How Teenagers’ Faith Practices are Changing

Posted: August 1, 2010 in Christianity

The faith of teenagers is a picture of contrasts. Teenagers are consistently among the most religiously active Americans, with nearly six out of every 10 teens engaged in some type of group spiritual activity in a typical week. Yet, the spirituality of teenagers is also remarkably diverse and fluid.

A new research study from the Barna Group explores the changing religious environment of teenagers, comparing their participation in personal and group forms of faith over the past dozen years. While most teenagers remain spiritually active in some way, it appears that six specific types of teen faith engagement are declining.

Changing Faith
In several ways, teenagers are much less inclined toward spirituality than were teens a dozen years ago. The study assessed nine different forms of teenage involvement; six of those religious activities are at their lowest levels since Barna Group began tracking such teen behaviors. These included small group attendance, prayer, Sunday school participation, donations to churches, reading sacred texts other than the Bible, and evangelism by Christian teens (explaining their belief in Jesus Christ with others who have different faith views).

David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group and the director of the research, pointed out that some of these changes may go unnoticed by church leaders because the most visible activities – teen church attendance and youth group involvement – have not changed much in recent years. Bible reading was also roughly on par with previous Barna tracking of teenagers, further confounding a clear picture of teen faith.

Kinnaman commented on the findings: “While there is still much vibrancy to teen spirituality, it seems to be ‘thinning out.’ Teenagers view religious involvement partly as a way to maintain their all-important relationships. Yet perhaps technology such as social networking is reconfiguring teens’ needs for relationships and continual connectivity, diminishing the role of certain spiritual forms of engagement in their lives. Talking to God may be losing out to Facebook.”

Click here to continue reading.

The Barna Group (which includes its research division, the Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization that conducts primary research on a wide range of issues and products, produces resources pertaining to cultural change, leadership and spiritual development, and facilitates the healthy spiritual growth of leaders, children, families and Christian ministries. Located in Ventura, California, Barna has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984. If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each new, bi-monthly update on the latest research findings from The Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website (www.barna.org). Additional research-based resources, both free and at discounted prices, are also available through that website.
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