Church faces 'difficult decision' to engage liberal christian students

Sep 13, 2013

Religious leaders face a fresh challenge in engaging young Christians, after new research revealed many university students are affirming their faith in private but staying away from church on Sundays.

The study into religion among undergraduates at 13 English universities - by the universities of Derby, Durham, Chester and Kingston University London - also found liberal Christians outnumbered evangelical Christians tenfold on campus. The University of Durham led the study.

A total of 4,500 undergraduate students were surveyed and 100 interviews carried out for the study, which found:

  • Christianity attracts far more students than any other religious tradition, but most of these have begun to detach themselves from by the time they reach this formative stage in life;
  • among Christian students, over half never attend church during term-time;
  • 60% of students involved in the evangelical Christian Unions believe homosexual relations to be 'always wrong' but among other Christian students only 20% held this view;
  • while the Church of England struggles with the question of women bishops only ten per cent of Christian students believe women should not be admitted to the same leadership positions as men;
  • less than ten per cent of Christian students believe The Bible disproves evolution.

The researchers said most Christian students were "far closer to the social mainstream than the evangelical groups that often speak the loudest among Christians in public debates". The Church needed to consider how it could better engage with "the interests and enthusiasms of this generation," they added.

A book based on the study - entitled Christianity and the University Experience: Understanding Student Faith has now been published.

Dr Kristin Aune - Director of the Centre for Society, Religion & Belief at the University of Derby - said: "Christian students make up a significant part of universities' student bodies, and they are a diverse group. Our research challenges universities, chaplaincies, churches and all who work with Christian students to look at their diversity in order to work with them more effectively."

Lead author Dr Mathew Guest, of Durham University's Department of Theology and Religion, added: "When many think of religion on university campuses two things come to mind; an intense faith affirmed by evangelical Christians and some Muslims, and an equally intense atheism expressed by young sceptics as a protest against religion.

"Moderate or liberal Christianity rarely enters the conversation, assumed to be a long spent force favoured by older generations.

"And yet our research found that this description reflects the values of the majority of students who identify Christianity as their religion of choice. In fact, liberal Christians outnumber evangelicals tenfold.

"With the vast majority of Christian students affirming a moderate expression of values in keeping with wider British culture, the Church faces a difficult decision about whether to adapt to changing times or risk permanently alienating an entire generation."

Explore further: Are Christians becoming more 'green'?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Are Christians becoming more 'green'?

Jul 24, 2013

Despite the wide-held perception that Christians have become more concerned about the environment, new research finds this so-called "greening of Christianity" is not evident among the religious rank-and-file.

Unfair treatment of faith groups 'persists', finds study

Sep 12, 2013

Ten years after England and Wales' first law against religious discrimination a University of Derby-led project reveals institutions are making progress but that reports of unfair treatment from people of different religions ...

Recommended for you

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

2 hours ago

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

14 hours ago

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
3 / 5 (2) Sep 13, 2013
This is normal, according to statistics education and science moves religionists towards agnosticism and agnostics towards atheism. And a base level of religionism in a secular society is ~ 1-2 % regular church visitors (Sweden).

One should read this as a) "we loose customers" and so b) "we loose income".
SaulAlinsky
2 / 5 (4) Sep 13, 2013
One should read this as a) "we loose customers" and so b) "we loose income".
Yeah the churches' motivations are obvious, but I'm wondering how many of the students just say they are Christian to avoid persecution.

More news stories

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...