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Barna releases unsurprisingly complex study on Millennials, church spaces

Barna releases unsurprisingly complex study on Millennials, church spaces

The Barna Group, a polling firm that concentrates on tracking changes in church life in a post-Christendom world, has released a new study on Millennials and their preferences on worship space.

As with everything else having to do with this topic, it is predictably complex.

Barna surveyed young adults, ages 18-29 in the Atlanta area, and detailed their preferences for an ideal worship environment, complete with site visits to various local churches, corporate offices, and coffee shops.

In a nutshell, this is what they found.

When asked which word best described their ideal worship environment, young adults preferred:

–Community, 78% over privacy, 22%

–Sanctuary, 77% (auditorium, 23%)

–Classic, 67% (trendy, 33%)

–Quiet, 65% (loud, 35%)


–Casual, 64% was preferred over (dignified, 36%)

–Modern, 60% (traditional, 40%)

“It’s tempting to oversimplify the relationship between Millennials and sacred space,” says Clint Jenkin, Ph.D., vice president of research at Barna Group and the lead designer of this study. “For instance, it might be easy to believe such a place needs to look ultra modern or chic to appeal to teens and young adults. But the reality, like so much about this generation, is more complicated—refreshingly so. Most Millennials don’t look for a church facility that caters to the whims of pop culture. They want a community that calls them to deeper meaning.”

The entire report can be found here, and it is fascinating reading.

What did you think of all this? Did it go against your expectations?


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From what I see at the linked site, the full monograph is available for purchase at

The linked site appears to give us a very broad overview of the results; details are probably in the monograph.

Allison de Kanel

tobias haller

Ah… I see they did use images… but kind of strange images, all in little circles, some of them hardly images (to my mind) of what they purport to describe. (The pictures described as “altar” really are of sanctuaries, those of “sanctuaries” look more like various kinds of auditoriums. — So right there it seems the meaning of words is highly variable…

tobias haller

A couple of observations:

1) Atlanta is arguably not typical or representative of the US as a whole, so extrapolation may be unwise.

2) Using words as loaded as “traditional” may also not be helpful. “Classic” when applied to music can mean the 60s or 70s, and “Modern” in art can apply to the 20s. And an 18th c. colonial church interior may appear more “modern” than a late Gothic Revival confection less than a century old. Perhaps they ought to have used images instead of words.

Nonetheless, I’m not at all surprised that young people may prefer a more “spiritual” to a more “sterile” (to use two loaded words) environment for prayer and worship.

Paul Woodrum

The function of a great cathedral and a parish church can be very different. The first may witness to the awesomeness of the divine, the latter to the gathering of a community.

Likewise, good, sensitive architecture and the play of space and light is more important than the particular style in invoking a sense of the holy. Trying to copy the past, no matter how familiar and comfortable, usually ends in failure. A lively faith calls forth contemporary forms.

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