A new Barna study found that a significant proportion of teens involve themselves in volunteer projects through youth ministries and other church outreach programs.

The research's findings, which were released on Sptember 2, shed light on youth who are actively seeking to make a difference in society by loving and serving others.

The survey was conducted on the parents of the teenagers, who testified about the activities of their children, and on youth and senior pastors of the Protestant churches.

As many as 68 percent of the teens volunteer through youth ministry programs in churches nationwide.

Some 17 percent of the teens volunteer once a week, while 25 percent volunteer at least once a month and 26 percent do so once every few months.

Only 32 percent of the teens said that they are rarely engaged in such activities.

Also, church and ministry service (42 percent) was the most frequent form of volunteering activity by the teens. Helping homeless people and feeding the hungry (35 percent) was the next most common service youths are involved in. Other volunteering activities where youths engaged in include educational services (31 percent), environmental or clean-up jobs (28 percent), animal welfare (20 percent), social or political advocacy (11 percent), going on service trips (18 percent), and medical or healthcare assistance (10 percent).

The youth pastors were asked about the goal of mission trips, to which most responded that it was loving and serving others (74 percent), followed by the motive of serving as hands and feet of Jesus (56 percent), discipleship for youth (41 percent), teaching compassion (30 percent), serving the poor (14 percent), responding to systemic injustice (15 percent), opportunity for the youth to "see the world" (12 percent), and evangelism (11 percent).

Sharing the gospel on these trips was believed to be crucial (92 percent) by an absolute majority of the pastors. About 69 percent thought it was very important, while 23 percent considered it somewhat important.

A majority of the parents (74 percent) said that such mission trips made a lasting impression on their teens. Only 24 percent thought it "probably" made an impression, and 2 percent said these trips did not really make any impression on their children.

"The church, and youth groups in particular, have a unique opportunity to stand out as an authentic example of love through service by being the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need," said Brooke Hempell, the vice president of research at Barna Group. "Parents and Youth Pastors alike know the importance of this, and many find service and missions trips more engaging to youth than trying to compete for being "the coolest place to hang out on a Friday night." Further, through these experiences, teens learn first-hand what the Gospel is and have tangible life lessons to reflect on in the weeks, months, or years that follow. It is clear that service is an important element to any successful teen discipleship effort."