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Church and YA belonging in NZ

October 13, 2012

Perhaps a little random, but this thesis crossed my desk some years ago and its abstract caught my eye… still looks interesting to me…

Abstract: “Many churches in New Zealand are wrestling with issues of how to effectively minister with and to teenagers. Some churches are successful in this. How are they satisfying the needs of the young people who are a part of their community? What are these teenagers seeking in the church? There is some research on these issues, but it is very limited and there are several gaps that are yet to be filled. Part of the problem is that much of the research is from overseas, particularly from the Northern hemisphere, and as a result the applicability of the data in the New Zealand context is yet to be confirmed.

A focus methodology was employed with young people who were active in the lives of communities of faith. Interviews were also conducted with the adults within each of the churches that worked closely with the young people.

The young people and the adults interviewed identified the ‘need to belong’ as a prime motivator in encouraging youth participation and involvement in churches and youth groups. Belonging was defined in terms of young people’s relationships with significant people within the community of faith, particularly peers, leaders and eventually other adults. Young people also highlighted the fact that their definition of community evolved and grew as their need to belong was fulfilled. The community evolved from being just other young people, to other young people and leaders to everyone involved in the wider congregation. The theories of Abraham Maslow, James Fowler and John Westerhoff are helpful in providing explanations for this. Furthermore, it can be seen that these theories are of relevance within the New Zealand context.” (ii)

Andrew Rushan Dilojan Sinnaduray (2001) Is this where I belong? The Adolescent search for community and faith. A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Theology, The University of Auckland. (Thesis 02-220)


Abstract …ii

Introduction …1

I. Adolescent Religious belief & commitment: a review of the literature …5
Developmental theory and faith development …6
Relational factors that impact on adolescent development …16
Patterns of commitment and belonging …22
Conclusion …28

II. Methodology: Discovering what adolescents are seeking in the church …30
Introduction …30
Interviews with the young people …30
Interviews with the adults …36

III. Relationships with other teenagers in the community of faith as a factor in developing a strong sense of belonging …40
What youth are seeking in the church …40
Youth and their first contact with the community of faith …42
Church friends and ‘non-church’ friends …43
Reasons for on-going adolescent participation in the community of faith …47

IV. Relationships with adults in the community of faith as a factor in developing a strong sense of belonging …52
Youth and their relationship with youth leaders …52
Youth and their relationships with the wider church and adults in the community of faith …59

V. Adolescents in the community of faith: what are they seeking? …65
Implications for the church’s work with teenagers …68
Areas for further research …69


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