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Merton Strommen

By Karen E. Jones


MERTON P. STROMMEN (1919- ): As the founder of Search Institute, Dr. Merton P. Strommen is most often regarded as an expert researcher in the areas of Christian education and youth ministry. His life interests and accomplishments, however, extend far beyond the scientific study of religion and ministry. His commitment to Christ and the church, his love for his family, his incredible intellect, and his passion for excellence are all hallmarks of his extraordinarily rich life.


Merton Strommen was born into a strong Norwegian Lutheran heritage on March 31, 1919 in Calumet, Michigan. His grandfather had been a hard working, hard drinking farmer before he came to faith in Christ. It was the concerned persistence of a brother that changed the direction of his grandfather's life, ultimately setting the course for Mert's own life journey. According to one of Strommen's uncles, who was twelve at the time and eavesdropping on the confrontation from an upstairs room, one of his father's brothers traveled to their home by train, for the express purpose of sharing the gospel with Mert's grandfather. The message was met with hostility and swearing and, though he was ordered out of the house, Mert's great-uncle refused to leave. The young eavesdropper, Mert's uncle, recalls that he fell asleep before the exchange was over, but the next morning his father announced to his ten children that he was a Christian, and from that time forward they would be starting the day with prayer and Bible readings. One of those ten children was Mert's father (Strommen, 2005).

Mert's father continued to be involved with the church as a young man, but also began drinking. His conversion eventually came about as he listened to the singing of a young child at a Sunday School picnic. The powerful ability of music to touch the soul and bring about redemption is a reality that would prove to influence the ministry and life of Merton Strommen. His father became a Pastor after his conversion. Though always a strict and tough disciplinarian, he was a man of deep faith who led his family in devotions and prayer every night. The Christian faith, through the Lutheran tradition, has continued to be passed down from generation to generation in the Strommen family. Mert's three brothers have exhibited his same love for Christ and capacity for excellence. His youngest was the President of the Lutheran brotherhood and CEO of the company, his oldest became the Director of Athletics for the state of Minnesota, then the region, and was eventually named Athletic Director of the Year for the entire nation. Mert's third brother has led congregations throughout his life and currently serves as the pastor of a mega church, with ministries on three separate campuses. Each of their families share the faith and are living it out in unique and interesting ways (Strommen, 2005).

As the son of a Lutheran pastor, Mert moved around during his childhood, living in Michigan, Minnesota, and Washington. He began piano lessons at the age of 5 and began babysitting at an early age to cover their expense. At one point in his young life Mert wanted to quit his lessons, because he was frustrated by only being taught scales and arpeggios. His strict Lutheran father marched him out to the woodshed and spanked him for his stubbornness. The piano lessons continued. Mert originally planned on making music his life's work, and began playing both the bassoon and the pipe organ, in addition to the piano. He started his first choir at the age of 15, started a male traveling chorus as a senior in high school, and has directed choirs throughout his life, both male and mixed chorus (Strommen, 2005). While traveling with a Gospel Men's Quartet from Augsburg College in the forties, Mert's diaries reveal his concern that the group be empowered by the Holy Spirit, and his belief that when their quality failed, it was due to their lack of faithfulness to personal devotional time (Strommen, 2004).

After taking teachers' training, Mert signed a contract at the age of 18 to teach in a country school of 28 students, with children in 7 of the 8 grades. Not long after taking the position, the chairman of the board paid him a visit. It seems that Mert's own precociousness and perfectionistic tendencies were shaping his teaching style. The chairman informed him that the students were afraid of him and didn't want to go to school. Mert reflected on his practices, on his tendency to slap his leg with his ruler when he became impatient with the students. He realized that he was operating with the same strictness he had experienced from his own father, and determined that a change was needed in his relationship with his pupils and in his teaching style. The day after his meeting with the board chairman, Mert gave the children a longer recess, and then he started a rhythm and melody band, using bottles and other common objects as instruments. The next fall his class performed Dickens' Christmas Carol for the community. In those early years Mert learned valuable lessons about teaching and learning that he would carry forward into his future ministry research and practice (Strommen, 2005).

