Teenagers’ faith practices changing

Barna Group reports, “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.” At the same time Barna finds plenty of change in the kinds of activity. While you it’s worth keeping in mind studies can be agenda driven, the results are worth reflection:

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).

Barna also looked at changes in teen spirituality involvement across denominations:

Catholic teens are less likely to attend Sunday school, small groups, and to donate than were Catholic teenagers 12 years ago.

Among 13- to 17-year-old Protestants, there are actually signs of increased religious activity: they are more likely to pray, go to worship services, read the Bible and attend youth group meetings than were Protestant-affiliated teens a dozen years ago. Given that religious participation is improving among this group, the drop in personal evangelism among born again Protestant teens is even more striking, dropping from 72% in 1997 to 53% in late 2009.

Much of the increased activity among Protestants seems to have come from among non-mainline teenagers. Mainline Protestant teens demonstrate increased youth group activity, but nothing else has improved among the religious practices examined.

Speaking of religious trends, Diana Butler Bass asks for your help on her next book.

I’m asking for your point of view: What’s new in your neighborhood? What ideas, patterns, trends, or shifts have you noticed in faith and spirituality in your own life, with your friends, and that of your immediate community? What’s different about what you believe and how you practice your faith? What do you think are the most important trends in religion and spirituality?

Some snippets from the comments she’s received thus far,

“orientation toward nicheness”

world of technology should be a cautionary tale … because [of] how fast things can change. … The kindling in seasoned and ready. Who knows where the spark will come from?

“online church”

“blended traditions”

“growing interest and preference in traditional liturgical expressions”

“young adults I know are really attracted to a more “smells & bells” type of service”

“My sense is that the momentum is now, finally, moving [away from the public religion co-opted by the religious right].”

“it is important to make room in our house for the future generations so that new history and liturgy can be written.”

“40 percent of children born in the US are non-white. 1 in 4 has at least one parent who is an immigrant”

“aversion of people to a denominational name”

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