Rawlings School of Divinity


Doctor of Education in Christian Leadership (EdD)


Joseph Butler


Youth ministry, student ministry, Southern Baptist Convention, post-student ministry retention, student ministry retention


Practical Theology | Religion


Over the past 15 years, the exodus of students from the church after high school graduation has emerged as a pressing issue in Christian leadership and education. Much research has focused on the quantitative rate of students leaving church after graduation (Barna, 2011; Earls, 2019; “Reasons 18- to 22-Year-Olds Drop Out of Church,” 2007; Trueblood, 2019). Researchers have cited the need for qualitative research to better understand the student ministry retention phenomena (Shields, 2008). The purpose of this phenomenological study was to discover some factors which led to post-student ministry retention among young adults who participated in student ministry at a Southern Baptist church with an average attendance of 200 or greater. To explore the reasons why young adults stay connected to church, phenomenological interviews were conducted with a research population of nine young adults ages 18-22 who are currently involved in a local church. The research setting was Southern Baptist churches. Interview transcripts were be coded and analyzed with the goal of finding common themes and dynamics that encourage post-student ministry retention.