Strommen earned a Bachelor of Arts in both history and music from Augsburg College in 1942. His love of learning in general, and music in particular, took Mert to the University of Minnesota where he intended to continue his study of music. While there, he became particularly interested in psychology. It just so happened that a professor by the name of B.F. Skinner was also at the University during that time period, and he advertised a class that he was offering for only thirteen students. Mert was enrolled in the class for several quarters. He found Skinner to be very personable and a kind family man, though somewhat of an enigma. He was very committed to his theory of operant conditioning, but did not conduct himself accordingly. Strommen recounts how the class actually conditioned Skinner himself, without his knowing it, reinforcing his behavior by being energetic when he lectured on one side of the room, and lethargic when he moved to the other side (Strommen, 2005).

While at the University of Minnesota, Mert had a dramatic encounter. He recalls how one night, meeting and conversing with God, he sensed His presence in a powerful way. God was telling him to go into the ministry, which he had determined never to do, because of his experience of being raised as the son of a strict Lutheran pastor. After wrestling with God that night, Mert made a commitment to follow Christ as both Savior and Lord. The next day he went to Augsburg to register for the seminary, which he intended to enter after service in the army. World War II was underway and Mert had a low draft number, so he anticipated being shipped out in the near future. Though inducted into the army, he was eventually rejected for service after numerous health checks, which revealed two fractured vertebrae. His seminary commitment began sooner than he had anticipated (Strommen, 2005).

While at Augsburg Theological Seminary, Mert was director of a number of choirs in large churches. He also helped out with a congregation that was without a pastor, then eventually took on responsibilities for two congregations. He would travel by bus on Fridays to his churches, hold five different services over the weekends, then return by bus on Monday mornings. He carried a full seminary load throughout this same time period (Strommen, 2005).

It was during his time at Augsburg that Mert met his wife of more than 60 years, Irene. He convinced her, a freshman, to join one of the choirs which he was directing. One night after a concert they were walking together and talking and established a quick friendship. Irene's father had immigrated to the United States from Norway, and was also a pastor, so the two had much in common. They passed a courthouse on their walk that night, to which they would later return to acquire a marriage license. Mert and Irene were wed on June 23rd, 1944, the same year in which Strommen received a Master of Theology degree from Augsburg Theological Seminary (Strommen, 2005).

In addressing the Association of Youth Ministry Educators in 2001, after receiving their Outstanding Youth Ministry Educator award, Mert remarked that youth work has been his life work - his passion (Strommen, 2001, October 27). This commitment to youth can be clearly traced back to his time at Augsburg, and possibly began to emerge during those days he spent teaching in the one-room schoolhouse. Regardless of when and where the passion first began to grow, it became a guiding force near the end of Mert's seminary studies. During this time he became concerned about the lack of leadership with church youth. He had been working with them and was very pleased with their responsiveness; he derived satisfaction from the direction of his youth ministry. Always a leader and a visionary, Mert went directly to the president of the church body and expressed his concern over the fact that there was no Youth Director for the Lutheran Free Church (LFC). He volunteered to take on the responsibility himself, agreeing to raise funds for the position, since he was told there was no money available for such a venture. After graduation, Mert was assigned this position part-time, in addition to his vocation as a parish pastor (Strommen, 2005).

Eventually Strommen returned to Augsburg as the college pastor, while continuing to serve as Youth Director for the LFC. In 1947, he began teaching a class at the college entitled "Youth Work in the Church", one of the first such courses to be offered in the nation. During his tenure at Augsburg College, Mert traveled to congregations during the summers with one of his three quartets. As the quartet made its rounds, he took the opportunity afforded by his travels to invite youth leaders from area Luther Leagues to meet with him for informal training. He would use the time to inform them about the work of the denominational youth body and recruit their help. Mert also played the piano during these visits and performed evangelistic concerts, singing with three other members from the Augsburg choir. He would then make an appeal for those present to commit their lives to Christ. These concert/meetings proved to be a strong recruitment tool for the college, as many students got to know Mert, the college pastor, youth leader, musician, evangelist and professor, through his travels to their home towns (Strommen, 2005).

Strommen remained at Augsburg College for 10 years, and began taking graduate studies in counseling at the University of Minnesota to help him become more effective in his interaction with students. He completed a Master of Arts in Educational Psychology in 1956 and was the recipient of the Lutheran Brotherhood Preus award, given to one Lutheran student each year. This $2000 award enabled Mert to begin his doctoral studies at the University of Minnesota (Strommen and Benson, 1994, p. 1). He and Irene had three sons by this time, and Strommen continued teaching classes in youth work and religion at Augsburg, remained the Youth Director of the LFC, and also directed a radio choir (Strommen, 2005).

