Though Gen Z is the least religious generation in living memory, they are deeply engaged in questions of belonging and meaning – but often far outside of recognizably spiritual spaces.
Rather, Gen Z’ers building deep connections in gyms, fan communities, arts groups, and maker spaces. Many exhibit behaviors that you’d usually associate with a congregation. Gen Z is remixing and repurposing old spiritual practices to maintain a sense of community. According to Harvard divinity leaders in conversations with the founders of CrossFit and SoulCycle, they have found a growing consciousness of the multiple functions these new communities provide. Six recurring themes have appeared: personal transformation, social transformation, purpose-finding, accountability, creativity, and, of course, community. Here, the connection depends less on shared identity, and more on shared practice.
Now more than ever, we’re living through a crisis of isolation in the United States. The public-health threat of loneliness is undeniable. Studies show that being socially connected is associated with a reduced risk of early death, and that social isolation is now more deadly than smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being obese. To combat this, Gen Z is redefining the meaning and structure of connectedness and community. As spiritual practices, identities, and languages become ”unbundled” from their institutional homes and remixed within families and partnerships, Gen Z’ers are creating their own meaning and community structures more than ever before.
As Gen Z’ers enter a culture and economy defined by increased mechanization, artificial intelligence and virtual reality, remembering what makes them human through music, nature, spirituality and community (on their own terms) will clarify the challenges that lie ahead.