Date of Award

1988

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Religious Education, PhD

First Advisor

Roger L. Dudley

Second Advisor

Selma A. Chaij

Third Advisor

Thesba N. Johnston

Abstract

Problem. Why are Seventh-day Adventist youth leaving the church in North America? This study, the first report of a 10-year longitudinal research project, sought to identify attitudes and behaviors of Adventist adolescents and examine possible correlations with the religious backgrounds and influences of their homes, churches, and schools.

Method. One church was randomly chosen for every 1,000 members within each local conference of the Seventh-day Adventist church in North America which totaled 695 congregations. Eventually 659 of the 695 church clerks responded, producing the names of 2,429 eligible baptized 15- and 16-year old youth. A questionnaire designed to report their backgrounds and attitudes regarding religious beliefs was mailed, with two follow-up mailings, and 1,511 teenagers responded. The statistical analyses used were correlations, t-tests, and multiple regression.

Results. Over half the respondents felt positive about Seventh-day Adventism. Fifty-nine percent were positive about their baptism, and 53% regarded themselves as active members. Seventy-seven percent indicated positive intentions to remain Adventists.

Of the 41% who wished they hadn't been baptized, 19% already identified themselves as inactive Adventists. Twenty-one percent expressed feelings of rebellion, with aperceived amount of restraint contributing to their rebellion.

The 12 strongest influences or experiences, accounting for 47% of the variance of teenagers' intentions to remain Adventists, were agreement with standards (27% of the variance), frequency of personal prayer, love expressed by members, frequency of church attendance, the church meeting their spiritual needs, undesirable aspects of competition, aid felt toward independence, both parents as members of the church, frequency of Bible reading, perceived spiritual commitment of parents, closeness of relationships, and perception that members live what they believe. The regression was significant at the .001 level.

Conclusions. Teenagers seek a religion based on relationships with and the spiritual perceptions of others. The home is the most important religious influence, with its perceived spiritual benefits influencing how much spiritual benefit is perceived from the school. Longer attendance at Adventist schools is the greatest influence on degree of agreement with the church's standards, but it is not associated with the respondents' present happiness with religion. Attendance also predicts spiritual intentions for thefuture. Frequency of church attendance and the extent to which the church meets youth's needs are strong predictors of teenagers intentions to remain Adventists. Teenagers prefer to learn religion through involvement and discussion, not traditional methods.

Subject Area

Youth--Religious life, Church work with youth--Seventh-day Adventists

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