Non-Christians like Cathedrals not worship centers


According to a report released by LifeWay Research today, non-Christian Americans prefer the look of cathedral-style church facilities over any other design. Ed Stetzer, who leads LifeWay’s research efforts, says it may be that Gothic-looking cathedrals are links to the long history of the Church. They symbolize the stability and permanance of the faith.

“Despite billions being spent on church buildings, there was an overall decline in church attendance in the 1990s,” according to Jim Couchenour, director of marketing and ministry services for Cogun, Inc., a founding member of CKN. “This led CKN to ask, ‘As church builders what can we do to help church leaders be more intentional about reaching people who don’t go to church?’”

When given an assortment of four photos of church exteriors and given 100 “preference points” to allocate between them, the unchurched used an average of 47.7 points on the most traditional and Gothic options. The three other options ranged from an average of 18.5 points to 15.9 points.

“We may have been designing buildings based on what we think the unchurched would prefer,” Couchenour concluded. “While multi-use space is the most efficient, we need to ask, ‘Are there ways to dress up that big rectangular box in ways that would be more appealing to the unchurched?’”

“Quite honestly, this research surprised us,” said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research and LifeWay Christian Resource’s missiologist in residence. “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.”

Could it be that Gothic-style Cathedrals are just more aesthetically pleasing?

Do the findings of this report impact you? While I understand not wanting barriers between churches and the unchurched, shouldn’t a warm, caring, inviting congregation be able to overcome what people think of how a building looks?  

I’ll pull more information from the report in the morning.

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5 Responses to “Non-Christians like Cathedrals not worship centers”

  1. Christian Times » Blog Archive » Non-Christians like Cathedrals not worship centers Says:

    […] invar […]

  2. wickle Says:

    Were questions asked about attendance, or just liking how they looked? I like the look of one of the local Congregational church buildings near here, but I also know that it’s spiritually dead as a door-nail. I like my church, despite the relative plainness of the building.

    I think that there’s a leap from liking the building to wanting to attend that isn’t being made, here. After all, Catholic attendance hasn’t been skyrocketing, as I understand it.

  3. spiritualsamurai Says:

    I think research is also indicating that liturgic churches (especially Greek Orthodox churches) are doing well. The sense of mystery, awe, and involving all the sense seems to be a powerful draw.

  4. John Says:

    I’d be interested in seeing that research, David. Do you have a link? My experience tells me liturgical services appeal to some, but I’m not sure they’re doing “well.” But I’d rather people trust in substantial information, not just my limited experience.

    By the way, I heard your church buildings sustained a little damage last week from the storms. How are things out there?

  5. David Says:

    It would be interesting to know how many of America’s mega-churches are liturgical in nature, assuming that worship style and such–in addition to building style, apparently–helps to attract and keep a crowd. Does anyone blogging here have info along those lines?

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