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: 'Christians airbrushed women out of history'

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

Decoding ethnic labels

Jul 30, 2014

If you are of Latin American descent, do you call yourself Chicano? Latino? Hispanic?

Local education politics 'far from dead'

Jul 29, 2014

Teach for America, known for recruiting teachers, is also setting its sights on capturing school board seats across the nation. Surprisingly, however, political candidates from the program aren't just pushing ...

First grade reading suffers in segregated schools

Jul 29, 2014

A groundbreaking study from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) has found that African-American students in first grade experience smaller gains in reading when they attend segregated schools—but the ...

Why aren't consumers buying remanufactured products?

Jul 29, 2014

Firms looking to increase market share of remanufactured consumer products will have to overcome a big barrier to do so, according to a recent study from the Penn State Smeal College of Business. Findings from faculty members ...

Expecting to teach enhances learning, recall

Jul 29, 2014

People learn better and recall more when given the impression that they will soon have to teach newly acquired material to someone else, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

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".
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.