Date of Award

Spring 6-9-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Nyaradzo Mvududu

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Rick Eigenbrood

Third Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Mike Langford


Christian Education, Self determination theory, motivation, religious education, child theology, Sunday school


The rise of research investigating children’s spirituality along with the emerging

view of children as social actors in their development provides the impetus to expand research investigating children’s voices around their religious experiences. A significant number of children regularly attend Christian education in church and yet there is limited research investigating how those programs support children’s faith (Bunge, 2006). The investigator designed this study to fill a gap in the literature by investigating the church as a context which supports children’s religiosity. The study was guided by theological reflection on the human spirit and self-determination theory as the theoretical framework. The research specifically assessed children’s perceived relatedness with adults and peers in church and children’s perceived autonomy in Sunday school. There is significant empirical evidence showing that parent religiosity impacts the religiosity of their children, therefore perceived parent religiosity served as a control variable in the study (Benson, Donahue, & Erickson, 1989; Boyatzis, Dollahite, & Marks, 2006; Flor & Knapp, 2001; Veermer, 2010. Four hierarchical multiple regression analyses were conducted to identify if the church variables were significant predictors of identified religiosity, introjected religiosity, or spiritual well-being in relation to God. Neither perceived relatedness in church nor perceived autonomy in Sunday school were significant predictors of identified or introjected religiosity. However, perceived relatedness in church did significantly predict relationship with God. Furthermore, identified religiosity predicted relationship with God.

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