Study Finds Evangelical and Black Protestant Teens Most Likely to Read Bible

( [email protected] ) Jul 07, 2004 05:57 PM EDT

A new study, performed on more than 3,300 American youth, found that Christian teenagers are more likely to read the Holy Scripture than all U.S. teenagers in general. The June study, conducted by the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR), also found that “far fewer U.S. teens regularly engage more personal religious practices of faith” than those who attend religious services.

The NSYR randomly selected more than 3,350 teens along with one of their parents to carry out the survey. The exact question asked during the study was, "How often, if ever, do you read from the Bible to yourself alone?"

The result was that only 32 percent of U.S. Protestant teenagers “personally read the Bile alone once a week or more often” while 26 percent of all U.S. teenagers do the same.

"Most religious traditions teach that faith and spiritual maturity does not happen automatically, but that these must be intentionally cultivated and practiced," explained Dr. Christian Smith, the principal investigator of the study. "Just as becoming good at sports or playing a musical instrument requires consistent practice, living well a life of faith also requires practice — that is what most religious traditions have always taught.”

“But these findings suggest that only a minority of U.S. teens are getting much practice at faith in the form of scripture reading." Smith added.

Smith also suggested that the actions of U.S. protestant parents might be the reason for the lack of “scripture reading” among teens.

"It could be that most Protestant adults are not very good role models for their teenagers when it comes to basic, personal religious practices like reading the Bible,” said Smith.

Separating the teenagers by denominations, the NSYR found that in general, teens with conservative Protestant and black Protestant parents tend to read the Bible more frequently, at a rate of 37 and 36 percent respectively; only 20 percent of teens with mainline Protestant Parents read the Bible.

Of the denominations, the teens from the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ read the bible the most frequently, at 44 and 48 percent. The least frequent readers came from Episcopalian families, with only 8 percent of the denomination’s teens reading the bible at a personal level.

Not surprisingly, within denominations, teenagers who regularly attended services read the bible more often than those who did not.

The National Study of Youth and Religion is funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc. According to the NSYR, the purpose of the project was to “to research the shape and influence of religion and spirituality in the lives of U.S. adolescents; to identify effective practices in the religious, moral and social formation of the lives of youth; to describe the extent to which youth participate in and benefit from the programs and opportunities that religious communities are offering to their youth; and to foster an informed national discussion about the influence of religion in youth's lives to encourage sustained reflection about and rethinking of our cultural and institutional practices with regard to youth and religion.”

The NSYR plans to publish a comprehensive report on the religious and moral lives of U.S. Protestant teenagers next year. For more information on the NSYR’s project, please visit: