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 A Report from the Director FEBRUARY 8, 2012 

Helping youth have a faith of their ownHelping Youth Have a Faith of Their Own

The fact that youth participate in church less as they get older and often are not present in church as young adults can lead church leaders to assume they lack religious interest. A new book growing out of the National Study of Youth and Religion challenges that assumption. Sociologists Lisa Pearce and Melinda Lundquist Denton found that older teens and young adults see great significance in religion though not always in institutional forms of religious life.

In their book A Faith of Their Own: Stability and Change in the Religiosity of America’s Adolescents (Oxford University Press, 2011), the authors follow up with 2,530 young people, age 16 to 21, surveyed about their faith and religious practices at two points in time. The authors identified five types of religious identity among these young persons.

Abiders (20 percent). These are the adolescents with the highest levels of religious interest and practice. They not only believe in God; they pray regularly, attend services, volunteer, and are most likely to say their religion is the only true faith.

Adapters (20 percent). This group shows high levels of personal religiosity. But compared to the Abiders, they are more accepting of other people’s faiths and attend religious services more sporadically. The Adapters are most likely of all the groups to help others in need.

Assenters (31 percent). These teens say they believe in God, but they are minimally engaged with their faith. Religion is tangential to other aspects of their lives.

Avoiders (24 percent). They believe in God but do not engage in any religious practice. Their God is a distant one, and they often do not name a religious affiliation.

Atheists (5 percent). They do not believe in God and do not attend services.

Meaning for Congregations

What might this mean for congregations wanting to be sensitive to the faith perspectives of youth? We know that participation in formal religious services means little to many youth. They do not necessarily see themselves as less religious because they attend worship less often. The church is often not their primary community of meaning during these years.  

The writers suggest that congregations can support youth as they refine their religious identity with an approach called “scaffolding.” Scaffolding creates a context in which youth can participate at a level just beyond where they are currently. Instead of asking youth to go where they are not ready to go, they are helped to grow from where they are. Hallmarks of all such efforts must be honesty and acknowledgement of the role of doubt in faith.

All people have distinctive issues and needs at various life stages. One lesson from this research is the importance of supporting youth in appropriate ways during these critical years.

Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

Funding Conference Early-bird Registration Deadline is February 13

To help you enhance resources to fund your church’s ministries, the Lewis Center presents the Building a Hopeful Financial Future Conference on Saturday, March 10, 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on the campus of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. The conference is part of our Funding Your Congregation’s Vision series and features insightful presentations and practical workshops. Early-bird registration discounts are offered through February 13, and CEU credit is available. Learn more and register today.

Congregational Attendance ProfileTrack and Improve Worship Attendance with CAP

Worship attendance is a primary indicator of congregational vitality, but few churches track attendance in a way that reveals long-term trends. CAP, the Congregational Attendance Profile, new from the Lewis Center, reveals these trends to help you improve worship attendance. Lovett H. Weems, Jr., says, “Churches have shown major improvement in attendance by acting on lessons learned from CAP.” CAP is available for $39. Learn more and order today.

Track Your Congregation’s Giving Better with CGP

Will your church meet its budget this year? To answer this vital question you need to track giving accurately, but if you simply divide your budget by 52 weeks or 12 months — as nine in 10 churches do — you will not have a clear picture of your financial situation. Because each congregation has its own unique pattern of giving, the Lewis Center developed CGP — the Congregational Giving Profile. With CGP, you can track your finances based on the way people in your church actually give, establishing a more meaningful system of monitoring and reporting progress on your budget. CGP is available for $39. Learn more and order today.

Bearing Fruit Study GuideDownload the Free Bearing Fruit Companion Study Guide

Are you reading Bearing Fruit: Ministry with Real Results as a group? Download the free Bearing Fruit Companion Study Guide today. Authors Tom Berlin and Lovett H. Weems, Jr., prepared this guide to facilitate reflection, discussion, and application of the book’s key points. Individual readers may also use the guide for self-study. Learn more and download today.

Free Statistical Resources

Congregational Resource GuideChurch leaders often seek statistics on a range of issues needed for them to understand religious trends to inform their leadership. Congregational Resource Guide offers a succinct list to direct leaders to such online resources. Click to view “Seeking Statistics.”

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