Does age and background affect commitment to vision?

Newly arrived and younger attenders express higher levels of confidence in church vision.

At NCLS Research we were curious to explore whether age or church background affected an attender’s commitment to their church’s vision. 

Were young people more ready to embrace the church’s direction or were mature attenders more likely to affirm and follow the direction of the church? What about newcomers? How well do they catch hold of a church’s vision?

The 2021 National Church Life Survey (2021 NCLS) discovered that people newly arrived to their church in the previous 5 years, and in particular, new arrivals who have switched from another denomination (Switchers) have the highest levels of awareness and commitment to their church’s vision (74%), compared to other attenders.

People who arrived at their church in the previous 5 years from a church in the same denomination, i.e. Transfers, match long term attenders in their levels of awareness and commitment to vision, both at 68%. Newcomers without a church background are less likely to be aware of or committed to the local church’s vision than other attenders.






Attended > 5years 

Not aware 





Only ideas 





Yes - strongly committed 





Yes - partly committed 





Yes - not committed 






The higher rates amongst Switchers may possibly be explained if a person looking for a new church has thought about how the church reflects their approach to faith and life—and has chosen a like minded faith community.  As for slightly lower levels of Long-termers, and Transfers,  perhaps they’ve been around their church and denomination long enough to know that talking a lot about vision, mission and direction doesn’t always ensure it gets achieved!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Newcomers without a church background express the lowest levels of awareness and commitment to their local church’s vision, compared with other churchgoers. This emphasises the need for leaders to consistently communicate the church’s vision with their attenders. Many churches have orientation processes for newly arrived attenders, to familiarise them with the goals and vision of the church.

It’s interesting that despite their lower levels of awareness and commitment, newly arrived churchgoers, who have attended their church less than five years, are more likely to be fully confident that the vision can be achieved (53%), compared with long-term attenders (40%), who have been at their church for more than 5 years.  

This optimism may be born out of newness and enthusiasm, bringing fresh, positive energy that can breathe life into a local church. 

When age groups were considered, NCLS Research found that attenders in the oldest and the youngest age groups are least likely to be aware or strongly committed to their church’s vision for the future. 

Despite their lower levels of awareness about a vision, younger attenders are more likely to be fully confident that it can be achieved.

Just over 50% of 20 to 29-year-olds have full confidence that the vision of their church can be attained.  In contrast, attenders aged over 60 are less likely than other age groups to be fully confident their church’s vision is doable (41%) .

Leaders of faith communities would do well to consider these insights about awareness of and optimism for their vision. The enthusiasm of youth can be harnessed by communicating vision in ways that matter to the younger cohort and involving them in the visioning process. Older people might also be encouraged to see the vision and their valued part in bringing that vision to fruition.

Churches are encouraged to help newly arrived attenders to be more aware of their vision. Their strength of confidence in achieving the vision may prove to be a positive source of life for a church, as they move towards their future directions and goals together.

Data Sources:

2021 National Church Life Survey, Attender Survey

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