The 85% Statistic is Back -- and Pretty Strong Actually

Kara Powell | Aug 24, 2009

Photo by Josh Applegate

You’ve perhaps heard the infamous statistic that 80-85% of people who become Christians do so before age 14. We youth workers especially love quoting that data when we’re asking for a larger ministry budget.

There hasn’'t appeared to be lots of hard data to back up that stat. But maybe that’'s changed.

Sociologist Dr. Christian Smith and his team at the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR) have studied teenagers of all religious persuasions (Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Religiously Indifferent, etc.). He reports in his new book, Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults, that 85% of those 18-23 who have ever made a commitment to God did so before age 14.

Remember, the study includes teenagers and young adults of all religious persuasions, and it’s not entirely clear from the book what students mean what they say they have “made a commitment to God”.

But nonetheless, this is the best data I'’ve seen in a while that supports that 85% statistic.

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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