The Religion of American Teens

There is a lot of back and forth among various pollsters about the beliefs and religious practices of modern young people in America. The evidence is quite strong that an increasingly large, and growing, number of young adults between 18 and 29 do not go to church at all. Some say it is less than 10% nationally. But what about teens, in particular, who are religious and do attend church?

The best summary that I have seen, rooted in extensive recent research by reputable social scientists, states that the religious faith of modern teens could best be summarized as: "moralistic, therapeutic, Deism." Kids have been taught that they should keep laws that are important to their well-being and that a vague god of some sort wants to make them happy and healthy, thus the therapeutic Deism reference. I think this sums up the bad news about much of what has been taught in our churches and in garden variety youth ministries. Keep the kids out of trouble and keep entertaining them so they will have a positive self-image.

The good news is that a growing number of teens, and their adult teachers, are calling many of them to die to themselves and to abandon their own goals and personal agendas so they can truly follow Jesus. If this message takes hold we could see a youth revival, not an increase in "moralistic, therapeutic Deism." Let us hope it happens sooner than later.

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