Today’s Teens Keeping the Faith

by Linda Lyons, Education and Youth Editor

Christian rock band Third Day entertained convention-goers at the Republican National Convention last week and likely helped boost the party's youth appeal. RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie said of Third Day at a press conference earlier this year, "We're also extremely pleased that popular bands like Third Day are using their influence in a positive way by encouraging young people to get involved in our electoral process."

Given that Christian entertainment has established a solid foothold in American youth culture, the bands provided RNC organizers with a way to reach young voters while affirming their commitment to traditional values. They may be on to something. "The Christian media market is crossing over into ‘mainstream,'" says Al Winseman, Gallup's Global Practice Leader for Faith Communities and a Methodist minister. "The lines are more blurred now, and being born-again is more accepted among teens and often even considered cool."

A new Gallup Youth Survey* finds that more than 6 in 10 U.S. teens identify with a specific religious denomination: 34% say they are Protestant, 23% are Roman Catholic, and 2% identify as Jewish, 1% as Mormon, and 1% as Orthodox. A substantial minority of teens, 29%, say they are atheist, agnostic, or have no particular preference (a response category that could include non-denominational Christians).

Forty-four percent of teens currently say they've attended church or synagogue in the last seven days -- but these days religious experiences geared to teens are not confined to church and Sunday school. Twenty eight percent of teens say they have participated in religious activities other than church or synagogue services -- such as youth group meetings, religion classes, or choir rehearsals -- in the past seven days. Protestant teens are almost twice as likely as Catholic teens to say they've engaged in such church functions, 37% vs. 21%.

A majority of Protestant teens, 59%, also describe themselves as "born-again or evangelical." The term, "born-again," which describes the belief that one needs a personal conversion as a way to salvation through Christ, comes from the Bible: Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.(John 3:3.) Although people of many denominations may describe themselves as "born-again," the majority of born-again Christians belong to Protestant churches.

Bottom Line

Young people are no exception to Americans' high degree of religiosity, which is one reason the lines between religion and entertainment have blurred for many teens. Solid Foundation Skate Park is a parking lot/church in Midland Park, N.J., filled with ramps where skateboarders gather every Saturday to practice their tricks and hear a sermon. This 3-year-old skateboard ministry -- one of many throughout the country -- is just part of a growing entertainment trend aimed at helping Christian teens stay in church, on track, and out of harm's way.

*The Gallup Youth Survey is conducted via an Internet methodology provided by Knowledge Networks, using an online research panel that is designed to be representative of the entire U.S. population. The current questionnaire was completed by 439 respondents, aged 13 to 17, Aug. 8-19, 2004. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

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