Drifting from church at university: understanding and responding to the narrative of Christian students

Smith, Megan Rachel (2022). Drifting from church at university: understanding and responding to the narrative of Christian students. University of Birmingham. Other

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This thesis represents a heuristic empirical investigation into the abatement in church attendance amongst Christian students which occurs on transition to university, arising from theological reflection on my experience and practice as a university chaplain and vicar of a student-facing church. The aim was to deepen understanding and enhance response to the context from a practical theological perspective.

Using mixed methods, including a student survey and interviews with students and church leaders, I studied the experiences of students in childhood, teenage years prior to university and after transition to university to listen to and understand their narratives and the factors which had influence those narratives. I engaged church leaders to understand current responses in practice.

The research shows that early faith is built on belonging and community. Strength of appropriation of personal faith is significant in whether faith thrives when belonging is removed on transition to university. Finding a sense of belonging is crucial to church attendance at university but students are not always aware what the elements critical to this belonging are until they find it or have the opportunity to reflect on what those elements are. Actions of church intended to attract students can skew student’s perceptions of the broader picture of churches available to them. Students interact with the possibility of church attendance at university within a more general experience of overwhelming found in university transition.

Through exploring the findings further through the lenses of transition as multiple overwhelmings, churches’ use of marketing, and the power of personal narrative, I conclude that the research points to three areas for fruitful development in practice. These areas are reconceptualising the problem as multiple overwhelmings, reflecting on the effects of church approaches to marketing, both positive and negative, and attentive listening to student faith narratives as well as helping students integrate their faith and experiences into their own narrative identity, both before and during transition to university.

Type of Work: Thesis (Other)
Award Type: Other
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, Department of Theology and Religion
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BV Practical Theology
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/12414


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