What do young people know about Jesus?
This year we are conducting a number of surveys to help us better understand the general knowledge and awareness students have about Christianity and to see if we can assess the impact our work has on this. When we were considering topics to survey, and investigating similar surveys that had been done, we were struck by this headline “One in five clueless Brits does not know that Jesus was born on Christmas Day”*.
Some of the key comments, in an article about this survey, that caught our attention were;
- “Research revealed that – despite the prevalence of nativity plays and Christian teaching in schools – millions are still confused about why we celebrate Christmas.”
- “But over time, it seems people are becoming more and more unaware about the real reason we mark the day and the story of Jesus.”
- “The research, carried out via OnePoll.com, also revealed just three in ten learned their knowledge of Jesus and his story from The Bible itself. Instead, 64 per cent learned what they know from school and one in ten picked it up by watching TV shows.”
A summary of the results could be; despite there still being some teaching about Christianity in schools, which is where the majority of people in the UK get their knowledge about Christianity from, people in the UK have a generally poor level of knowledge about Jesus and the events of his life, and that the level of knowledge about Christianity is getting lower with each generation. This despite the fact, acknowledged in the article, that Jesus is the most famous person who has ever lived.
We often hear reports that there is a decline in the number of people attending church and identifying as Christian. Maybe some of the people ignoring or rejecting Christianity, are ignoring and rejecting something they do not really understand or know a great deal about.
The results of this survey are another reminder about why our work is needed. Having real-life Christians going into schools to teach about the Christian faith should enable students to develop spiritually through understanding, engaging with and responding to the Christian faith. As we engage the next generation in learning about what Christians believe and enable them to consider, reflect and respond, we aim to tackle this decline in knowledge about Christianity. You may well ask yourself; ‘but does it work?’
We asked pupils who come to our lunch clubs the questions from the original survey, with the same multiple choice options. Pupils who attend our clubs are generally in schools where we lead RE lessons and may deliver Collective Acts of Worship, and have also voluntarily chosen to attend one of our clubs to find out even more about Christianity. Given this level of engagement with our work, we should expect to see a greater degree of knowledge than the general population, but was that the case?
- Q1 – Who were Jesus’ Parents?
97% of students we surveyed got the correct answer of Joseph and Mary (compared to 95% of the onepoll.com survey)
- Q2 – What job did Jesus have?
57% of students we surveyed got the correct answer of carpenter or stone mason (compared to 66% of the onepoll.com survey)
- Q3 – What was the setting of Jesus’ birth?
94% of students we surveyed got the correct answer of Stable (compared to 90% of the onepoll.com survey)
- Q4 – Where was Jesus born?
99% of students we surveyed got the correct answer of Bethlehem (compared to 90% of the onepoll.com survey)
- Q5 – How many disciples did Jesus have?
91% of students we surveyed got the correct answer of 12 (compared to 80% of the onepoll.com survey)
- Q6 – Who betrayed Jesus?
91% of students we surveyed got the correct answer of Judas (compared to 90% of the onepoll.com survey)
- Q7 – What is the day when we remember Jesus’ death?
85% of students we surveyed got the correct answer of Good Friday (compared to 75% of the onepoll.com survey)
- Q8 – On what day was the last supper?
74% of students we surveyed got the correct answer of Maundy Thursday (compared to 40% of the onepoll.com survey)
- Q9 – What languages were spoken by Jesus?
94% of students we surveyed got the correct answer of Hebrew (compared to 85% of the onepoll.com survey)
26% also correctly identified that Jesus is likely to have spoken Greek (compared to 3% of the onepoll.com survey)
- Q10 – What gifts did Jesus receive from the wise men?
100% of students we surveyed got the correct answer of Gold
99% of students we surveyed got the correct answer of Frankincense
95% of students we surveyed got the correct answer of Myrrh
(onepoll.com survey result unknown for this question. However 5% thought they gave Jesus a donkey and 5% thought they named a star after him)
Thankfully, it seems as if the students who attend our clubs are more knowledgeable about Jesus and his life than the general population (outperforming the original survey results in all but one question). Although we still had some interesting answers; 8% thought we remember Jesus’ death on Christmas Day and 43% thought Jesus would have been able to speak English! It is a simple and short survey, but it is an encouragement to us that our work seems to make some difference. By teaching about the Christian faith in schools, we are able to improve the level of knowledge students have about Jesus and his life. Given that, not only is Jesus the most famous person who has ever lived, Christianity has had such a significant influence on western civilization and, therefore, the lives of the students we meet, it is for their benefit that they have a greater level of knowledge about Christianity, even if they are not Christians themselves. If the findings of the survey are correct, and 64% learn what they know about Christianity in schools, then it is essential that Christians are able to support schools in the teaching of Christianity. This could be in helping create syllabi and curricula. It could be in providing resources for teachers to use in school or training teachers who are responsible for teaching about Christianity. Or it could be the type of work we do, where we supplement and enhance the work schools do by providing experienced, qualified and professional Christians to lead lessons, acts of worship, Experiences and clubs. Providing encounters with Christians who teach about the Christian faith seems an effective way to engage the next generation.
crossteach is an educational charity which has been teaching about the Christian faith in schools since 2001. We visit lots of different types of schools – primary and secondary, community and Church of England, private and state-funded, academy and maintained.
Our mission: To teach about the Christian faith in schools
Our vision: For pupils to develop spiritually through understanding, engaging with and responding to the Christian faith
- To provide direct encounters with Christians speaking about their faith which are enjoyable, memorable and challenging.
- To teach informed RE lessons that provoke critical enquiry and thoughtful reflection.
- To lead inspiring, stimulating Collective Worship.
- To run extracurricular activities that allow pupils to explore fundamental questions about human life, religion and belief.
- Professional: engaging, trained, organised, experienced and working within national and local requirements and guidelines
- Reputable: working in schools with integrity and transparency since 2001
- Distinctively Christian: knowledgeable, authentic and passionate about the Christian faith
- Collegiate: working in partnership with schools at their invitation and under their direction, and alongside local churches and other school visitors
The survey can be viewed here – https://www.swnsdigital.com/jesus-nazareth-quiz/
The original article about the survey can be read here – https://www.swnsdigital.com/2017/12/one-in-five-clueless-brits-does-not-know-that-jesus-was-born-on-christmas-day/