Moving from 'Have to Go to Church' to 'Want to Go to Church': Exploring Ways to Make Church Engaging and Relevant to Tweenagers

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There is an alarmingly high rate of decline in church attendance in most of today's churches. Many studies focus on why young adults are leaving the church, but some studies have shown the decision to no longer attend church is being made as early as 9 and 10 years old. In order to reverse this trend, my research included interviews of church leaders, program leaders, program participants, and parents of the participants in churches with programming focused on tweenagers.

The themes that emerged from the interviews in terms of elements that are important to the retention of tweenagers include relevant teaching, sense of community, opportunities for contribution, diverse options for participation and contribution, and consistency of leadership. From these elements, I created a program in which tweenagers serve alongside adults on each ministry area of the church, rotating monthly through each ministry area, and serving in the same manner as the adults.

Results showed that tweenagers had changes in their sense of ownership of the church and their faith. In addition, the ideology of the program leaders changed as well. The program leaders realized the tweenagers were capable of far more than they had been given credit, and the program leaders realized they needed to raise their expectations of the young people and their ability to serve in the church as full members of the Body of Christ.

Mentor: Steven Sage

Degree Name

Doctor of Missiology (DMiss)

First Advisor

Sage, Steven

Document Type



Teenagers; Church attendance; Church membership


Missions and World Christianity


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