Teenagers who attended church as children can cite religious facts, made friends and had fun, but many don’t retain enough Bible knowledge to apply biblical principles in decision-making, according to a new survey.

A majority of teens attended church while growing up, according to a Barna Research Group survey asking young people what lasting impressions their childhood church experiences have left on them.

Of the 56 percent of youth saying they attended church-related activities an average of two or more times monthly prior to turning 13 years old, eight out of 10 identified something they felt was an important insight or lesson they learned.

More than one-quarter (26 percent) said they received general information about God, such as claims about God’s existence, information about God’s attributes and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Seventeen percent of teens said their church experience taught them “core religious beliefs from the Bible.” And one out of seven said they learned about proper lifestyles to lead, generally referring to obedience to God’s laws and moral direction.

Barna asked teens who attended church at least once monthly to describe outcomes of their pre-teen church experience. The top three were “exposure to Bible stories,” cited by 95 percent, “learning about the lives of great people in the Bible” (92 percent) and having “fun or positive experiences related to religion” (89 percent).

Many teens also said they developed meaningful friendships at church, discovered the traditions of their church, developed a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and had valuable service opportunities through church.

A less-common outcome cited by teens, however, (53 percent) was “understanding enough of the Bible so that every decision you make is based on biblical principles.”

Pollster George Barna said the survey shows that children get helpful and valuable experiences at church, but they often don’t receive enough training to apply biblical teaching to their own lives.

“We discovered fairly strong correlations between understanding how to use the Bible for life decision-making with becoming a born again Christian during the younger years, having an active spiritual life as characterized by consistent prayer, Bible reading and church attendance, and possessing a biblical worldview,” Barna said in a release.

Barna said the study revealed disappointing evidence that most of the young people claiming to have developed an understanding of the Bible showed no evidence of applying biblical teaching to their core beliefs and lifestyle choices.

“Unfortunately less than one out of every 10 churched teenagers has a biblical worldview,” Barna said. “In other words, the result of their involvement at a church is that they can recite some religious facts, they made some friends, and they had fun.”

Jodi Mathews is news writer for EthicsDaily.com.

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