How Do China’s Churches Reach Youth?

Recent research reveals extensive use of Sunday School and possible gaps.

In 2014, OneHope conducted an in-person study of 552 churches throughout China, to assess their level of engagement with the next generation. WellConnected is curating this blog series, giving you a broad overview of the findings.

Christianity in China has grown tremendously in the past few decades. By some accounts, China is trending toward having one of the largest Christian populations in the world. For over 25 years, in spite of persecution and perhaps through it, God has been growing His Kingdom in this relatively new global power.

So, what are China’s emerging churches like? How do they focus their efforts and resources? Particularly relevant to our focus, how are they reaching the next generation?

OneHope’s latest research asked that very question to 552 churches, both registered and unregistered, across a variety of denominations and provinces in China, finding out which activities they use most frequently in connecting with youth. The results were both predictable and surprising, and give insight into possible strengths and gaps of the Chinese Church’s work to reach youth.

  • Sunday School (91.5%)
  • Youth Group (56.0%)
  • Person-to-Person Outreach (33.6%)
  • Scripture/Literature Distribution (31.4%)
  • Bible Clubs/Bible Study (30.1%)
  • Other Educational Programs (22.2%)
  • Music Ministry (20.8%)
  • Personal Mentoring (19.7%)
  • Spiritual Formation (18.8%)
  • Leadership Training/Development (18.1%)

The report data shows Sunday School as the most frequently used ministry activity. Further, it seems that Sunday School is not only the most common activity, it is virtually the only one used. The next activity, Youth Group, did receive a somewhat significant amount of use, but once again, there was a large gap between its use and the activities that followed — potentially due to decreasing church participation as children grow older and face the pressures of the Chinese education system.

Additionally, the study grouped the master list of activities into five scales (Outreach, Discipleship, Scripture Engagement, Youth Leadership, & Holistic Ministry) to gain more insight in the analysis. For China, it also evaluated these scales based on geographic categories: rural, suburban, and urban. The results revealed that Discipleship activities have highest utilization by all churches in all areas. Suburban and urban areas are nearly equal with one another across all activity areas, with Discipleship and Scripture Engagement ranking the highest. Rural areas report the same order of priority, but with less frequency overall. Holistic Ministry was reported to be virtually non-existent for all churches surveyed.

What are the implications for the Church in China today? The study doesn’t necessarily speak to the efficacy of these activities, but does reveal a surprising profile: churches overwhelmingly conduct Sunday School (maybe by default), but have very few strategies for reaching older youth, or reaching beyond their walls in general. As the Church in China evolves into the 21st century, the indicators for how it invests in the next generation today have telling implications for the future.

Tell us what you think by emailing us at or leaving a comment.

Read the complete research findings in the full China report here.

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