By Joe Isenhower Jr.
In the tally of the Lutheran Youth Fellowship (LYF) Youth Poll conducted at last year’s National LCMS Gathering in Orlando, young people saw “my own faith” as their number-one concern.
Of the 2,152 participants who took the multiple-choice poll, 28 percent cited that top concern. Rounding out their top-five concerns were “the future” (23.8 percent), “family relationships” (23.3 percent), “college” (23.1 percent), and “unbelievers” (16.3 percent).
Among other choices on their top-concerns list, they identified “terrorism” (9.4 percent) and “war” (7.9 percent).
Dr. Terry Dittmer, director of LCMS Youth Ministry, who released the poll results in late November, indicated that home-schooled youth who took the poll listed “boy/girl relationships” almost four times as often (34.4 percent to 9.4 percent) as “the general response” to their top concern.
The poll has been taken every three years at all 10 National LCMS Youth Gatherings since 1980. It is sponsored by Lutheran Youth Fellowship, the Synod’s national youth organization.
For the 2007 poll, 30 percent of the respondents were males and 66.2 percent females, with 3.7 percent not indicating their gender. By age, 22.3 percent were 15 years old, 21.2 percent were 16, 20.7 percent 17, 10.6 percent 18, 2.8 percent 19, and 17.9 percent 20 or older.
On where they go to school, 61 percent attended public high schools, 8.8 percent Lutheran high schools, 3.9 percent other private or parochial schools, and 1.5 percent indicated they were home-schooled (up from .4 percent in 2004).
More than three-fourths (78.3 percent) of all poll participants lived with both parents — “an amazing statistic,” Dittmer points out, “compared with national statistics, where youth living with both parents hovers at 50 percent.”
With church participation, 77 percent considered themselves to be active or very active, and 68 percent said the same of their parents.
On the other hand, 46 percent said they engage in very little or almost no personal Bible study and devotions — the same percentage reported in 2004. Dittmer said that figure has been consistent throughout the 27 years of Youth Polls.
Between those levels of participation, 9.8 percent said they spend one to two hours a week in devotion and Bible study, 5.3 percent said they devote more than two hours a week to it, 18 percent said they took a Bible to school almost every day, and 29.4 percent said their families often talk about God and spiritual matters.
On questions of behavior and morality, Dittmer released the following poll results:
- 58.4 percent said pre-marital sex is always wrong — down from 63.3 percent in 2004 and 66.5 percent in 2001; but up from 53.8 percent in 1995, 47.5 percent in 1992, and 43.2 percent in 1986.
- 60.8 percent claimed never to have engaged in sexual intercourse. “This data falls dramatically by age,” Dittmer said, “with 15-year-olds at 77 percent, 16-year-olds at 67.4 percent; 17-year-olds at 59.3 percent; 18-year-olds at 52 percent; and 19-year-olds at 48.3 percent.”
- 65.8 percent said homosexuality is always wrong, down from 70 percent in 2004 and 75.8 percent in 1995. Among males, 75.8 percent said homosexuality is always wrong, compared with 62.5 percent of females. Among all poll participants, 23.4 percent said it’s nobody’s business to say homosexuality is a sin — girls more often (26.5 percent) than boys (16 percent).
- 14.5 percent indicated they would allow same-sex marriage, and another 11.7 percent would allow for gay civil unions. Only 57 percent said marriage should be reserved for one man and one woman.
“Youth appear to be trending with society and culture in general” on this matter, Dittmer said. The tally of those convinced that marriage is meant only for man and woman in 2004 was 70.5 percent, and 85.9 percent in 2001.
In a new question about body image, only 16.3 percent said they were totally satisfied with their body; with 66.2 percent indicating that there are things that could be improved (59.4 percent for males, 70.5 percent for females); 10.3 percent said they are embarrassed by the way they look (7.1 percent of males, 11.7 percent of females); and 16.8 percent of adults admitted embarrassment over their body image.
Concerning addictive-substance usage, 83.1 indicated they don’t smoke and 88.7 percent said that they never use drugs. But fewer than half (44.6 percent) said they never drink alcohol, and 24.6 percent said that they have been drunk at least once in the past 12 months.
On matters of worship:
- 48.7 percent said their congregations use the Synod’s new Lutheran Service Book hymnal.
- 23 percent said they didn’t know there was a new hymnal.
- 19.1 said they prefer totally traditional liturgical worship, the same as in 2004.
- 27 percent said they prefer contemporary or praise worship.
- 42 percent preferred a blend of traditional and contemporary.
- More males (24.5 percent) said they prefer traditional worship than females (16.8 percent). Girls prefer contemporary worship more (28.7 percent) than boys (22.8 percent).
- 39.9 said they can recite the words to the Common Doxology (compared with 42.6 percent in 2004 and 48.7 percent in 1998); 24.8 percent said they can’t recite the doxology and 32.2 percent checked “What’s the Common Doxology?”; 70.7 percent of the adults could recite the doxology.
Concerning ecumenical matters, 17.5 indicated they think all religions are pretty much alike and 52.2 percent think all Christians should be able to worship together.
Only 43.7 percent of poll participants said that they agree with the LCMS position on women’s ordination, with 52.1 percent of males favoring women’s ordination, compared with 40.1 of females.
Global warming also was a new 2007 topic, with 42.8 indicating it to be a real concern, and just 12.5 percent rejecting the matter out of hand.
On the war in Iraq, 27.9 per-cent indicated total support for it — males more so at 38.3 percent, compared with females at 23.8 percent. More than one-third said they supported the original invasion, but want a timeline for troop withdrawal.
With “life concerns,” 71 percent said they are pro-life, and 43.9 percent indicated that they favor the death penalty.
In a kind of straw poll for the 2008 presidential election, Dittmer reported that “other” was the clear winner, at 29.9 percent. Barak Obama drew 18.5 percent of the total — the highest of any of the &nbs