Engaging young people in faith in the UK

With religion in decline here in the UK, engaging young people in faith has never been more important for the Christian community. Young people are the future, and with just 5% of young people currently in church (Scripture Union, 2017), the future is looking bleak for the Christian faith. Questions that preoccupy our Christian leaders include: what can we do to enable young people to keep with the church? How do we help young people to remain engaged with faith? In what ways can we encourage young people to engage with the Christian community? Many of the answers lie within well designed research.

Engaging with young people can be challenging. Being a young person in today’s world isn’t easy. Pressure starts to mount at secondary school age, when choosing GCSE subjects is at the forefront of decision making. Social pressures are ever prevalent with the rise of social media. Traditional peer pressure continues to rear it’s ugly head. How do we engage with a group of people that are already under a great amount of pressure to conform? We ask them.

Sounds simple right? Wrong. With so much else going on in their lives, young people are difficult to pin down, even for topics so close to their hearts, like in this case: Christianity. The key to securing their time lies with trusted faces. Carrying out faith focused research with young people is commonplace here at Research by Design and our experience has taught us that peers and youth workers are instrumental in facilitating that initial contact.


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Having previously carried out work for the Church of England, at Research by Design we have explored the challenges facing the Church in terms of youth rootedness and participation. How do young people feel about the Church when it comes to worship, teaching and inclusion? What role does faith play in their daily lives? What’s their story, are they rooted in the church or quite the opposite? What are the reasons behind participation and feelings towards faith leadership? And where do youth workers fit in? These are the key questions that we looked in to as part of our work with the Church of England. So, who better to talk to than today’s youth. On this particular project, we also saw value in engaging with parents of young people.

It goes without saying that parents are responsible for their children and that responsibility extends to their faith development. Christian parents are aware of their role here, but few feel able to nurture their children’s faith at home (Care for the Family, 2018). What role does faith play in the family nowadays? As such, it was important to understand parental faith and parents’ perspectives of their children’s faith.  

But not only do parents play a role here. Youth leaders are critical in the development of faith in young people. In particular, the development of faith in young people that do not have Christian parents, and hence, do not come from a church-going household. After all, if there is no faith in the family, then youth leaders are a key touch point. So what about those unchurched individuals? Here at Research by Design, one of our most recent and ongoing pieces of work focuses on young people that have come to faith from unchurched households. We are keen to understand what drives this engagement with faith and in so doing explore their journeys thus far. What is faith offering these young people? Who is influencing their journey? Is it youth leaders, peers, the Church per se, or any other religious organisations for that matter? How are these relationships made and sustained? All these questions form the basis of our most recent work on faith with Scripture Union.




Scripture Union recently launched ‘The 95 Campaign’ to encourage the 95% of young people not currently in church to engage with faith and Jesus’ good news. Now the question is how does this campaign connect with those for whom the gospel is likely to be an unknown or little-known concept, essentially with unchurched individuals? And who better to answer this than those for whom once upon a time the gospel was unknown. We are speaking to 16 to 19 year olds engaged in faith that did not grow up in a Christian household to see what it was that sparked their faith exploration, and to find out how far they have come on their journey.


This entry was posted in Market research, Surveys, tagged Market Research and posted on November 23, 2018

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