December 2000

Teens' church attendance linked to family

December 19 2000 by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard

Teens' church attendance linked to family | Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2000

Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2000

Teens' church attendance linked to family

By Mark Wingfield Texas Baptist Standard

HOUSTON - The best way for parents to ensure their children will attend church once they leave home is to make a regular practice of attending church as a family while the kids live at home. That's the conclusion of a yearlong study by Carol Lytch, coordinator of Lilly Endowment programs for strengthening congregational leadership at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary. She presented her findings during the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in Houston this fall.

"Families who cultivate the collective understanding that 'our family attends church' tend to produce teens who believe they should be there," she said.

Over a year's time, Lytch followed the lives of 41 high school seniors in Louisville, Ky. The teens were at least loosely affiliated with Catholic, evangelical Protestant or mainline Protestant churches. She interviewed both the teens and their parents, and she attended school and church functions to observe their lives.

Issues of race, class and social status were largely held constant to focus strictly on the issue of how faith values are transmitted to teens in a particular sample. The sample was almost all white, middle-class and suburban.

The focal question she asked the high school seniors was, "Do you intend to be active in the church after you leave home?"

While admittedly a premature indicator of what the young adults actually will do after high school, this question provides a window into the motivation they carry, Lytch said. And it is a question she cross-tabulated with responses from teens and parents alike to create a picture of what factors most influence teens toward a lifestyle of church attendance.

Teen responses about future church attendance fell into three broad categories, which she labeled "loyalty," "provisional loyalty" and "unlikely loyalty."

Lytch found the No. 1 factor influencing older teens' commitment to church attendance is the personal behavior of their parents.

This is true for church attendance while living at home and predicted church attendance after leaving home.

Regarding current church attendance, nearly 93 percent of the teens she studied replicated the pattern of church attendance lived out by one or both parents. "If parental frequencies differed, in all cases the teen replicated the pattern of the less-frequently attending parent," she noted.

Likewise, "if parents living in the teens' household both attended church weekly, teens tended to predict they would be active in the church after they left home. If just one of the parents attended less than weekly, teen religious loyalty plummeted."
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12/19/2000 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard | with 0 comments