Research Briefs #2 -- By: Brandon Shields
Research Briefs #2
An Assessment of Dropout Rates of Former Youth Ministry Participants in Conservative Southern Baptist Megachurches (Ph.D. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
Brandon Shields (Ph.D., the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a teaching pastor at First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Florida. He coauthored Perspectives on Family Ministry (B&H Academic) with Timothy Paul Jones, Paul Renfro, and Jay Strother. Brandon is married to Emily; they have three children: James, Cooper, and Lilly Claire.
The purpose of this research was to undertake a comprehensive study to examine the claim that between seventy percent and ninety percent of youth ministry participants drop out of church after high school. Much has been made in the field of youth ministry over the course of the past decade regarding this so-called “dropout statistic.” Little empirical work has been done, however, either to justify or to refute these statements with reliable data.
In order to accomplish this stated objective, the researcher undertook a comprehensive study of twelve conservative Southern Baptist churches with “dynamic” youth ministries across the United States. The researcher investigated the relationship between differing levels of youth ministry commitment during high school and post-high school levels of church involvement in an attempt to determine the retention rate.
Several significant findings emerged from the research. First, the research falsified the claim that youth ministry is a significant factor that leads to high dropout rates. In this study, 88% of young adults who had been actively involved in youth group were also actively involved in church as young adults, with 65% saying they “never dropped out of church.”
The research also forged new vocabulary for measuring commitment among youth that is both intrinsic and extrinsic. Post-youth ministry retention increased in a linear fashion from Disengaged Prospect (0%) to Normative Attender (79%) to Enthusiastic Follower (80%), to Engaged Disciple (92.8%).
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