Berrien Springs, MI, USA | A. Monise Hamilton / ANN

“Why are our teenagers leaving the church?”  It’s a question that crosses every denominational divide and brings commonality among varying religious beliefs and practices.

Dr. Roger Dudley, director of the Institute of Church Ministry at Andrews University, an institute of higher learning of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, has spent the last 16 years researching young people and their attitudes about religion and the Church. His newest book, “Why Our Teenagers Leave the Church: Personal Stories from a 10-year Study,” is the outcome of a pioneering, decade-long longitudinal study of why young people leave the church and why they remain in it. More than 1,500 teenagers were randomly selected from Seventh-day Adventist churches throughout the United States and Canada and surveyed every year for ten years.

“While the study was conducted on Adventist youth, the pioneering nature has made it of general interest,” says Dudley, who is the author of 12 other books on various religious topics.  “I have found that many denominations are concerned over this very problem. Extensive literature reviews have revealed that these common factors are found in all religious communities.”

Prior to the book’s publication by the Review and Herald Publishing Association, Dudley was invited to share his research findings at a meeting of the Religious Research Association in Boston, a professional organization of scholars who conduct research on religious topics. “Members of many faiths packed the room to hear my presentation and to request copies of the research,” he says. “No other religious group has ever attempted such a comprehensive and extensive study on church youth.” Excerpts from his research have been published in the Review of Religious Research, Journal of Psychology and Christianity, and Religious Education.

“I want Christians to understand the severity of the crisis, why it has developed and what parents, teachers, pastors and church leaders can do about it,” Dudley says about his decision to pursue the study.

The author admits that though he is surprised at the number of young people who leave the Church, he is pleased with the depth of loyalty of the many who remain in it.  “Parents, pastors, local church leaders, teachers, school administrators, denominational leaders, and intelligent adults who care about the future of the Church can all benefit from this knowledge,” he says.