Youth's Favorite Parts of Church
As you can see by the chart on the right, there is a very clear winner in terms of what youth enjoy the most about church. 44% of youth prefer youth group over every other aspect of congregational life. This isn't new information; we've known that youth prefer the opportunities for community and connection that youth group provides. We also know that youth group serves young people's needs regarding identity formation and community participation.
Social events, religious education, and coffee hour follow youth group as the most popular activities (15%, 14%, and 11% respectively). These programs serve very similar needs as youth group in meeting the social needs of youth. Religious education tends to be intellectually stimulating, which certainly meets the needs of the subset of youth who seek out those opportunities.
The fifth most enjoyed is worship, coming in at 7% of responses. I personally find this statistic interesting because according to the National Study of Youth and Religion 8% of Christian youth are "devoted." I understand we cannot consider Unitarian Universalist (UU) youth devoted based on Sunday morning worship attendance – back in the day, I wouldn't have qualified, but I was so involved in other UU programs I needed signed letters every year of high school to keep me from failing based on absences! But this is a clear sign that some of our worships speak to some of our youth.
Finally, we have other (5%), justice events (4%) and serving on a committee (2 responses). Youth defined "other" in a number of ways including music and participating in UU communities outside of their congregation. Youth who prefer justice events identify strongly with a calling to help heal the world and recognize that it is an important part of being in a community. Our two young people who prefer committee work identify that it is a place where they feel like they belong and can serve their congregation.Youth Voices Youth said they preferred attending youth group for these reasons: "I love discussing my spiritual and social believes with people of my age."
"Our youth group is fun and we're all really close."
"I love worship but In Youth Group I connect with my fellow youth friends and we do all sorts of cool stuff that is just relaxing after a stressful week in school where barely any UUs attend."
"It is the only time that other youth are at my church."
"I like spending time with other kids who share the same values as I do. Youth group really helped me find friends and a community when I first started high school."Youth who preferred religious education classes said: "I find it very calming to be able to learn more about myself and who I am and what I believe in using my faith and other faiths as well as learning more about the world around me."
"Because I haven't been a part of the church as long as everyone else, I feel like I can get a better background about UUism."
"I get to share my experiences with friends, talk about different religions, and learn about different ways that Unitarian Universalists live their lives."
"Because I teach Pre-K and I love working with the kids."
"Because all the people in my class are my friends ."Youth who preferred coffee hour said: "I like to hang out with my friends and talk to people of all ages in my congregation."
"Because there's food and people."
"I like coffee hour because it's nice to talk with other members of the congregation and what's happening in other people's lives, plus the food is really good."Youth who preferred social events like potlucks and such said: "We can be together as a community."
"It's nice to get to eat good food and connect to the other people in the congregation."
"I like socializing with people I don't know as well at my community."
"They're not incredibly structured and they provide good opportunities to get to know members of the church."Youth who prefer attending worship say: "I like the spirituality that I can get when I go to services."
"It always amazes me, worship always holds fact and passion. These two things move everyone."
"It is nice to be able to worship as a community, to hear multigenerational voices."Youth who prefer justice events say: "It's incredibly important to me."
"I want to help people. Especially people who don't have certain rights or acceptance by the overall community. I want to be a social justice worker 'when I grow up' because I want people to have equal rights and opportunities."
"I really like getting out in the community and doing social justice work, and I wish my youth group would put a bigger focus on it.""Other" was defined in a number of ways, but enjoyment seems to come from music the most: "I like singing with the congregation during the service. "
"I love attending worship, religious education, and youth group but my favorite part of church is leaving church. I like leaving for Youth Cons and other Youth events. I have attending Goldmine and I FELL IN with them. Chaplain, YAC, and Junior Con Staff."
"I like doing music with the other youth."
"I find the welcoming community and the atheist group that meets to be the best parts."And our two youth who prefer committee work shared: "I feel like I have an important impact in the congregation."
"I needed a place to belong."Tell us in the comments what your favorite part of church is and why or share what you learned! Up Next: If you had a magic wand, what would you change about your church community?