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33 million teenagers in the US. This longitudinal study (over 10 years) began with the first set of interviews in 2003. Two levels of research – phone interviews (over 3,000 teen and parent pairs) and face-to-face interviews (267 teens in 45 states). Overall findings is that 85 % of teends believe in God. 1/3 regularly attend religious gatherings, 1/3 are not religious and 1/3 sporadically attend.
Adults in the past several decades have operated and articulated two important things about teens and religion. One is that young people are adverse to or rebellious to faith. This study, however, does not find that to be reality. There are many positive signs that youth see value in faith and religious, if nothing else then for moral or societal reasons. And interestingly, even the non-religious teens are open to faith and religion.
This “creed” has no historical context, no “tradition” of a people passed on across time, and little theological depth. For example, when asked about grace, the most common answer connected to the current TV show of the time – Will and Grace.
While teenagers are able to give a vast array of details about the lives of movie stars and current bands, they were not about to do so about the faith they said they believes. In other words, they have the capacity, they just don’t see the need to learn or speak in detail about the faith they say they have.
A second common operating assumption is that teens faith and adult faith is significantly different, and therefore highlight the differences between then. This study did not find there to be such a great difference, for teens faith (good or bad) largely reflects adult religion. Because the faith of teens so much mirror that of their parents, this study wonders about the state of faith and spirituality among the broader spectrum of people. Also, in the longitudinal study, it was found that most adolescents actually want the loving input and engagement of their parents, more in fact then parents even know. (Souls in Transition, 284)
There was a significant minority for whom faith mattered, it part of their life and defined their identity. These teenagers are doing better in life on a number of scales, compared to their less religious peers. (Almost Christian, 19) One of 12 (8%) of teens that deemed religion important enough to practice it regularly, were described as ‘highly devoted.’ (They attend religious services weekly or more, feel very close to God, participate in religious youth group, read Scripture, pray frequently, and say faith is important in their lives.) Almost Christian, 19-20.
This study was also a national study, carried out by 7 denominations (Assemblies of God, Evangelical Covenant, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Presbyterian Church (USA), Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, and United Methodist. The research included surveys from four groups of people (youth, parents, volunteers and staff) in 131 congregations (with national, denominational, and size representation) across the country that denominstrated a high percentage of youth with a mature Christian faith and site visits to 21 of those 131 (3 from each denomination – one small, medium and large).
These seven aspects were drawn from previous studies. The Effective Christian Education (Search Institute, 1990) and Five Cries of Youth ( Merton Strommen, 1988, 1974). Interestingly, the finding of this study noted that students in this study echoed the same aspects of Christian faith. For descriptions and/or quotes from young people on these, see Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry, 28-46.
The congregations studies varied is many, many ways. But overall it was the spirit and culture of the congregation that mattered. From 30,000 feet, three things stood out within these congregations – a particular theology, particular qualities of ministry and particular ministry practices. The shape these particulars took varied, but the reality was they were present within each congregation. (For more on the importance of congregational culture, see Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry, chapter 2.)
Each sphere has it’s own set of assets: congregational – 18; youth ministry – 6; family/household – 5; leadership – 15. Clearly the congregation and leadership are KEY, but the goal is not to have the “most assets” as much as it is to have assets in each of the four spheres. This allows for the most robust culture and creates a, so-called, sweet spot for young people. (For more, see Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry, chapters 3-6).
PD1 Opportunity or Despair Overview Session
Opportunity or Despair? Youth Ministry at the Crossroads ELCA GatheringPractice Discipleship Team
National Study of Youth and Religion 5 learnings
Teen are not rebellious about faith, rather they are open to religion• Youth are not flocking to "alternative" religions and spiritualities.• Yet, faith is not a viable or central element of their life.• The vast majority of the teenagers identified themselves as Christian – either Protestant or Catholic - or as Jewish or Mormon.• Only about 8 percent said faith was not important at all.
de facto creed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism• A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.• God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.• The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.• God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.• Good people go to heaven when they die.
Teens could not speak the second language of faith• A vast majority of teens are "incredibly inarticulate about their faith, their religious beliefs and practices.”• Faith is a second language … and young people are not catching the faith religions profess. In other words, faith communities were not passing on the faith in word and deed.• Learning the language of faith will require, among other things, being immersed in a culture where the faith is spoken in the present tense and where it is practiced being spoken.
Parents are important• Three out of four religious teens consider their own beliefs somewhat or very similar to those of their parents.• Parents, whether they know it or not and like it or not, they are in fact always socializing youth about religion.• It is not whether or not parents are passing on faith, but what faith/beliefs parents are passing on!
“a significant minority” Yet, for a small percentage (8% of teen where religion was important)of young people faith was not wallpaper, but an active, integrated part of their lives.
7 aspects of mature Christian faith • Seeks Spiritual Growth • Possesses a Vital Faith • Practices Faith• Makes the Christian Faith a Way of Life • Lives a Life of Service • Exercises Moral Responsibility • Possesses a Positive Spirit
3 particular aspects in congregations• Particular Theology – Sense of the Presence and Activity of a Living God – Emphasis on Spiritual Growth, Discipleship and Vocation – Promote Outreach and Mission• Particular Qualities of Ministry – Reflect Congregational Priority and Support for Youth Ministry – Foster Significant Relationships and a Sense of Community – Develop Committed Competent Leadership• Particular Ministry Practices – Focus on Household or Families – Common Effective Youth Ministry Practices – Custom Designed, Integrated Approaches to Youth Ministry
44 4 assets within areasCongregationalAssets Age-Specific Ministry AssetsLeadership Assets Family Asset s
Four Learnings It’s about a living God It’s about discipleship It’s about relationships It’s about leadership
Share• What did you hear?• What was troubling?• What is hopeful?