Christianity gets positive response among young
Young adults are more likely to report a positive experience of Christians and Christianity than their elders, a new survey suggests. Church’s National Mission and Evangelism Adviser, Dr Rachel Jordan-Wolf, suggested that it could indicate that Christians in this age group were “doing a better job” both of representing Christianity to their peers and inviting them to church.
Half (51 per cent) of 18- to 24-year-olds, in a poll by ComRes, agreed that “Overall I have had a positive experience of Christians and Christianity”: ten per cent higher than the bracket above them (25-34), and higher than the average across all respondents (44 per cent).
The youngest age group was also the least likely to report never going to church: 65 per cent compared with an average of 71 per cent, and 78 per cent of those aged 45-54.
The online poll of 4087 British adults was carried out in March. Overall, 17 per cent of respondents went to church — excluding weddings and funerals — “once or twice a year”; nine per cent at least once a month; and seven per cent at least once a week. Among those aged 18-24, 20 per cent reported going to church once or twice a year.
On several measures, there are signs that the youngest group (18-24) may be slightly more positively disposed towards Christianity than that just above it (25-34). They are slightly less likely to agree that it is a negative force in society, or to find it hard to talk to a Christian.
On Wednesday, Dr Jordan-Wolf said that the earlier Talking Jesus research, carried out by Barna Group and ComRes, commissioned by the Church of England, the Evangelical Alliance, and HOPE (News, 6 July 2015), suggested that those in the younger age group were more likely to report knowing an active Christian than any other generation.
“We might have a very active generation of Christians in these age brackets, who appear to be to be doing a pretty good job at both representing the Christian faith to their friends and asking people along,” she said. “I think a lot of them are in churches where they are confident to invite people along.”
She pointed, too, to research by Professor David Voas, which suggests that the religious practice and identities that people have in their mid-twenties tend to stay with them through the rest of their lives (News, 17 January 2014). Those aged 18-24 were “still making up their minds for themselves about what they believe”, she said.
“You can still reach the younger generation, but it does get harder and harder to reach people.”
The C of E’s 2014 Everyone Counts survey suggested that 18- to 24-year-olds made up approximately two per cent of the average congregation; with about 70 per cent over the age of 45.
Dr Jordan-Wolf suggested that many were worshipping in other denominations, including big independent churches, that had “probably done better than us at creating churches that the young generation want to be a part of.” Church plants and Fresh Expressions were part of the work to “create churches that are more welcoming and attractive to this generation”.
Overall, ten per cent of respondents to the ComRes survey said that they believed that Christians were “a negative force in society” (rising to 12 per cent of 18-24s); 51 per cent disagreed, and 39 per cent held no view either way.
Two-thirds (65 per cent) disagreed that “When I know that someone is a Christian, I find it harder to talk to them”; nine per cent agreed. A third (32 per cent) disagreed that “Christians are more tolerant than other people” (19 per cent agreed). Those aged 18-24 were the least likely to agree.
Other surveys have suggested that Christianity is not regarded negatively by the public. Talking Jesus suggested that about two-thirds described the Christians they knew as “friendly”, and half as “caring”.
Similar findings were found for under-18s, although 38 per cent said that they did not know an “active Christian”.
Less than ten per cent selected “narrow-minded”, “hypocritical”, or “homophobic”. But after a conversation with a Christian about faith, 16 per cent felt sad that they did not share their faith, and 42 per cent felt glad.
Christians were “amazed” at findings that suggested positive perceptions, Dr Jordan-Wolf said. “They have lost their confidence, and they didn’t need to, because people like them.”
Source: Church Times