Architecture and the Unchurched

Architecture and the Unchurched

My mother-in-law sent me an article the other day, and I thought it was incredibly interesting. It seems that a recent online survey of 1,684 people claiming to be “unchurched” found that, at a 2-to-1 ratio, they preferred churches with Gothic and cathedral-type architecture over and above the modern, contemporary style of church architecture. This is intriguing to me because, as my friend Dave Hickman (founder of CharlotteONE) and I have periodically discussed, there is an undeniable sentiment in our culture that our generation of both believers and unbelievers, as a general rule, is tired of having church in movie theaters and school auditoriums. The meeting place for CharlotteONE, incidentally or intentionally, is in the uptown sector of Charlotte at the First United Methodist Church, a building that fits the gothic, cathedral style to the T. And we’re finding that the place is packing out every Tuesday night during the school year.

Ed Stetzer, a missioligist and the director of Lifeway research (and a great blogger, by the way) commented on the survey saying, “Quite honestly, this research surprised us. We expected they’d choose the more contemporary options, but they were clearly more drawn to the aesthetics of the Gothic building than the run-of-the-mill, modern church building.”

Here’s some more of the article:

Stetzer suggested that the unchurched may prefer the more aesthetically pleasing look of the Gothic cathedral because it speaks to a connectedness to the past. Young unchurched people were particularly drawn to the Gothic look. Those between the ages of 25 to 34 used an average of 58.9 of their preference points on the more ornate church exterior. Those over the age of 70 only used an average of 32.9 of their 100 preference points on that particular church exterior.

The Gothic style was preferred by both unchurched Roman Catholics and unchurched Protestants, according to the survey. The average unchurched Roman Catholics gave the design more than 56 of their preference points.

“I don’t like modern churches, they seem cold,” said one survey respondent who chose the Gothic design. “I like the smell of candles burning, stained-glass windows, [and] an intimacy that’s transcendent.”

Here’s the article. Thoughts?