Soul Searching by Christian Smith

This thorough work by Christian Smith is an enormous research study on the spiritual lives of American teenagers. I was fascinated by the unexpected results of this study. If I had to sum up the entire study in one sentence, it would be this: American teenagers are not that different from their parents.

Here are a few facts I found very interesting:

The United States is not religiously diverse. It is mostly Christian with a smattering of atheists and smaller religions. Additionally, there is only a 10% difference in religious beliefs between teens and their parents. Almost 90% of teenagers believe that one or more religions are true, though very little practice multiple religions.

Over two-thirds of teenagers do not believe they need to be a part of congregation.

Mainline Protestants were the least articulate about their faith.

Teenagers fear being labelled “too religious” thus downplay their spiritual behavior.

Teenagers are highly influenced by individualism even from organized religion.

Parents have the biggest impact on a teenager’s spirituality.

This was a very informative and interesting work. I loved this concluding quotes from Smith: “Adolescents may actually serve as a very accurate barometer of the condition of the culture and institutions of our larger society.”

Anyone working with teenagers or emerging adults will find a lot of value in this work.

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