A Church of England Bishop has spoken of the power of church buildings, after research indicated that visits to them have directly contributed to young people turning to faith. The Bishop of Worcester, John Inge, said church buildings are powerful for all sorts of reasons: “They give a sense of stability and also the sense that the Christian faith has inspired people to build these extraordinary buildings,” he said.
The study, commissioned by Christian youth organisation Hope Revolution Partnership and carried out by ComRes, suggested that levels of Christianity were much higher among young people in Britain than previously thought. Around thirteen percent of teenagers said that they decided to become a Christian after a visit to a church or cathedral, according to the figures – and more than one in five (21 percent) of people between the ages of 11 and 18 describe themselves as active followers of Jesus.
The influence of a church building was more significant than attending a youth group, going to a wedding, or speaking to other Christians about their faith. Jimmy Dale, the Church of England’s national youth evangelism officer, said his team had been “shocked” by the results: “Things which we would class as old hat methods are some of the more effective ways. 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,” he said.
Senior Church of England figures said the findings showed the importance of keeping churches and cathedrals accessible. Only nine of Britain's 42 cathedrals currently charge for entry, but there are concerns that more could be forced to do so because of financial pressures. There are some sixteen thousand Church of England buildings and Bishop Inge is leading a campaign to persuade parishes to keep churches open, instead of locking their doors: “I’m passionate about church buildings staying open. The cathedrals are the jewel in the crown but when thinking about all those young people, it’s just as likely to be one of the parish churches which they have been inspired by,” he said.