UX Research for the Gospel: Who are today’s generation of college students?

Share this!

First, what is the purpose of this blog post? Why is it titled “UX Research for the Gospel”? Also, who is even “TheCryingProphet”?

For context, the username, “TheCryingProphet,” was inspired by prophet Jeremiah’s life of faith. Jeremiah was called “The Weeping Prophet” because his heart was so tender for the Israelites who strayed away from God. I pray to have a tender heart for college students and deliver the message of hope and warning to them just like prophet Jeremiah! 

The inspiration behind this blog post:
In Numbers 20, I was inspired by how, just like with Moses’ 40 years of palace training and 40 years of shepherd training, God has uniquely prepared all of us with certain training and skills to be leaders and shepherds for college students. One Sunday message called this “Moses’ staff,” something which God used to perform miracles through Moses. I also saw how God is uniquely training me to be an effective leader and shepherd for college students. At my current job, I am a UX/UI Designer and a big part of my role is UX research: to “know” my customers by talking with them, seeing what their core needs are and how to meet those specific needs. In doing successful UX research, one important skill to have is “empathy” for customers. Inspired by our Good Shepherd, Jesus, who “knows” His sheep, I want to know college students.

What's the Difference Between Sympathy and Empathy? | YourDictionary

How can I have empathy for college students?:
For many weeks now, I have been praying for God’s help to change my selfish heart to ACTUALLY care for college students. I’ve only recently re-accepted God’s calling for my life. I have not taught college students the Bible or went fishing for almost 6-7 years. To be honest, I felt burdened to visit the CSULB campus and look for students since I work full-time. To overcome my personal struggle, I asked God, “Help me see college students the way YOU see them.” And that is how the idea, “UX Research for the Gospel,” was born!

UX Research for the Gospel, what am I trying to accomplish?:
When starting any UX research, it’s recommended to start with a Hunt Statement aka following the format, “I research X so I can do Y.” This helps bring focus on why and what result I want to get out of my research study. At the same time, the purpose of any research is to challenge against assumptions (my preconceived ideas of college students) and always have data (the truth, God’s perspective) backing up my findings.

Hunt Statement: “I want to get to know Gen-Z college students so that I can have Jesus’s heart for them so that I can identify their core needs and effectively lead them to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.”

At my current job, stakeholders often struggle with empathizing with our customers. (Empathy helps stakeholders make executive decisions without ignoring customer’s needs; otherwise, it can jeopardize the success of a product or service). Therefore, it is my role to present my research findings, show data and highlight customer’s quotes to help stakeholders develop empathy towards our target audience. My goal is to help us empathize with our target audience. As shepherds, who are our target audience? College students! But who are today’s generation of college students? Generation Z!

Is Generation Z for Me?" - Why Gen Z is the Key to Hiring Success - Bryq

Here are some of general research findings about Generation Z:

  • Born from 1996 to 2010 (depending on source)
  • Grew up in time of rapid technological and cultural change
    • Example: WIFI, Google, social media, etc
    • They are more accepting and open-minded than any other previous generation
    • 90% crave for human/face to face connections (Source:  Gen-Z research findings by Karen McCollough)
  • Minorities make up nearly half of the population
    • More diverse than any other generation in US history 
  • Value justice and equity
    • Example: majority support Black Lives Matter, transgender rights, climate change, etc
    • They are more likely to express their opinion and act upon their values than any other previous generation
  • Self-reliant, self-independent, self-directed
    • Grew up obtaining information from the Internet without help of an adult; thereby becoming resourceful, independent learners, more likely prefer working alone

Illustration by Chanelle Nibbelink

Data on mental health of Generation Z:

    • 27% more likely to report their mental health as fair or poor than any other previous generation
      • Souce: APA 
    • 90% feel they are not set up for success in life
    • 85% feel lonely and uncertain about their future since the start of COVID-19 pandemic
    • 1 in 5 young adults are seeing a mental health therapist
    • 9 out of 10 are diagnosed with anxiety
    • 8 out of 10 fight against frequent bouts of depression
      • Source: Harmony Healthcare IT survey (Sept 2022)

Data on religious beliefs/affiliation of Generation Z:

    • 34% identify as religiously unaffiliated 
      • Note: what most distinguishes Generation Z from previous generations is not that Gen-Zs are more likely to leave their childhood religion, but rather that many of them lacked a religious upbringing. Source: American National Family Life Survey (December 2021)
    • 18% identify as either atheist or agnostic
      • Note: this is more than double compared to the data found with baby boomers. Source: American Survey Center (March 2022)

