A new study conducted by The Open Generation—a partnership between Barna, Biblica and World Vision, with additional support from several other groups, including Christian Vision, Bible Study Fellowship, Christ In Youth and the Association of Christian Schools International—shows that most teenagers around the world have a positive perception of Jesus.
Nearly 25,000 teens, ages 13-17, in 26 countries and speaking 17 different languages, were surveyed.
About half of all teens across faith groups describe Jesus as “loving” (49%) and believe He offers hope to people (46%) and cares about them (43%). Yet the study also showed that only some elements of the Gospel shape teens’ perception of Christ. For example, while 47% of teens believe Jesus was crucified, just 33% say He rose again, and only 21% say He is active in the world today.
This may be because a third of self-identified Christian teens have not made a personal commitment to follow Jesus. Further, the majority of teens do not see Christians as positively as they see Jesus. Only 18% of teens feel Christians are “wise,” but rather view Christians as “judgmental” or “hypocritical” in comparison to Jesus.
Even still, teens are generally curious about Jesus, with two-fifths of global teens (38%) saying they are very motivated to continue learning about Jesus and another one-fifth (21%) saying they are somewhat motivated to do so.
“This study is intended to help us listen to teens today,” said David Kinnaman, CEO of Barna Group. “The impression these voices offer is that this generation is open, inclusive and curious about different faiths and perspectives. Our data suggests that although this generation may not deeply engage with Jesus, they are open to Him, and when they do engage, they experience positive effects. It is our goal to offer a picture of the rising generation to the global church so that we may support and engage teens in relevant, meaningful ways.”