Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctorate of Education, Ed.D.


College of Education



First Advisor

Marty A. Bullis, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Angela Owusu-Ansah, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Anne Grey, Ed.D.


Research has shown a continuous decline in the presence and engagement of the young adult population within religious communities. A number of analyses have indicated that young adults are not feeling a sense of belonging, which leads to their withdrawing or disengaging from the church. The purpose of this research was to examine the relationship between a sense of belonging and active engagement of African American young adults who are within the church. This descriptive study presents findings from an analysis of data from the 2001 congregational life survey and contemporary interviews with young adults who were active church members in the Methodist tradition. Data from the historical survey data analysis and contemporary interviews yielded important findings about attitudes regarding a sense of belonging and church engagement for two different generations. The study offers insights around six factors of engagement—involvement, activity, roles, decision-making, friends, and encouragement. The findings determined that there is a connection between a sense of belonging and engagement. Young adults who felt a sense of belonging were more involved in community and outreach ministries, participated in more group activities, held more roles in the church, participated in more decision-making opportunities, and felt encouraged by church leaders and older members. Even though, a sense of belonging is not affected by the friendships established in the congregation, having some close friends in their respective congregation is a factor.

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