Faith Communities

Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other spiritual communities are important communities and resources for many (though not all) young people and their families. Since its founding, Search Institute has sought to understand the roles faith communities play in positive youth development, faith formation, and spiritual development, particularly among adolescents.


Research Reports and Briefs


Building Bridges: Community- and Faith-Based Youth Workers Have Much to Learn from Each Other, Eugene C. Roehlkepartain

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Is There Common Ground? An Exploratory Study of the Interests and Needs of Community-Based and Faith-Based Youth Workers, Pam Garza, Stephanie Artman, and Eugene C. Roehlkepartain

Early Spirituality and Religious Participation Linked to Later Adolescent Well-Being, Peter C. Scales

Spirituality and Adolescent Well-Being: Selected New Statistics, Peter C. Scales


Uniting Congregations for Youth Development: Lessons Learned, Eugene C. Roehlkepartain


Youth Development in Congregations: An Exploration of the Potential and Barriers, Eugene C. Roehlkepartain and Peter C. Scales

The Attitudes and Needs of Religious Youth Workers, Peter C. Scales, Dale A. Blyth, James J. Conway, Michael J. Donahue, Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner, and Eugene C. Roehlkepartain

Shema: Listening to Jewish Youth, Nancy Leffert and Hayim Herring

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Youth in Protestant Churches: A Search Institute Research Report, Eugene C. Roehlkepartain and Peter L. Benson


Effective Christian Education: A National Study of Protestant Congregations, Peter L. Benson and Carolyn H. Eklin

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Research Briefs



Roehlkepartain, E.C., Naftali, E.D., & Musegades, L. (1993).Growing up generous: Engaging youth in giving and serving. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Roehlkepartain, E.C. (1993). The teaching church: Moving Christian education to center stage. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Peer-Reviewed Articles and Chapters


Roehlkepartain, E. C., & Benson, P. L. (2013). Children, religion, and spiritual development: Reframing a research agenda. In A. Ben-Arieh, J. Cashmore, G. S. Goodman, J. Kampmann, & G. B. Melton (Eds.). Handbook of child research (pp. 81-99). London, UK: Sage.


Roehlkepartain, E. C. (2006). Faith maturity. In E. M. Dowling and W. G. Scarlett (Eds.) Encyclopedia of religious and spiritual development (pp. 161-163). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Roehlkepartain, E. C., & Patel, E. (2006). Congregations: Unexamined crucibles of spiritual development. In E. C. Roehlkepartain, P. E. King, L. M. Wagener, & P. L. Benson (Eds.). The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 324-336). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Roehlkepartain, E. C. (2003). Building strengths, deepening faith: Understanding and enhancing youth development in Protestant congregations. In R. M. Lerner, F. Jacobs, & D. Wertlieb (Eds.). Handbook of applied developmental science, vol. 3: Promoting positive youth and family development (pp. 515-534). Thousand Oaks, CA; Sage.

Roehlkepartain, E. C. (2003). Making room at the table for everyone: Interfaith engagement in positive child and adolescent development. In R. M. Lerner, F. Jacobs, & D. Wertlieb (Eds.). Handbook of applied developmental science, vol. 3: Promoting positive youth and family development (pp. 535-563). Thousand Oaks, CA; Sage.

Wagener, L. M., Furrow, J. L., King, P. E., Leffert, N., & Benson, P. L. (2003). Religious involvement and developmental resources in youth. Review of Religious Research, 44(3), 271-284. doi: 10.2307/3512387


Benson, P. L., Masters, K. S., & Larson, D. B. (1997). Religious influences on child and adolescent development. In N. E. Alessi (Ed.), Handbook of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (pp. 206-219). New York, NY: Wiley.


Donahue, M. D. & Benson, P. L. (1995). Religion and the well-being of adolescents.  Journal of Social Issues, 51(2), 145-160.


Roehlkepartain, E. C. (1994). The thinking climate: A missing ingredient in youth ministry? Christian Education Journal, 15, 53-63.


Benson, P. L., Donahue, M. J., & Erickson, J. A. (1993). The faith maturity scale: Conceptualization, measurement, and empirical validation. Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, 5, 1-26.