Faith-Based Organizations: Oft Overlooked Youth Development Zones


  • Harrison P. Pinckney Clemson University
  • Thomas Clanton
  • Barry Garst Clemson University
  • Gwynn Powell Clemson University



Case study, collaboration, faith-based organizations, positive youth development, service


Youth development has become a mainstay within recreation and leisure studies. Leisure scholars continue to provide insight around two distinct ideas. First, the positive youth development (PYD) process is examined by exploring how program structures, adult relationships, and peer interactions impact youth outcomes. Second, attention is given to specific recreation settings such as community recreation centers, day and residential camps, and sports programs. Despite these gains in knowledge, there remains a setting that has been unexplored in the recreation and leisure literature, faith-based settings.Throughout the United States of America, faith-based programs have and continue to provide a range of programs and services that serve the needs of communities, families, and most specifically teenagers. Larger faith-based organizations provide paid staff members, dedicated spaces, and a host of other resources to support the teens of their organization and local communities. Smaller organizations find meaningful ways to provide programs to their youth as well. Similar to summer camps, after-school programs, and teen programs, faith-based programs offer caring adults, structured activities, and identifiable outcomes that promote the positive development of teens.Beyond the services provided by faith-based organizations, there’s the potential of these organizations making a positive contribution to the development of youth. Within the larger discipline of adolescent development, religiosity and spirituality are recognized as important influences on the development of youth. Although they are similar in structure and design to other youth serving agencies and there’s evidence that involvement with faith-based organizations are associated with positive outcomes in youth, faith-based youth programs lack the comparable literature base necessary to inform practice. The goal of this manuscript is to offer a clear argument for the inclusion of faith-based organizations in the discussion of youth development within the context of the recreation and leisure literature. Examples of the faith-based settings are leisure and recreation providers and potential youth development settings will also be provided. An overview of the literature around religion and youth will be offered along with a list of questions that remain unanswered. Finally, a call to action will be suggested with questions the field may consider in order to enhance our understanding of the positive youth development process. This manuscript highlights faith-based organizations through the lens of the positive youth development framework to spark thought, collaboration, and research. Subscribe to JPRA