High school church youth groups: Growth and decline

Leonard Melvin Kageler, Fordham University


Empirically, much is now known about the comparative capacities of religious denominations in American society in retaining the life-long allegiances of their member's children. Researchers have considered a plethora of variables, such as family, peers, and the religious beliefs of the young, and studied their impact on commitment. The present study, however, is not focused on individual young people and their religiosity. It is about religious youth groups . Thus, the unit of analysis and my theoretical framework cannot reside solely in theories of religious socialization, though their insights are valuable. Here, the varying size of high school church youth groups is the dependent variable. The independent variables are of the kind appropriate for the study of any religious organization or, for that matter, any institution. Contextual, Programmatic, and Leadership variables stem from their respective environmental, institutional, and human resource schools of organizational theory. My specific research questions are: (1) What factors are associated with the growth and what factors are associated with the decline in senior high church youth groups? and (2) Of these factors, what is their relative importance? In Spring 1998 a survey was completed by 536 youth pastors in the four evangelical Protestant denominations. Data available from denominational records was also included in the analysis. Thirteen of the 33 variables are longitudinal in nature, reflecting measures of change from 1995 to 1997. Zero order correlations and multiple regression are performed first for each variable set, and finally for the significant variables all together. Twelve variables remained significant and are included in this final analysis. Results and discussion include implications of this research for theory related to social capital and to communitarian perspectives. Included in the appendices is a qualitative description of three church youth groups that illustrate both the variables operationalized in the study, as well as theoretical linkages.

Subject Area

Social structure|Clergy|Religion

Recommended Citation

Kageler, Leonard Melvin, "High school church youth groups: Growth and decline" (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9926887.