Strommen worked closely with the youth directors of the other Lutheran bodies. While at a retreat together in the fall of 1957, these youth leaders were discussing the anticipated merger of their various denominations into one body, which was to take place in 1960. They expressed their desire to better understand their young people, to know what they really believed. This information would be crucial to the formation of new denominational youth programs. By this time, Mert had completed his course work and comprehensive exams for the Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and was searching for a meaningful dissertation study. The idea emerged from this meeting that Strommen would write a doctoral proposal for a scientific research study which would help them discover what they wanted to know. He would develop an instrument and all of the denominational groups would contribute financially and help with the data collection (Strommen and Benson, 1994, p. 1). This research of Strommen's became the very first scientific study of denominational youth.

Mert worked on his dissertation from 1958-60 and the data was analyzed in 1959, with the results shared in eight different publications, which he authored. The 97% participation in random sampling of the congregations, and the more than 80% participation of those who were drawn into the study, contributed to the overwhelming success of the project, in terms of useful data collected about youth beliefs. The results of this study on Lutheran youth were covered by a Minneapolis writer, Wilmer Thorkelson, who was a stringer for the AP and UPI. Because of his connections, Thorkelson's large article in the local Minneapolis paper was picked up by the media and the study results were disseminated throughout the country (Strommen, 2005).

The results were so exciting in terms of their potential usefulness to the church that in 1961 Mert resigned from his position as Youth Director of the LFC to become the very first full-time Research Director of Lutheran Youth Research (LYR), established in 1960 as the Lutheran Youth Research Board. The position was denominational, yet independent, in that research would be conducted with all faith groups. The work was funded by the various youth departments for the first eight years, then became totally supported through grant monies. A ten year plan was developed for LYR to continue the work initiated with the Lutheran youth study (Strommen and Benson, 1994, pp. 2-4).

Strommen also suggested using the Youth Survey with congregations, providing pastors with individual profiles. During 1962-63, 166 churches participated in this endeavor. In August of 1963, Mert's first book was published, Profiles of Church Youth, presenting the findings of the first study of Lutheran youth and a cross-validation study of Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod youth. The LYR board, under Strommen's leadership, continued to clarify its mission during the early sixties. It introduced a counseling seminar at Ann Arbor in 1964 and began discussing the possibility of a master's program for youth work at Augsburg College. The Religious Education Association also hired Mert to serve as their Research Director for a few years (Strommen, 2005). In 1965, Strommen presented a paper to professors and research directors at a sectional meeting of the National Council of Churches, establishing the relationship between Christian theology and psychological measurement (Strommen and Benson, 1994, pp. 5-8). The paper became an important reference for the future work of the LYR. Mert continued to teach his youth work class at Augsburg during this time, and lead a youth Bible class in his home to keep him in touch with church youth. He taught this class for 35 years. Mert also taught a youth counseling class at Luther Seminary (Strommen, 2005).

The LYR board received outside funding in 1966, allowing them to become independent of the denominational youth departments. The name was changed in 1967 to Church Youth Research (CYR). During this same period, the Lilly Endowment awarded them with $50,000 for a youth ministry project, which Strommen co-directed. During 1967-68, he developed a publication entitled Review of Research in Religious Development, which evaluated all of the published research from 1900 onward, which included a religious variable (Strommen and Benson, 1994, pp. 8-10).

The CYR experienced periods of prosperity and poverty, sometimes causing Dr. Strommen to question the direction of his life's work. A journal entry on November 26, 1968 reflects this uneasiness. Awaiting the response to a proposal submitted to the National Institute of Mental Health, Mert wrote: "Several mornings last week I wakened with a start, wondering how we would pay our debts, if we had to scatter to other jobs. (We borrowed $10,000 to finish the year and have used up the $50,000 from Lilly)." On November 28th, he wrote: "I awakened early this morning and fell victim to my fears. What if the government grant falls through as did the AAL proposal? What happens to all we have been led to do? Do we hang on to await the verdict on the other proposals? Do I stay in research or agree that God does not favor my work in this area? If so, where do I go?" (Strommen and Benson, 1994, p. 10). The money came in and confirmed Mert's convictions about his life direction. Reflecting on this time, Mert included the following in his December journal: "From time to time I am aware of the stress of this job. Therefore, my need for an hour a day in prayer and regular exercise is real. I do not wish to succumb to arthritis and other things attendant with living in such a stressful job" (Strommen and Benson, 1994, p. 11).

