Teens say faith important

Friday September 02, 2016 Written by Published in Church Talk

A new American Bible Society study has found that practicing Protestant teenagers: those who identify as Protestant, attend church at least once a month, and say their faith is very important in their lives, and who read their Bible, do so the same amount all year long (73 per cent), much like all Bible-reading American teens (69 per cent).


Of those who are left, 18 per cent of practicing Protestant teens read more during the school year; only half that amount read more during the unstructured summer (9 per cent). Those numbers echo across all teens (21 per cent read more during school, 10 per cent in the summer) and non-practicing Christian teens (19 per cent read more in the school year, 10 per cent in the summer).

Those findings come from the second annual poll of how more than 1,000 teens ages 13 to 17 interact with the Bible, commissioned by the American Bible Society and conducted by the Barna Group in May.

Though there are fewer of them (16 per cent, compared to 20 per cent in 2015), practicing Protestant teens look a lot like they did last year. Slightly fewer said the Bible contains everything needed for a meaningful life (85 per cent, down from 88 per cent) and said they read their Bible every day (12 per cent, down from 16 per cent). A few more said they had read a liturgical text in the last week (14 per cent, up from 10 per cent).

The survey also asked new questions, including whether teens saw their parents reading the Bible. Half of practicing Protestants (49 per cent) said their parents read Scripture regularly; another 42 percent said sometimes.

Teens whose parents read the Bible regularly are more likely to read it themselves, Barna told Christianity Today. Among teens who say their parents read the Bible regularly or sometimes, 45 percent report reading from the Bible at least once a week, compared to just 5 per cent of teens whose parents do not read it regularly.

Of the teens who read the Bible at least once a week, 90 percent say their parents regularly (55 per cent) or sometimes (35 per cent) read scripture.

Of practicing Protestant teens who reported their parents read Scripture, almost all said that the Bible influences the rules in their home quite a lot (80 per cent) or somewhat (18 per cent).

Half of practicing Protestant teens said the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God, and a little more than 40 per cent said it was the literal Word of God, just like in 2015. Half also said their personal use of the Bible has stayed the same, and another 40 per cent said it went up in the past year; the same was reported in 2015. The biggest reason for the reported increase: an understanding that it was an important part of their faith journey (55 per cent).

But the perception teens have of reading more doesn’t match the time they reported actually reading the Bible.

Fewer practicing Protestant teens reported reading their Bible on their own once a week or more (66 per cent) than last year (74 per cent), while more reported reading once a month or less (35 per cent, up from 26 per cent).

However, they’re doing it for longer amounts of time: more read for an average of 15 to 29 minutes (43 per cent, compared to 32 per cent last year) and less read for under 15 minutes (22 per cent, down from 28 per cent).

More reported feeling encouraged or inspired by the Bible (38 per cent, up from 30 per cent) than peaceful (15 per cent, down from 21 per cent) or finding a sense of direction (20 per cent, down from 25 per cent). More also reported feeling confused (31 per cent, up from 23 per cent), but fewer were overwhelmed (16 per cent, down from 21 per cent).

Practicing Protestant teens who read less this year said it was mainly because they were too busy (71 per cent), a striking jump from those who reported being too busy in 2015 (51 per cent). On the other hand, fewer teens this year reported being frustrated at their lack of time to read (18 per cent) than last year (28 per cent).

Fewer also wished they read the Bible more (90 per cent, down from 96 per cent).

A few more said they read the Bible to feel closer to God (78 per cent, up from 76 per cent last year); a few less said they read because they knew they were supposed to (5 per cent, down from 11 per cent).

Those who read the Bible at least once a week reported that they’re thinking about what they read. Nearly all said they gave a lot of (42 per cent) or some (55 per cent) thought to how it might apply to their lives.

When they have questions, most practicing Protestant teens are asking their parents (39 per cent) or a pastor or youth director (32 per cent). Fewer ask friends (8 per cent), teachers (5 per cent), or an unrelated adult (3 per cent) what they’re wondering about.

Fewer practicing Protestant teens (37 per cent) than last year (41 per cent) felt at least somewhat confident about their Bible knowledge, including just 4 per cent who felt highly knowledgeable (compared to 10 per cent in 2015). But most could identify Solomon as David’s son (71 per cent) and Elizabeth as John the Baptist’s mother (63 per cent).

Most practicing Protestant teens wish the Bible would have more influence on public life. About 94 per cent said politics would be better if politicians regularly read the Bible (93 per cent thought so last year), while 86 percent said the Bible has too little influence on society (up from 78 per cent last year).

Seven in 10 are following the presidential campaign, and nearly 8 in 10 said the Bible influences their opinion of the candidates (78 per cent).

Half of practicing Protestant teens have watched a Bible-themed television show in the past year (51 per cent); even more have seen a Christian movie (78 per cent). Fewer have played a Bible board game (13 per cent) or a Bible electronic game (7 per cent).

For the first time, the survey asked whether teens found the Bible a source of hope. Virtually every practicing Protestant teen agreed; so did 77 per cent of all teens, 47 per cent of them strongly.

Other findings included:

            Seeing someone reading the Bible in public made 83 per cent of practicing Protestant teens feel happy that other Christians were around (up from 78 per cent last year), 81 per cent feel encouraged (up from 64 per cent), and 64 percent grateful that sacred books are still important to people (up from 53 per cent).

Predictably, using technology to read the Bible is on the rise. Significantly more practicing Protestant teens than last year searched for Bible verses on their phone (67 per cent, up from 54 per cent) and looked up Bible content on the Internet (51 per cent, up from 41 per cent). One third said they’d rather read the Bible on their smart phone or tablet app (33 per cent), up from a quarter last year (26 per cent).

Nearly all practicing Protestant teens plan to attend church on a regular basis after they graduate from high school or move away from home (94 per cent, down slightly from 96 per cent last year).

About 35 per cent of all teens strongly agreed the Bible contains all one needs to know to live a meaningful life, down from 41 per cent last year. More teens strongly agreed in 2016 than millennials (27 per cent), but less than adults (45 per cent).

            Just 11 per cent of all teens said the Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon all contain the same spiritual truths—the same as last year, and less than millennials (15 per cent) or adults (16 per cent).

            - Christianity Today

Leave a comment