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Survey reveals teens pray often, cheat, get mad, think about suicide

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A recent survey of Southern
Baptist teenagers revealed three-fourths have trouble with
their tempers, nearly half cheat on tests and almost one-
fourth have thought about killing themselves.
The same survey, however, shows 78 percent don’t drink,
83 percent do not take drugs and a total of 93 percent pray
“daily” or “weekly.”
“It’s shocking to know that some of the same kids who
think about killing themselves may pray either daily or
weekly,” said Clyde Hall, manager of the Sunday School
Board’s youth discipleship section.
The survey included 2,501 youth surveyed at 1997 summer
youth conferences. Ninety-five percent of the youth
answering the survey claimed to be Christians. Fifty-five
percent of the respondents were female; 45 percent were
A random sample of 500 was analyzed from the total
number of youth surveyed, according to Hall, who
commissioned the survey. He said the findings cannot be
projected to all Southern Baptist youth, but only to those
who participated in the survey.
On the issue of teens contemplating suicide, an
analysis by school grade revealed that 25 percent of high
school students compared to 18 percent of all junior high
students considered killing themselves.
Hall said he believes the older students feel more
pressure to succeed.
“I think older youth are feeling and reacting to stress
brought on by school, the strong desire of their parents to
see them succeed, pressure to excel, meet standards and just
trying to please and be the best,” Hall said.
Forty-four percent of the youth said they “sometimes”
cheat on tests, while 48 percent do not. Eight percent of
those surveyed said “yes” they do cheat on tests.
“I think the pressure to succeed at school is part of
the reason they cheat on tests and have trouble with their
tempers,” Hall said. “You can tell by looking at the
percentage who pray and who don’t drink or take drugs that
they are basically good kids. There’s just so much going on
in their lives.”
Of the youth surveyed, 64 percent read their Bibles
weekly or daily, yet 51 percent said they seldom tell people
about Jesus, and 79 percent would or might date someone who
is not a Christian.
“Youth are reading the Bible. They know about the
Bible, but they don’t know the Jesus of the Bible,” Hall
said. “They don’t seem to have a personal relationship with
him, and so they don’t tell others about him.
“That gets to some of the problems at the heart of
youth ministry. Some youth programs are more about fun and
activity and less about discipling and equipping,” Hall
said. “As ministers, we have to do a better job, a more
purpose-oriented job, in helping our youth know who Jesus
Meanwhile, nearly half the teens surveyed (47 percent)
said violence in movies does not upset them. Likewise,
almost half (44 percent) of the youth are not bothered by
nudity in movies, but it does concern 54 percent of them.
Eighteen percent of the 76 percent who indicated they
have some problems containing their anger reported having
serious temper problems.
“Basically, our youth have become desensitized to
violence and its effects on them,” Hall said. “They think,
‘It must be OK if it’s on television.’ I guess it shouldn’t
be a surprise that our youth have trouble containing their
tempers or that they act out.”
Twenty-nine percent of the youth respondents said they
were “sort of” holding a grudge against someone in their
youth group and 8 percent said they were definitely holding
a grudge against a friend. However, 63 percent of the youth
respondents said they were not holding a grudge against
someone in their youth group.
“Youth are not being taught ways to deal with anger or
hostile feelings. They are not being encouraged to relate to
one another and to have relationships based on Christian
principles of love and Jesus and peace,” Hall said.
“They get their impressions from entertainment media
that say, ‘Be a bully. Take from life what you want.’ It
doesn’t seem like ‘turn the other cheek’ exists in today’s
culture,” he said. “Youth might need to learn more about
valuing other human beings.”
Hall said parents and youth leaders have to be very
intentional about teaching youth “what’s right and what’s
He mentioned several youth products produced by the
Sunday School Board that can help in that intentional
teaching. Those include: “Share Jesus Without Fear,” youth
edition (due out in May); StraighTrak: Teen Bible Studies on
Current Issues;” “The DiscipleLife Strategy” (comprehensive,
church-based youth discipleship program that includes Bible
study, short-term topical and in-depth studies, events and
special projects); “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the
Will of God, Youth Edition;” “Winning in the Land of Giants”
(fosters healthy self-esteem among teenagers); “Setting You
Free to Make Right Choices,” based on the Right from Wrong
series; and “Fake Answers” and “Violence — The Desensitized
Generation” (both examine issues facing teens day). For a
youth ministry catalog with a complete listing of youth
products, call (615) 251-2855.
Other findings in the 1997 survey include:
Approximately three-fourths (74 percent) said sex
before marriage is wrong. That’s a 6 percent increase over
the 68 percent who answered the 1994 survey. Three percent
of the youth said sex before marriage is “OK.” Eleven
percent said it’s OK only if the people love each other;
another 11 percent just weren’t sure how they felt, and 1
percent didn’t answer the question.
The majority (51 percent) of the youth surveyed said
they handle their problems with others by “sitting down and
talking it through.” When checking “all that apply,” the
youth said they also handle problems with other people by:
ignoring them (26 percent); crying (14 percent); tearing
things up (8 percent); clamming up (8 percent); and most or
all of the above (26 percent).
A total of 73 percent of the youth said they would lie
for a friend to keep him or her out of trouble (24 percent,
yes; 49 percent, maybe). Ten percent said they would not,
and 17 percent said they were undecided.
Seventy-one percent of the youth surveyed said they lie
to their parents, 28 percent said they do not and 1 percent
didn’t answer the question. Of those who said they lie to
their parents, the majority (56 percent) do so seldom, and
32 percent do so occasionally.
The majority (58 percent) reported they “sometimes go
along with what their friends do, even if they know it is
wrong.” An additional 7 percent do this on a regular basis.
However, 35 percent of the youth reported they do not
participate in wrongful acts with friends.
Fifty percent of the youth said their friends do (8
percent) or sometimes do (42 percent) get them into trouble,
while 48 percent said their friends do not get them into
trouble. Two percent of those answering the survey said they
are more likely to get their friends into trouble.
A total of 91 percent of the youth said they make
excuses when they know they are wrong or trying to cover up
a mistake. (68 percent marked sometimes, while 23 percent
marked yes.)
Seventy-seven percent said they do (9 percent) or they
sometimes (68 percent) say bad things about people behind
their backs. However, 23 percent said they do not speak
badly of others when not around.
Hall said the surveys are conducted to give the SSB’s
discipleship department a handle on what type of resources
youth need.

    About the Author

  • Terri Lackey