Date of Award

2020

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Social Science

School

School of Arts and Humanities

First Advisor

Associate Professor Trudi Cooper

Second Advisor

Dr Hossein Adibi

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to understand and compare the young people’s experiences of the church between those who attended church at the time of the study, and those who were no longer attending church at the time of the study. The study was conducted to understand more about the experiences that lead young people to leave the church, and the experiences that motivate young people to stay. A literature review, and a phenomenological study was conducted into this experience. 15 young people aged 19 – 29 were interviewed using openended questions. It was found through the literature review that relationships were the key aspect of staying or leaving. Positive relationships (including with the leadership) motivated young people to engage with church, and negative relationships motivated young people to disengage. It was found that many described a change in culture to be a cause, but this was found to be based on little evidence or poor research. The phenomenology conducted in this study found that relationships were important for the participants in this study, as was small group Bible studies. This study found a contrasting perspective between descriptions and experiences of spirituality, and those of religion, as well as contrasting correlations between spirituality and church. Participants reflected on staying despite having negative experiences, and leaving despite having positive experiences, because there were other reasons that held more weight in their decision than relationships alone. Those who had left the church reflected on how this affected them, and there were both positive, neutral and negative effects for those who left the church. The study concludes by demonstrating the application to youth work including: the importance of incorporating spirituality in youth work services, incorporating spiritual perspectives in youth work training, and recommending that faith based youth ministries adopt a youth work model.

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