September 2008

Statistically speaking...

Some 50 percent of all Protestant teens attend church weekly, participate in Sunday school or in a religious youth group, pray and attend a religious summer camp or retreat, though less than one-third read the Bible each week. This also means, however, that substantial numbers of Protestant teens are not actively participating in their religious traditions.

Most Protestant teens are at least somewhat religious in their beliefs. The majority of Protestant teens appear to hold to the most basic Christian beliefs:

  • 90 percent say they believe in God.
  • 44 percent percent say they feel very or extremely close to God, meaning that more than half of Protestant teens do not feel this close to God.
  • Almost 75 percent of Protestant teens report that God is a personal being involved in the lives of people today.
  • The majority of Protestant teens say they believe in the afterlife, angels and other religious doctrines.
  • Regularly attending Protestant teens are especially likely to report believing in God, the afterlife, angels, demons, miracles and judgment day.
  • 60 percent of Protestant teens say they pray alone a few times a week or more, 47 percent of Protestant teens report praying with their parents in the last year and 32 percent of Protestants reading the Bible at least once a week.
  • Protestant teens who regularly attend church are more likely to pray and read the Bible than are teens who attend sporadically or do not attend at all.
  • Religious faith plays an important role in the lives of the majority of Protestant teenagers. 60 percent of Protestant teens say faith is very or extremely important in shaping how they live their daily lives.
  • 35 percent of Episcopalian teens who attend church more than a few times a year say that most or all adults in their congregations are hypocrites while only 2 percent of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America teens and none of the Presbyterian Church (USA) teens in the NSYR sample agree that most or all adults in their congregations are hypocrites.

Phil Schwadel & Christian Smith, Portraits of Protestant Teens: A Report on Teenagers in Major U.S. Denominations, A report by the National Study of Youth and Religion, 2005.

This article is part of the September 2008 Vestry Papers issue on Youth