church architecture & young adults

I’m about 2 weeks late on this one, but I still wanted to point you guys to the newest Lifeway Research report. This time it’s about church architecture, and I think it has real value for us in Collegiate Ministry.

Yep, church architecture research. And college ministry. Connected.

I noted my assertion of relevance at the College Metro conference last week, and one of my college ministry buddies did a triple-take. I understand her reaction, but I’m gonna to try to show why I think this study applies to our field.

Basically, the study takes a look at two things:

  • how attracted the unchurched are to various church architectural styles (both outside and in)
  • unchurched individuals’ perceptions of “third spaces” – the places they like to “hang out”

First, while I will hit enough high points to get a sense of what’s going on, this post and tomorrow’s follow-up will make even MORE sense if you read this article highlighting some of the major results. And if you really wanna dig in, just flip through the PowerPoint report on the research (only 36 slides).

I believe there are bits from this study that can inform our understanding of this generation, even though (as you’ll see), there are some points I feel the study could have been better.

Here are a few of the “biggest” points from the study, in case you didn’t read those articles:

  • 54% reported that a church building would strongly or somewhat impact their enjoyment of a visit to church.
  • When given 4 pictures, the unchurched allotted the most (47.7 out of 100) preference points to the most traditional, Gothic style of church architecture (exterior – the building itself).
  • When given 4 pictures, the unchurched allotted the most (33.0) preference points to the most traditional church foyer style.
  • When given 4 pictures, the unchurched allotted the most (37.6) preference points to the most traditional style of “worship center” or “sanctuary” space.

I know at this point you might wanna see what pics the study used, look at the PowerPoint report to see those. They’re on slides 27, 30, and 32. You might, like me, feel the pictures could have been more differentiated, but whatever.

I do have a few concerns (like that) about this study, which are in some part informed by the 120+ church experiences I’ve had since August. But I still think the study gives us some food for thought as college ministers. Maybe even moreso, this study gives us something to pass on to our pastors (or others), who at times aim for “attractive for this generation” but hit… something else. (More on that later.)

So if you want, check out the study (the Lifeway Research site has even more, like a podcast about this). Tomorrow, I’ll add some thoughts about how some of this intersects with ministry to college students and other young adults. [Here is that follow-up post.]

Written from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC

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