Study: U.K. Youth Place Little Value in Religion

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Young people in the United Kingdom find Christianity irrelevant to their day-to-day living, according to findings in a new book aimed at understanding the beliefs of the United Kingdom's next generation.

In The Faith of Generation Y, authors Sylvia Collins-Mayo, Bob Mayo, and Sally Nash reveal that most young people in the UK put their faith in family, friends, and themselves, rather than God. Generation Y is made up of those born after 1980.

"On the one hand, because young people are benignly indifferent to religion and to Christianity, there's scope to engage with young people and tell the story," Collins-Mayo explained. "They're quite interested when it's raised for them as an issue on their own terms."

"But they are nevertheless indifferent," she added. "So when choices are made they're still locked into seeing Christianity as being not necessarily for them."

CBN News spoke with visitors at the Salmon Youth Center in Bermondsey, London, about the relevance of Christianity to their generation.

"Strictly speaking I am a Christian, but I don't practice it anymore," one young adult said. "I'd say morally it teaches how to live a good life. But I don't think many people follow it, especially young people anymore today."

"I'm not a Christian. I don't believe in God, but I would enforce the Christian way because it's good," another added.

The study behind The Faith of Generation Y involved more than 300 young people in England, aged eight to 23 years old.

Researchers also looked at whether church youth projects designed to connect young people to Christ actually help bridge that gap. They found that Generation Y is more interested in relationships than programs.

"Youth projects that don't tell the story, that don't give the young people opportunity to engage with the Christian narrative, aren't providing a map of the faith for young people to make sense of what they're hearing," Mayo said.

"If they don't have this territory of the story and a group of people to explore it with, it's not going to have any by-points in their lives," he added.

Youth worker Sam Adofo runs the Salmon Club and believes the key to engaging young people today in the Christian faith is to consistently communicate the Gospel message.

"They don't know the stories. So the Christian faith relies heavily on the stories," he said. "It's about telling the stories and finding ways to make them relevant to the young people."

"I'm not that interested in how well or badly it's done, so long as the stories are being told consistently," he said.

When infrequent churchgoers in the study were asked to choose a statement that closest describes their belief in God, 43 percent said, "I don't really know what to think."

Only 23 percent answered, "I believe in a God who is someone I can know personally."

Twenty-four percent said "I believe in some sort of higher power or life force, but not in a personal God" and 12 percent said they don't think there's a God or higher power at all.

*Originally published Nov. 19, 2010.

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Peter Wooding

Peter Wooding

CBN News United Kingdom Correspondent

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