Gen Y research
I was on a panel at Greenbelt about new spirituality and mission. A question was asked about a piece of research called Generation Y that looks at the world view of 15-25 year olds. Well, I wasn’t too complementary about the research, but i have to confess that at the time I hadn’t read it fully, so I thought that I’d read it and make a more informed response.
I think that is an interesting piece of research but have a number of problems with their methodology and also with the conclusions that Graham Cray draws from it. This piece of research has two elements to it, the first element is to interview 124 young people aged between 15-25 year olds to find out their world view. The second element of the research is to take a group of young people away, they then watch some films, show them images and watch soaps with them and from this draw out the key threads of their world view. This second element of the research is interesting and has some valuable insights within it, but it needs a lot more work before it can be considered a serious piece of research.
My methodological problem is that the research sample is too small and unrepresentative of 15-24 year. 124 is too small a sample to make it a piece of research that has long term value we need it to be about 1000 people. Also, 40% of these people are Christian and therefore the research is unrepresentative. The number of 15-25 currently going to church is less than 10% and therefore the number of people researched who are Christian should be no more than 13. Unfortunately this trebling of the christian representation will have massive implications on the results of the research. Thirdly, the research is conducted in universities, youth clubs and colleges again i would argue that the people who attend these three places do not represent the breadth of the 15-25 year olds in the UK.
The researchers verified their findings by talking to two Dj’s on the ‘cutting edge of youth culture’ – I’m sorry but this is not academic verification of results! They also visited a night club in order to gain a ‘taste of young peoples clubbing experience’. Unfortunately, by visiting a club you do not ‘gain a taste of young peoples clubbing experience’…you need to be part of the music, the scene, the culture…
My problems with Graham Cray’s conclusions is that they polarise. Cray uses the Heelas and Woodhead’s research into Kendal, ‘The Spirituality Revolution’ and says ‘If the new age niche is below 3 per cent actively participating each week, we do not yet have a spirituality revolution!’ Cray’s tone and style suggests that Heelas and Woodhead are claiming that we are in the midst of spirituality revolution when they actually state:
‘To summarize our findings concerning the situation in GB today around 4,600,000 are active in the congregational domain and around 900,000 in the holistic milieu. This means that the claim that there has been a spiritual revolution has been exaggerated.’
They do not claim that a spirituality revolution is going on but rather a number of mini-revolutions at a variety of different points and that in 40-50 years we may have seen a revolution…but not yet! Cray is not representing what the authors are saying. It seems to me that Cray has sparked a debate and taken the discussion about the research in a direction that is unhelpful.
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