Teenagers in the UK are less likely than teens worldwide to believe Jesus was a miracle worker or that he was raised from the dead, according to an international study by Barna Group.
Its UK edition of The Open Generation report is a first-of-its-kind international research study to understand teenagers’ identity, values and views in the United Kingdom.
The report revealed that British teens have more positive than negative perceptions of Jesus but remain unsure about the role the Church should play in justice issues.
The Open Generation global study includes responses from nearly 25,000 teens aged 13 to 17 across 26 countries, regardless of faith background. It was developed in partnership with Alpha, Biblica and World Vision, with additional support from Christian Vision, Bible Study Fellowship, Christ in Youth and the Association of Christian Schools International. For the UK, the survey was conducted across 1,000 teens.
Among its findings are that a quarter (24 percent) of British teens say Jesus is trustworthy and generous, and almost half (43 percent) believe Jesus was crucified.
More than one in three teens in the UK (37 percent) report some level of motivation to learn more about Christian scripture, and 54 percent of British teens are justice-oriented; they care deeply about injustice but lack confidence and commitment to act.
Simon Gibbes from World Vision spoke to YCW about the report:
“There seems to be a general openness to Jesus, and the Bible and the gospel from non-Christian teens, particularly among teens of other faiths. There’s a real positivity towards Jesus. The majority of teens from other faiths actually consider Jesus as a miracle worker, a good person and a good teacher. So it’s a real positive outlook on Jesus, which is a good thing.
“Among Christian teens, it was interesting because there was partiality in terms of Christian teens and their perspective of the gospel. Only 35 percent of Christian teens think that Jesus was a miracle worker, and only 36 percent think that he rose from the dead, which is sort of ironic, isn’t it? But perhaps that’s all part of being a teen and what it means to deal with these issues.”
CEO of Barna Group, David Kinnaman, said: “The data in this report reveals that teens in the United Kingdom are in a formative and precarious season of life.
“It is encouraging to see they are open to Jesus, show interest in learning more about the Bible, and are motivated toward addressing injustice in the world. But we also noticed challenges, including British teens’ lack of confidence in their ability to make an impact, and their uncertainty about Christian Church’s role in addressing injustice.
“Our goal for this study is to help churches and Christian leaders in the UK engage, disciple and support this rising generation entering adulthood.”
Phil Simpson, youth development lead for Alpha UK, said: “Teens in the UK seem to have a positive view of who Jesus was – with almost a third believing that he cared for people and carried hope. The challenge for churches and those engaging with young people is that these perspectives are mostly past tense.
“Nearly half of UK teens believe Jesus was a person who was crucified. However, there is a significantly small percentage who believe Jesus is active in the world today, and the perception of this for the average UK teen is lower than the global perspectives of teenagers.
“The Church needs to help them begin to see Jesus as someone who is alive, someone who can be encountered and someone who is active in the world in 2023.”