A newly released study from research consultancy ComRes has found that many young people are exploring the Christian faith as a direct result of visiting beautiful religious buildings. In a 2016 survey, nearly 13 percent of teen converts cited “visiting a church building” as playing a vital role.
The report indicates that the experience of beautiful religious architecture is more effective in evangelizing the younger generation than attending a youth group (11 percent) or a church service (12 percent), according to a write-up of the report by U Catholic.
ComRes interviewed 2,000 people aged 11-18 in December 2016, but the results of the online survey were not released until last summer. This was as a result of analysts finding it hard to believe that the figures were true.
But after confirming the startling results, the researchers concluded that “new methods invested in by the Church, such as youth groups, are less effective than prayer or visiting a church building in attracting children to the Church,” according to U Catholic.
Jimmy Dale, the Church of England’s national youth evangelism officer, said his team had been “shocked” by the results, according to the Telegraph. But there was some positive news, as a relatively high 21 percent of people between the ages of 11 and 18 described themselves as active followers of Jesus, while 13 percent claimed they practicing Christians who attended church.
The Telegraph noted the stark increase in these percentages in comparison to ten years ago, in 2006:
“Research carried out by church statistician Dr Peter Brierley in 2006 suggested church attendance among teenagers was less than half of this, with 6 per cent of 11-14 year-olds and 5 per cent of 15-18 year-olds attending church.”
“There was disbelief among the team because it was so high,” Dale said of the relatively high number of young people who identified as Christian. “What is really exciting for us is that there is this warmth and openness that we are seeing among young people – they are really open to faith.”
With that being said, Dale admitted that it might be time for the Church to re-think some of its strategies of youth evangelism.
“Things which we would class as old hat methods are some of the more effective ways,” Dale added. “It’s a real wake-up call for the church – we’ve got lots of young people who are coming into churches with school groups and that’s a really integral part of them becoming a Christian.”
Many Catholics believe that the attraction to traditional architecture and religious practices has become common trend among the Church’s youth.
“There is a movement among young Catholics to know, discover and preserve their Catholic heritage, and the traditional Latin Mass fits in with that,” Father Joseph Kramer told U Catholic. “I think they are drawn to the liturgical richness of the past.”