Based on the data above, it seems more and more college students are not interested in God and their mental health will continue to get worse… but as a UX Researcher for the Gospel, those are ALL assumptions! The FACT is that there is SO much hope for today’s generation of college students! Let me help you see…

In UX research, it is important to be able to interpret and translate data (even seemingly negative looking ones) into opportunities to bring out positive change. Also, it is insufficient to rely on existing data alone without in addition to actually talking to the target audience myself. You never know what NEW insights you might find. In others words, FISHING! As a UX researcher, I must recruit customers, schedule 1:1 interviews with them and discover their pain points and needs. And so, as a shepherd, I must go out, find students and ask them, “Would you be interested in studying the Bible?” And from there, I talk to them, see what their specific needs are and how I can help each one personally with the word of God.

Insights (translating data into opportunities):

  • Gen-Zs (because of growing up with rapid technological/cultural change) are more accepting and open-minded than any other previous generation =  this means today’s college students are more open to Bible Studies than any other previous generation
  • Gen-Zs value justice/equality and are more likely to express their opinion than any other previous generation = this means today’s college students have a heart for a MISSION and have the DRIVE to get things done (imagine when these students have God’s mission, they will NOT be afraid to stand up for Jesus Christ and for the Gospel!)
    • Note: in recent events such as the unfortunate Feb 14th, 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (Miami) – it was not community leaders who spoke up, but the very students who spoke up and gave a powerful message of inspiration and hope
  • Contrary to assumptions, despite growing up with WIFI/technology, 90% of Gen-Zs crave human/face to face connection = this means Gen-Zs are seeking something REAL (imagine when these students have a REAL relationship with God)

Conclusion: GOD is raising a whole NEW generation of LEADERS and Gen-Zs will help bring about CHANGE!

Still not convinced? Words from our customer(s):
As I mentioned earlier, one convincing and powerful way to help stakeholders empathize with our customers is to share specific quotes from customers. Although numbers don’t lie, numbers alone do not help “humanize” the customers. As for developing empathy for college students, there was one quote I heard that broke my heart completely.

Recently, a university event invited a guest speaker who specializes in mental health (his name is Jordan Peterson). In the middle of a topic, suddenly, a college student ran up to the stage in front of what looked like maybe hundreds or 1,000+ college students. This college student cried out, “My name is [—]. I-I need help. I am unwell. I want to find God! I want to know Him better!” Then this student fell to the floor and started crying in the middle of the stage. The crowd was speechless. The mental health specialist, who was actually struggling with his own faith at the time, was moved to tears. Those student’s words have been echoing in my mind and heart ever since. I hear those cries from our campuses.

Testimony of a prodigal daughter, what Jesus did for me:
I left the church because I did not want to surrender my marriage dream for Jesus. I chased after human love for 5 years and everything in my life was falling apart, including my mental health. I suffered from anxiety, depression and loneliness due to internalized shame from living a sexual immoral life and experiencing sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. Because of my sins and the sins of others, thoughts of suicide occupied my thoughts daily. I tried practicing “self-love,” but I could not love myself. I tried relying on alcohol, but it did not take away my pain. I took many vacations trips and attended many social gatherings to escape what I was feeling, but it did not give me lasting peace or a sense of belonging. I tried seeking a mental health therapist, but they told me, “Go find a psychiatrist to get depression pills so you lessen the chance of killing yourself.” I was told my depression “will never go away.” In early 2021, at my lowest point, I cried out to Jesus for His help. I admitted that all of my suffering was because I abandoned His calling, I denied His love and I turned to worthless idols like human love and a marriage dream to find meaning and satisfaction. These were Satan’s lies that I believed and was led away from God. But chasing after human love and a marriage dream only leads to emptiness, suffering and death. To help me repent of my life, I asked Jesus, “Help me know YOUR love, accept it and surrender my life to you.” In desperation to find God again, I was willing to come back to a church (I went to my father’s church), join Bible studies and church retreats.
Then in January 2023, for the new years message, my father preached Luke 13:6-9. Through one word of God, the parable of the barren fig tree, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see and accept God’s undeniable love for me.

