
- Can’t have family around – This category groups those that cannot return home due to covid. Example responses included homesickness and no communication.
- Interaction with parents – Challenges related to parents’ reaction to the individual. Example responses included being hurt, annoyed, disappointed, and parents not understanding depression.
RESOURCES AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Based on the data, the pandemic brought many families closer together. Despite respondents expressing their biggest challenge as also always being surrounded by family members during the pandemic, most people still indicated a positive/very positive change in relationships with family. The positive aspects of family relationships appeared to outweigh the challenges. For those struggling with their family relationships during the pandemic, we recommend the following resources:
FAMILY RELATIONSHIP RESOURCES
- Healthy Dialogue Training Program: Parents and Youth Series – A course to build up effective communication between parents and their teens, and youth workers.
- 2019 Prayer Blog: Youth praying for their parents – A personal sharing on turning to the Lord and praying for our parents even when we don’t see eye-to-eye.
- Presence Harmonious Family Series:
- Yanzie Interview Article – Her sharing about parent relationship – One girl’s sharing about how her relationship with her parents grew even though they had different viewpoints on life.
- 2022 Heart to Heart: U Read, I Read Blog Series– A blog series encouraging parents, youth and adult children to read and discuss books together. It will feature book recommendations and interviews with parents and youth pastors.
Regarding how the pandemic has affected young people’s participation in church, the survey showed that the majority of respondents either attended church online only or attended church both online and in-person. The survey also found that 40% of them significantly reduced their participation in church (see figure 4.2). Of the respondents who indicated a change in participation, most saw a decrease in church attendance.
Though most people will attend church once it reopens, approximately 10% indicated that they would not. To counter this, churches can continue holding online service as an option for attendees after reopening.
Of the few who gave reasons for not attending church after reopening, most of the group were concerned about safety surrounding Covid. To counter this, churches can continue requiring safety precautions after reopening, in addition to holding online services.
Figure 4.2: while half (50%) of the respondents (52 out of 103) had no change of participation at church pre-pandemic and during the pandemic, a significant number of respondents (26 and 15 respectively) had decreased or significantly decreased church participation.
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. People responded that the pandemic negatively impacted their reliance on God and the connections they have with God and the church community. The lack of participation in a church community and spending less time on spirituality affected their growth and relationship with God.
On the other hand, 20% of the respondents felt that they had grown spiritually because they had more time to pray and read the Bible. Those who indicated having a better relationship with God were relying and talking to Him. Some people spent more time on spiritual practices while a few respondents claimed to have less worldly distractions. (See figure 4.3)
Figure 4.3: 1 did not respond to the question; 43 out of 103 respondents (42%) felt that the pandemic had no impact on their spiritual life; 33 respondents’ spiritual life had been affected negatively or very negatively by the pandemic; 25 respondents’ spiritual life had been affected positively or very positively.
Examples of negative impacts on spiritual life from the pandemic
- Distance from God: The individual mentioned a negative impact on their relationship with God, less motivation, and relying on God less.
- Less Connected to Others: The individual experienced a negative impact on their relationships, feeling less connected with the church, fellowship, brothers and sisters, etc., lack of community, and distance with people.
- Spent less time with God or growing spiritually: The individual mentioned a negative impact on their time spent, choosing to not spend as much time with God and to grow spiritually. Etc., online church, not as involved, hard to focus online.
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. To improve church engagement, respondents requested that churches improve their message to be more relatable and applicable to daily life, and provide support for relationship/mental/emotional/mentoring services.
Examples of requests for the church to offer:
- Better Teaching– Individuals felt the church should convey certain messages or more message-related help. Ex. Let more people know more about God.
- Relationship: Individuals felt the church should offer some kind of help related to relationships. Ex. More fellowship and meaningful relationships, dating, and marriage.
- Emotional help : Individuals felt the church should offer some kind of emotional help. Ex. How to deal with anxiety.
- Mentor Program: Individuals felt the church should offer some kind of mentorship program.
- Mental Health: Individuals felt the church should offer some kind of mental health therapy or counseling: therapy resources, counseling.
- Ministry: Individuals felt the church should offer more specific ministries to help engage certain groups. Ex. Better youth services.
RESOURCES AND RECOMMENDATIONS
While people face similar challenges during the pandemic, only a small portion of peoples’ faith is stronger. A recommendation for churches to think about is to build up either an endurance discipleship or mentorship program.
Things that churches can offer:
1. To promote inclusiveness and engagement when reopening happens, churches should continue to hold online service while practicing safety precautions in person.
2. Churches should also look to convey a specific message integrated with Bible teaching, centering around the challenges in life. Topics can focus around relationships, mental health, emotional wellbeing, and mentorship, which are directly related to daily life challenges, interpersonal skills, and maintenance of dating/marriage relationships.
3. Churches can pair support services for the same needs and make them available to their church base. There is no need in becoming a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ church. Instead, partnerships with organizations that have knowledge and specialties in these areas can be utilized to be more effective.
CHURCH RELATIONSHIPS RESOURCES
- Workshops for Churches on Special Topics
- 2019 Survey Report – A survey about the younger generation and youth ministry in Chinese-American churches to provide data and resources for churches and Presence’s ministries to serve the younger generation in a more effective way
- Faith Seminars for Youth – Events to equip youth with knowledge about current happenings to strengthen their faith. Past topics include: Understanding Islam – How Christians are to respond, Christian Worldview, Theology of Work, Defending Our Faith, Faith & Purpose, Importance of Evangelism, and Strengthening Our Spiritual Lives in the New Normal
- RE:NEW Dating and Relationship Series – An ongoing video series for youth and young adults on topics including: Soulmates, Qualities to look for in a partner, Red Flags to look out for, and many more.
- Mentorship E-book (coming soon, 2022)
- 40-Day Devotional Challenge – Forty days of youth devotionals for those who want to set aside 40 days to focus on the Lord and seek Him through prayer, fasting and the reading of Scripture. One devotional is to be read each day as you participate in the 40-Day Devotional Challenge.
- RE:NEW’s Educational Videos – Videos produced by RE:NEW on topics and events related to youth and faith.
- Featured stories & published articles for believers and the community to freely access
- Prayer Meetingsfor Youth Ministers – A support & prayer platform where youth pastors can share their strategies and the ups and downs of ministry.
- Intergenerational Mentorship Conference (MP4) –Panel discussion about bridging the gap between youth workers and parents so they can support each other in ministering to the youth, and engage in healthy dialogue about intergenerational mentorship.
- Riding the Waves Conference (MP4) –What is Mentorship? Learn the art of communication in coaching and how to show care and concern for those you are mentoring. Includes topics such as “Personality Profiles & Conflict Resolution” and “Boundaries in Mentoring”.
- PQ Heart to Heart Group Facilitator Skill-Training – Equipping group leaders and facilitating skills so that the body of Christ can be better engaged in learning and interacting with one another in love.
- Fasting Pamphlet – A pamphlet explaining the Biblical basis for fasting and how to go about it in order to grow closer to God
- Healthy Dialogue Program – A program to help parents, youth and youth workers understand their responsibilities and roles, and to provide two-way boundaries and communication guidelines for youth workers & parents, and for youth & parents.
IV. SURVEY LIMITATIONS
1. There are limitations on sample size. Observations are not statistically independent nor randomized. Also, the survey is limited to people who respond through google links.
2. There is also lack of previous research on the topic and population, especially research and surveys on the Chinese church population are limited.
3. Topics such as mental health are difficult to measure.
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.
“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)
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For a brief youth survey summary in Chinese, please go to:
The Chinese version of this detailed youth survey report will be posted on our website by the end of May, 2022.