Home > Brian's Blogs, Parenting > Parenting Teenagers Part 13: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers

Parenting Teenagers Part 13: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers

Perhaps the most comprehensive study of the religious and spiritual life of teenagers in America today was completed by Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith. He published his findings in Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. He also released a summary of his findings in Soul Searching: A Movie about Teenagers and God. In two posts I hope to give a very brief summary of Smith’s findings and relate them to church and parenting.

Both churches and parents need to understand teens and the teen culture in order to help them become biblically wise adults. Here are some things to help us understand American teens today:

  • There are 33 million teens in America today.
  • 85% of American teens profess belief in God.
  • 33% of American teens say religion is very important. They attend a church regularly. Mormons and white, evangelical, conservative Christian teens typically say religion is very important.
  • 33% of American teens say religion is present but not very significant. White and black Protestants fit this category.
  • 33% of American teens say religion is completely insignificant. Roman Catholic teens tend to fall into this category.

It is evident from these statistics that a majority of teens profess belief in God, but a majority of teens do not believe that God plays a significant role in their lives. In fact, most teens view religion as positive, but not as important as other aspects of life (including friends, tv, school, etc).

The positive implication for both parents and churches is that teens are open to God, religion, and spirituality.  Furthermore, teens are very open and interested in having a relationship with an adult and being influenced by adults.  In other words: we have an opportunity to love teens and influence them toward Christ.

The negative implication for both parents and church is that teens fill their lives with “stuff” that takes a higher priority than God.  So, while they are interested in God, they are not as interested in God as they are many other things.  In other words: there is a lot of competition out there striving for their attention.

Smith comes to this conclusion (which should be no surprise to those of you who have been reading my series on Parenting Teenagers): parents have the greatest spiritual influence on their children.  Teens who have supportive parents are more likely to be successful in life and teens who have parents who take their faith seriously are more likely to take their own faith seriously.

The same holds true for churches: Teens who have churches that support them are more likely to be successful in life and teens who have churches who take their faith seriously are more likely to take their own faith seriously.

In other words, we can make a difference in the lives of teenagers!!!

In my next post I’ll describe Smith’s grand conclusion about teens in America and what they really think about God.

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  1. awford
    April 28, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Brian:

    These have been good.
    My latest post on Prodigals relates to your theme of parenting teenagers:
    https://triangularchristianity.wordpress.com/2008/04/28/prodigal-sons-and-daughters/

    Andrew

  2. April 15, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    We talked about this on our podcast today. Thanks for making it available to us!

    ~Matthew Tietje
    The Techology Show

    http://www.thetechologyshow.com/2009/04/episode-006/

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