How do today’s teens across faith groups think about Jesus, the Bible and justice? The U.S.-based Christian polling firm Barna posed this question to nearly 25,000 teens in 26 countries and got encouraging answers.
"Data show it’s rare that teens think poorly of Jesus," says Barna, which found that most of them have a positive perception of Him, with 49% of teens describing Jesus as “loving,” 46% believe He offers hope, and 43% say He cares about people.
Only 8% said He is detached from today’s real issues, 7% believe He is judgmental, 6% think He is irrelevant, and 4% say He is hypocritical.
“The global impression of Jesus is that he is trustworthy, generous, wise, peaceful … and the glowing list goes on,” Barna added.
When Barna asked the teens if they believed the Bible teaches about living a meaningful life, 38% agreed strongly. Similarly, 36% said the Bible helps them understand their purpose in life, and 34% said it helps them to live wisely in today’s society.
When it comes to their personal identity, Barna found that “Bible-engaged” teens worldwide overwhelmingly believe the Bible teaches about living a meaningful life (84%), understanding their purpose (84%), and living wisely in society (80%).
Barna uses the term Bible-engaged teens to refer to those who have a “high” view of the Bible — believing it is “the word of God,” “the inspired word of God with no errors” or “the inspired word of God but with some errors” — and read the Bible several times a week.
The survey also asked teens if the Bible influences them to help others and defend fairness and people who've been wronged.
At least 42% of all teens said the Bible motivates them to make a positive impact on others' lives, 44% said it motivates them to take care of people who need help, 42% said it motivates them to promote fairness and justice, and 36% said it motivates them to stand up against the wrongdoings of others. These numbers are nearly double for Bible-engaged teens.
Such data, Barna said, “help us understand the present and prepare for the future, especially when we study the young people who are poised to reshape the world.”
The teens surveyed, ages 13 to 17, were from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, four countries in Latin America, eight European countries, six countries in Asia and four African nations.
The survey was conducted July-August 2021 and February 2022 in partnership with Alpha, Biblica, World Vision, Christian Vision, Bible Study Fellowship, Christ In Youth and the Association of Christian Schools International.
The survey was part of Barna’s Open Generation project to help church leaders better understand teenagers around the world.