A study by the research consultancy firm ComRes finds that young people in the United Kingdom are influenced in their decision to become a Christian by their family, attending a religious school, Sunday School and the Bible.
And the church building itself.
Some 13 percent of respondents say “visiting a church building” played a vital role in their decision.
According to a Faithwire report, many British young people “are exploring the Christian faith as a direct result of visiting beautiful religious buildings.”
“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,” Faithwire said.
The study obtained comments from 2,000 people ages 11-18 at the end of 2016, but the results were released only a few months ago.
The Daily Telegraph of London reported Jimmy Dale, the national youth evangelism officer for the Church of England, said his team was “shocked” by the results.
The respondents were asked to list the top factors in their decision to become a Christian. First was family, at 46 percent. Going to a religious school at 17 percent was second. Tied for third were a Sunday School and reading the Bible, each 15 percent.
Visiting a church building was fifth, at 13 percent.
Church events, confirmation programs, weddings, baptisms, a youth group and a spiritual experience were additional factors.
A UCatholic article on the issue explained: “It is no secret why not only the youth, but people of all ages are drawn to beauty, as all beauty comes from the original beauty that is God Himself. The Pontifical Council for Culture under Pope Benedict XVI writes in their document ‘The Via Pulchritudinis:’ ‘The way of beauty replies to the intimate desire for happiness that resides in the heart of every person. Opening infinite horizons, it prompts the human person to push outside of himself, from the routine of the ephemeral passing instant, to the Transcendent and Mystery, and seek, as the final goal of the ultimate quest for wellbeing and total nostalgia, this original beauty which is God Himself, creator of all created beauty.'”
The report said the study, commissioned by a group involved in evangelization in Britain, revealed that the influence of beautiful architecture beat out even “speaking to other Christians about the faith.”
It noted the group’s research “adds evidence to rising trend of Catholic youth desiring traditional devotions and seeking to experience rich church history: relics, the saints, liturgies, and beautiful churches.”
UCatholic reported that since Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 made the traditional Latin Mass more accessible, “demand for tradition has only grown.”
The results showed 21 percent of respondents ages 11-18 described themselves as active followers of Jesus, with another 13 percent calling themselves practicing Christians who attend church.
Only a decade ago, just 5 or 6 percent of those 11-18 attended church, the report said.
Dale noted, “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.”
But he also called the results a wakeup call for the church to realize that “things which we would class as old hat methods are some of the more effective ways” of evangelizing.
The survey showed while 51 percent said they might sometimes get bullied or be seen as less popular if they talk to non-Christians about Jesus, 42 percent said that’s not their experience.
And by a 51-31 margin, respondents said they call themselves Christian, over not identifying that way.