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Some Young People Think God is ‘Creepy’: How Do We Respond?

Hannah Bowden

12 Jun, 2024


It’s been several weeks since the launch of the second Translating God report, Feel Good News and since our first blog post about its findings. In this second blog post, Hannah thinks about one of the findings that feels more difficult to digest; some young people see God (Jesus1) as ‘creepy’. Read on as she shares more about this finding and considers how we might respond to it.



The Feel Good News (FGN) report encourages us by identifying that young people are generally accepting of God being loving and powerful! What great news. However, it also brings to the fore a group of young people for whom this isn’t the case, and this is something, however difficult it might be, we can’t ignore.

In a recent blog, Gemma made a call for us to recognise young people’s part in asking ‘disruptive questions, to throw into the mix the wild and crazy ideas and to challenge the way we do things’, and Youthscape’s Annual Lecture with St Mellitus challenged us to think about how we view power and take steps to give it away!

It feels important, therefore, to wrestle with a finding that makes us feel uncomfortable to sit and reflect in the space of disruptive statements and questions. So, let’s first look at what some of the young people said before we think about the context of their views and how we might respond.


Within the survey which informs FGN, young people were asked to react to five statements, identifying what felt attractive and what did not. Within the ‘God & Life’ statement, young people were presented with the following:

When asked what they found less attractive around the idea that God might be close, within, or involved in their life, ‘creepy’ was a word that showed up repeatedly in their comments. Here are some examples:

“Sounds creepy. I can have a satisfying life by sorting myself out”

“The idea of God being close to me is a bit creepy”

“Something is a bit creepy about it being inside you or wanting to be close to you”

“It sounds creepy. I wouldn’t want someone spying on me and checking up on what I’m doing”

“Sounds strange to me, how can God exist within me?”

“I don’t want God to be near me”

Given that data was collected about each young person’s faith orientation we can know that most of these comments came from those who felt more negative about God. However, it wasn’t exclusive to these groups and there were also similar comments from those in the other faith orientation groups, including Practising Christians. So, this view isn’t exclusive to any group, making it even more important to acknowledge and wrestle with.


The FGN report speculates that wider cultural conversations around power, consent, safety, and bodily autonomy might provide an insight into why these ideas about God might feel intrusive. It is these wider conversations, and high-profile cases of power misuse in both secular and religious settings, that have formed an understandable sensitivity amongst young people in relation to power. As one young person said, “Why do we need to say he is powerful?”.

The recent Youthscape Annual Lecture2, in partnership with St Mellitus College, titled All Power and Authority: Young People, Leadership, and Transparency in the Church, reflected on this exact topic. At the lecture, we heard from Elizabeth Oldfield and Joy Faulkner-Mpeho who provided helpful insights into how we view power in terms of frameworks and how we ensure we think about power distribution within youth work.

Elizabeth offered four possible frameworks of power, with the final being a Scriptural framework through which we see power as good and God given, gifted and exchanged, accountable. From this position, we are then called to steady ourselves, put relationships at the centre, and give power away. Joy developed these theoretical points, challenging us that, in practice, the more diverse voices we hear, the more we hear and experience God. As youth leaders, we are called to be the guide not the hero and so when we address our own biases, we resist the temptation to go bigger in favour of going deeper.

Allow yourself to sit in this space for a while. How do you view power? Do you see it as good and God given or as something else? How can you acknowledge your power and ensure you are being the guide for young people?


Whilst the context in which young people operate provides us with insight into some of the reasons why young people might perceive God’s desire for closeness to be ‘creepy’ this acts as a call to change how we share the gospel but not the gospel itself.

The God we know is quite the opposite of ‘creepy’ because His presence in our lives means many things including:

  • we do not have to fear (Isaiah 41:10)
  • we are enveloped in His love (Romans 8:39; 1 John 4:16)
  • we can be courageous because we are not alone (Joshua 1:9)

However, whilst sharing these truths, we must simultaneously acknowledge that not all young people want God to be close. Responding to this could mean taking time to explain God’s presence well and emphasising that He doesn’t want to force or control us whilst also allowing young people to share their honest opinions.

When talking with staff at Youthscape and external youth workers about the FGN findings, one youth worker said:

“[a]s soon as Jesus starts to become a tangible presence in my life, that starts to speak into the choices I need to make…and demands a response about how I interact with that”.

This so nicely summarises where we would like the young people we work with to be; to have a tangible presence with the God who we know to love us and care for us, who wants us to step into everything He has for us.

Ultimately, what this finding shows is that for some young people a “tangible presence” feels like a barrier, something to fear. Therefore, when working with young people we need to build trusting relationships that enable young people to be open and honest about their views and within which we can listen and respond with tenderness and truth.

1. I use the term God in this blog but place Jesus in brackets as we must recognise that the young people in this research may have made a personal distinction between God and Jesus which is not in line with the trinity. It was identified within the project that some of the young people had different feelings about God as an ‘out there’ power and Jesus as a ‘man’ which led them to think andcategorise God and Jesus differently. Perhaps this is a discussion you can have with the young people you work with.

2. You can download the lecture for £5 here https://www.youthscape.co.uk/l...

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