Luke 13:6-8 – “Then [Jesus] told this parable, ‘A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who take care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

‘Sir’, the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'”

I wanted nothing to do with God and I was unfaithful to Him. Yet, Jesus remained faithful to me and did not give up on me. After 5-6 years of refusing to change, bearing no fruit, instead of cutting me off, Jesus said, “Give her 1 more year.” This whole time, God was humbling me, waiting for me to turn to Him and cry out for His help. In my time of desperation, God sent His servants to me. The Holy Spirit never stopped exposing my idols through the Bible, and God helped me let go of my then boyfriend. Then in God’s perfect timing, Jesus revealed His unconditional love for me and it took away all my loneliness, anxiety, depression, shame, lustful desires, addictions and suicidal thoughts! Jesus has forgiven me, took away all my suffering by satisfying my soul and told me to follow Him. It was from passages in Nehemiah, Genesis and Jonah that God reminded me and confirmed with me 5x that my calling is to be a leader and shepherd for college students. Because of God’s grace, I could surrender my life to Jesus and come back to Shepherds Church on Sunday, January 29, 2023.

Before, due to my sins, living however I wanted, my so-called “happiness” would be cut short by “waves of depression.” My shoulders felt heavy, my heart ached and I cried tears of sadness in the middle of work and in the middle of the night. Now, because God heard my desperate cry for help, I experience “waves of God’s grace” everyday. Jesus’s love overflows my heart and nothing but praise comes out of my mouth. I sing about God’s love and dance at home even while doing the dishes (and I hate doing the dishes, LOL). Before, I poured out my time, energy, heart and mind to a man so I could be loved. But because I am already so loved by Jesus, I pour out my time, energy, body, heart and mind to serve His mission out of pure gratitude. And most recently, I cry thinking about how college students are suffering from anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Why should I hide the good news God has given me from college students? How can I possibly continue living for myself if college students are crying out, “I am unwell. I want to know God!  Help me!” I know what they need. They need Jesus!

Deeply moved by what God has shown me, I decisively visited CSULB campus on a Saturday morning. I could have made excuses not to go to campus. Normally, most students have classes from Monday to Fridays and not Saturdays. Also, I was personally suffering from backaches, migraines and recurring health issues. And because of my rebellious life, I had deleted all my old Bible Study notes. The only Bible Study notes I had at the time was Romans 1a and I hadn’t refined it yet. Even though I did not feel like I had enough, God reminded me what I currently had was MORE than enough! I have my life testimony, God’s calling and the Holy Spirit who will help me. Despite what I lacked, I believed God would help me! Prior to my first day of fishing, I had been asking God to prepare the heart of at least 1 college student who happened to be struggling with their mental health like I had been, to be open to studying the Bible with me so I could help them know God and have a loving relationship with God. With the little time I could give as a full-time worker, I held onto Mark 11:24 – “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Even though I had 0 students to teach the Bible, I chose to believe I already had students. I just needed to go find them!

And so, the UX Research for the Gospel continues:
On my first day of fishing at CSULB, I wanted to try something different as part of my UX Research for the Gospel. Using my own “Moses’s staff” and having learned that college students are more likely open to talk about their mental health, I asked students if they were struggling with their mental health. Whether a student’s answer was ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in regards to their mental health, I shared with them my life testimony in how Jesus personally saved me from depression and being suicidal and has given me joy and a life’s purpose. And with confidence, I told them God has sent me to CSULB to help them! From there, I then asked if they wer
e open to studying the Bible with me. As for students’ responses, here are the results (due to confidentiality, I will not share student’s names):

  • 67% of students were open to share with me they have suffered or currently suffer from anxiety, depression and/or suicidal thoughts
  • 33% of students said they feel “mentally okay
  • 100% of ALL students said YES to my Bible Study invitation – this shocked me!
  • Extra: 100% of the time, I cried in front of each student after sharing my life testimony, hence my username (LOL)

As inspired by a previous post, “They are Ripe for the Harvest” –  certainly, so many of today’s generation of college students are ready to hear the Gospel and live a new life of freedom, serving the one and only Lord, Jesus Christ!

My personal learnings from this UX Research:
I saw how God prepared the hearts of college students ahead of time and He was waiting for me to “open my eyes and see the harvest is plentiful.” I learn I must continue to rely on God through prayer to help me find students He has uniquely prepared for me and effectively lead each one to know Jesus Christ, personally. Who would have thought, an unfaithful person like me who abandoned God’s calling, could now be used by God as His servant to save many college students? (You can’t see me, but I’m ugly crying right now). Not only has God answered my specific prayer to find at least 1 student to accept my Bible Study invitation, He has given me more than what I had asked for and that is: God is changing my selfish heart to be sincere, broken and empathetic for college students.

