Aussie teens value prayer over drugs and alcohol… just

159064_prayerAustralian teenagers value shopping over prayer…and prayer only just wins out over drugs and alcohol.

If you’re working with young people in the church in any way, shape or form, gaining insight into the spiritual lives of the people you are working with is invaluable. While there are many studies done in America on the spirituality of young people that is very useful and insightful for us in Australia, it is often hard to come across research that speaks into the spiritual life of Australian teens.

That is why Putting Life Together: Findings from Australian Youth Spirituality Research by Philip Hughes is such a valuable piece of research. It gives a great insight into the spiritual culture of Australian teens and what you find will be very sobering.

This book woke me up to the reality of the culture we are working in and as a youth worker – who also works within a school – this is a stark reminder of what teens actually think.

One table in particular (table 6) asked teens to rank the importance of various means to peace and happiness. Here is the ranking of what 13-24 year olds said:

  1. Listening to music
  2. Working or study
  3. Being close to nature: by the sea or in the bush
  4. Being creative artistically (like painting or craft)
  5. Shopping
  6. Prayer or meditation
  7. Drinking alcohol or taking recreational drugs

What smacked me in the face with these results were that young people find peace and happiness through prayer only slightly more than they do through drinking alcohol and taking drugs (and the difference was very slim), and they find peace and happiness through prayer less than they do through shopping.

The average young person in Australia will turn to almost everything else to find peace and happiness than they will to prayer and to God, and only just a little more than they would to drugs and alcohol.


  • The young people I am trying to talk to about Jesus simply do not care. Jesus doesn’t even register on their radar most of the time as a legitimate focus for their lives.
  • I am strange. The priorities of my life and what I value are way out of sync with those of young Australians. This is ok, but I need to be aware of this as I talk to and interact with young people.
  • When it comes to youth nights, and I get up and talk about spending time with God and the role that God plays in our lives – to a room that is half full of Christian kids and half full of non-Christian kids – I need to remember how far away from caring half the room is.
  • In trying to share the gospel with young people, I need to first remember that they really don’t care about spiritual things and remember all the other things in their life that are more important.
  • I really need to be aware of what I communicate about spiritual things like a healthy prayer life. Do I send a message that it is something you do because you’re a Christian? Or is it something you do because it’s connecting to a relational God that will change your life? Maybe teens don’t care for prayer because they don’t see that it makes any difference.

It’s important for us to remember and understand the young person we are talking to when conveying the gospel. Next time I stand up in Chapel at school and talk about prayer, I need to remember how very little the majority of people I’m talking to see prayer as something legitimate and important in their life. How do we communicate the life-changing message of God’s saving grace in a way that connects and actually registers? How can God become central to these young lives? How we communicate is key to this.

And just to drive it home even more: this research was predominantly conducted in Christian and Catholic schools.

What would the results look like for the general public?

What do these results tell you?

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5 thoughts on “Aussie teens value prayer over drugs and alcohol… just

  1. lavendilly says:

    Might it not be that they do not care, but are not aware that the reason their other pursuits feel so good and reassuring to them is that they are HAVING a spiritual experience in that moment. Once I realised that meditation and prayer can come in any moment, that blessings can be celebrated no matter what I am doing (but particularly when I am doing something that fills my soul), I could touch the spirituality of that moment.

    Also is not visualisation and goal setting a form of prayer? I think listening to music and being creative is a form of prayer, and a celebration of my inner spirituality and my beautiful world. For myself I do not talk to God or Jesus by name – but I do pray and through all those activities listed above (apart from the last one!) I connect to something beyond myself, and am teaching my children to do that too.

    and isn’t it reassuring that prayer comes before harmful behaviour? At least they recognise it is a strategy even as a last resort.

  2. tomschmidt81 says:


    I would love it if young Australians saw all of these areas of life as an opportunity for prayer and a way to become more aware of the activity and presence of God in all areas of life. this would help greatly in them discovering the holy spirit working in all of creation and help them grow as Disciples of Jesus.

    i’m glad to hear that you are aware that all areas of life carry more significance then their their face value.

    what this research shows us though is that Aussie teenagers are not thinking like this. That the idea of Prayer in any shape or form simply does not register for them.

    it’s a great call to action.

  3. matthewrentz says:

    This is quite a slap in the face, as you mention above. It’s chilling to think that even I don’t relate on the same level as teenagers anymore, considering it wasn’t that long ago when I was one.

    I’d like to think that teens would care more about prayer & spiritual disciplines…so it’s a bit of a shame that research like this is revealing otherwise. Certainly some food for thought.

  4. Sue Basedow says:

    I wondered if it might in part be because their parents don’t share with them a) by praying with them often; b) talk about answers they (parents) have received to prayer; c) the young ones don’t see their parents praying about stuff? Are parents neglecting to talk about God stuff at home, in the car, etc? Life for the current generations is so demanding, with technology pulling in so many different directions, we seem to be finding it hard to have those conversations.

  5. tomschmidt81 says:

    sue. this Data is for the average Aussie teen, not just for the christian ones. this gives us an insight into how things are. i think a lot of it has to do with parents and how they have brought kids up in a faith or have not. how they have valued prayer as a real part of their life or not. It’s no good, as a parent, just to talk about how prayer is important. it needs to be modeled and children need to see that prayer actually makes a difference in the life of their parents.

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