From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Teens drawn to church camps, researchers find

Date Thu, 15 Apr 2004 11:50:46 -0500

Note #8197 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

April 15, 2004

Teens drawn to church camps, researchers find

Many faith traditions employ such programs - s'more than others

by Roxann Miller
National Study of Youth and Religion

CHAPEL HILL, NC - Spring is the time for parents to think about summer-camp
opportunities for their teenagers.

"Church camp" is a popular option, researchers have found.

Nearly 40 percent of U.S. teens between 13 and 17 have attended at least one
summer camp run by a religious organization that includes religious
teachings, songs and activities in its program, according to the National
Study of Youth and Religion.

Researchers found large differences in religious-camp attendance across
religious traditions, even when controlling for family income. Sons and
daughters of Mormon parents are most likely to have attended (78 percent),
followed by those of conservative Protestant, mainline Protestant and Jewish
parents (53, 48 and 43 percent, respectively). Catholic teens are much less
likely to have attended religious camps (24 percent).

The National Study of Youth and Religion is funded by the Lilly Endowment and
conducted by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Religious camp attendance also varies by degree of family religiosity.
Participants tend to be children of parents who attend religious services
regularly and believe faith is very important.

Family income also is a factor. Teens from families with higher household
incomes are more likely to have attended religious camps. For example, 35
percent of teens in families with less than $50,000 in annual income in which
parents attend religious services weekly have attended religious summer camp
at least once. The rate is 51 percent among similar families with annual
household incomes of more than $50,000.

Among parents who attend religious services more than once a week, the
percentages are even higher - 54 percent for lower-income families and 66
percent for those with higher incomes.

But ability to pay is only one of many factors. "Income appears to make some
difference, but does not explain everything," said Christian Smith, the
study's principal investigator. "There is clearly also an interesting
difference among different religious traditions. ... Some religious
traditions also appear to have developed better organizational
infrastructures ... (and more) camps."

 Smith is a professor and associate chair of sociology at UNC.

"It is interesting to note that, even among teens in non-Christian and
non-Jewish religious traditions, nearly one-quarter (24 percent) have
attended a religious summer camp," Smith said. "That number is even higher
(29 percent) among minority-religion teens whose family incomes are greater
than $50,000 a year. So it's not just Christian, Jewish, and Mormon teens who
attend religious summer camps."

Smith also pointed out that 16 percent of U.S. teens from non-religious
families have attended a church-related summer camp.

Does attendance strengthen the participants' faith?

The data reveal a simple correlation between attendance and the strength of
teenagers' religious faith, but researchers were unable to say to what extent
attendance itself increases teenagers' religious commitment, or to what
extent those who attend religious camps are those who already take religion

"Most likely, those influences work in both directions," Smith said. "Even
so, going to religious summer camps appears to be one of a broader set of
intentional practices that parents can pursue to help build up the religious
faith of their teens."

A random sample of more than 3,350 teens and their parents participated in
the National Study of Youth and Religion, which was conducted by telephone.
The purposes of the project are to assess the influence of religion and
spirituality in the lives of U.S. adolescents; to identify practices that
stimulate religious, moral and social development in youth; to describe the
extent of youth participation in opportunities offered by religious
communities; and to promote discussion of the influence of religion in the
lives of young people.

For more information, visit the study Web site at

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