I pray God uses you, me, ALL of us to help many college students come to know the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I pray that ALL college students who accept our Bible Study invitation grow up as a new generation of leaders with a HEART for God’s mission and a DRIVE to bring the Gospel to the WHOLE WORLD! Certainly, our church’s prayer topic of 400 1:1 Bible Studies and establishing 200 disciples this year IS POSSIBLE! 

Luke 10:2 – “The Harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Loading Likes...
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
April 6, 2023 1:23 pm

I absolutely LOVE the research style this post was written in, and so inspired to see the facts – it makes the reality clear and hopeful. Yes it’s challenging to reach young students, but those very traits that seem like barriers actually give them such great potential to change the world for God. Also the part where you saw that Jesus did not give up on you, but said, “Give her one more year.” Makes me want to ugly cry too 😢 How He loves you!!! ❤️

Reply to  Sabaaa
April 6, 2023 5:48 pm

Praise God that thecryingprophet repented on time and is bearing the good fruit Jesus wants to see. May she keep up with the fruit of repentance 🙏🏾

April 6, 2023 5:45 pm

Powerful testimony 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥! Praise God for being merciful to you. I pray that all those students meet Jesus personally and be saved through the Bible studies you give them. Thank you for your service to Jesus and His sheep. As a person who works in mental health, I see that our society needs Jesus and they need a shepherd to guide them to Him through His Words.

Reply to  enCRISTOJESUS1
April 7, 2023 1:37 pm

Oof you see a lot of people’s inner suffering up close and personal – I’m wondering, do you ever see any of your patients make the decision to seek God’s help, and were there any changes that happened from there?

Reply to  Sabaaa
April 7, 2023 10:17 pm

I’m actually praying for this to happen 🙏🏾

Reply to  enCRISTOJESUS1
April 8, 2023 4:26 pm


April 6, 2023 6:09 pm

I’m so happy to witness God’s glory in your life and I am so happy you are back. What an inspiring post. You were able to use your staff for God’s purpose. And your viewpoint of gen z is wonderful. They do possess so many strengths to be future leaders for this suffering nation. I’m so touched and moved and pray that God can use you powerfully to shepherd over many wounded lost souls on campus as the weeping prophet.

April 7, 2023 7:42 am

Thank be to Jesus for giving us “one more year!” God’s love for you is amazing, very happy to see you back. Will sync with you on SOAR fishing.

Sarah L
April 7, 2023 8:15 am

*I like how each person can choose their username that’s personal to them;
*I really like how your username reflects God’s grace of second chance for you Lois.
**What I don’t like is how I never knew was YOU all this time, not until this blog was written…
–I wonder if there’s some way to attach the user’s name with their username, just so I know who is who. Although anonymity comes with the world of blogging/Internet…

Anyways! This blog blows my simple and small mind in regards to how one can mesh their practical work knowledge and experience with spiritual/mission truth… I’m not huge on data, but surely numbers don’t lie. Your findings point to the gospel truth of how reapers are the main figures for God’s salvation work now and today!

Reply to  Sarah L
April 7, 2023 1:34 pm

Ahaha yeah some prefer anonymity 😅 Maybe in heaven our blog identity will be floating above our heads and we’ll point at each other and be all like, “SO IT WAS YOU!!!” xD It can also be fun having a secret identity, like superheroes lol 🦸‍♂️

Jacky R
April 8, 2023 10:34 am

Thank you for sharing your testimony, Lois! Very touching to see God’s work and grace in your life.

April 8, 2023 4:24 pm

The thought of approaching Gen-Z students can seem intimidating esp. in the social climate of today’s world. But this helps me to have a totally different perspective, that is, Jesus’ perspective. Today’s youth are indeed ripe for harvest! They have great potential to rise as spiritual leaders for generations to come!

Praise God for his grace in your life and may it overflow to many others through your service to the Lord!

April 9, 2023 9:52 pm

Beautiful research and testimony. It is amazing to see how 100% of all the students said yes. This really shows that the field are ready for harvest especially gen z. Personally I am encouraged by your sincere testimony and research. Keep on shedding those tears.

April 12, 2023 5:39 pm

Very intriguing and insightful article, seeing things from a professional’s perspective. Thank you for sharing this with us, broadening our perspectives about the gospel!