Publication Date

Summer 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Studies


Susan Murray


childhood, education, religion, sociology

Subject Areas

Sociology; Religious education


Children are not clay tablets upon which adults can etch predetermined futures. Rather, children are active agents who repeatedly interact with various social fields. Religion, one of those fields, is a major social institution that influences one's religious beliefs as well as one's secular behavior. Studying children's views on religion and how they relate to their religious communities makes explicit the ways children actively participate in their own religious socialization. Consequently, this study is an in-depth examination of children's participation in their religious communities at two evangelical Protestant churches in Northern California utilizing a multiple methods qualitative approach including participant observation field methods, focus group interviews of children, and content analysis of church documents. Consistent with current understandings in the sociology of childhood, our findings indicate that children separate themselves from those of adults by creating their own "kid congregations" that are distinctly separate from the adults. Our findings further indicate that, while children and adults see the church as a place to learn and have fun, children construct the relationship between fun and learning differently than do adults. Moreover, this research addresses a gap in the sociological literature regarding how children talk about their relationships to their church communities; it has implications for how one interprets and approaches current and future studies investigating how children relate to their religious communities.