The CYR continued to grow and engage in research with various religious institutions. Strommen served as the principal researcher on several projects during this time in the late sixties and early seventies, including A Study of Generations, a widely acclaimed work hailed as an "assured classic" by Time Magazine. He and Irene wrote Bridging the Gap, one of three books that resulted from this landmark study. Mert and Irene worked together on subsequent books, Five Cries of Youth, Ministry in America, Five Cries of Parents, and Five Cries of Grief. Five Cries of Youth, published in 1974, was especially significant because it clearly presented scientific data which refuted Margaret Mead's thesis of a "generation gap" which had been embraced by some national youth leaders, much to Strommen's distress (Strommen and Benson, 1994, p. 15-16).

In 1977, Strommen suggested that CYR change its name to Search Institute, to reflect its broadening mission. He continued to give visionary leadership to the Institute, gaining grants and supports from an increasingly wider constituency. One such grant was from the National Endowment for the Humanities, awarded in 1977 for a study of the beliefs and values of members of Congress (Strommen and Benson, 1994, p. 17-18).

Strommen announced in 1978 that he would relinquish his responsibility as President of Search Institute in mid-1984. At that time, he shared his vision for the future of the organization which had grown out of his doctoral studies and passion for ministry effectiveness. Before stepping down, Mert saw his organization engaging in expanding research on important issues, including a partnership with WQED in Pittsburgh, a joint venture that allowed Search to participate in public television programming which enabled them to help disseminate life enhancing information. One of these joint projects, Chemical People, was on the cutting edge of programs designed to curb drinking and drug abuse by young people. As a result of this project, Mert was invited to a luncheon at the White House, hosted by Nancy Reagan (Strommen and Benson, 1994, pp. 23-24).

The Institute celebrated a banner year for income in 1984, and Mert officially left his role as president in 1985. Even after leaving his leadership role, he continued his work at Search Institute, participating in major research projects in the areas of design, analysis, and interpretation. One such project was the landmark study initiated in 1988, Effective Christian Education: A National Study of Protestant Congregations, which was funded by the Lilly Endowment (Strommen and Benson, 1994). Strommen also founded the Augsburg Youth and Family Institute at Augsburg College in 1987, and served as its Director until 1990 (Strommen, 2005).

Mert continues to write and has published at least half a dozen books since his "retirement." He also continues to have a strong commitment to personal health. Mert is faithful in his exercise, with a regimen including two miles of fast walking, a weight workout, and fifteen minutes of swimming. This has undoubtedly contributed to his robust energy, well into his eighties. Mert has always had a strong athletic interest. He played football and basketball with his sons as they grew up, who all played varsity ball in their high school years. Two of them continued to play college basketball (Strommen, 2005).

As a father, Mert and his wife, Irene, had three non-negotiables: the time you came in at night, family devotions, and Sunday church attendance. While they didn't press any vocational choices upon their sons, four of the five pursued positions of ministry leadership. Three of them are ordained pastors today, and one is a lawyer.

One of their sons, David, was studying youth and family ministry at Luther Seminary, when he was killed by a lightning strike in Colorado while leading a youth camp. It was out of this experience that Mert and Irene wrote the immensely insightful and transparent book, Five Cries of Grief (Strommen, 2005). An interesting and important tradition also began in the Strommen family following David's death. They hold a family service at Christmas, right after dinner, which includes the Christmas story and songs which overview the entire event of Christmas. The tradition is completed with a candle lighting service. Each member of the family, including the eleven grandchildren and one great-grandchild, light a candle from the Christ candle, saying, "I am lighting my candle so that Jesus would light my way." One of the Strommen sons made a log which holds each candle. The first candle lit is always a confirmation candle for David. The service ends with a time of quiet meditation, followed by free prayer. Each of David's brothers has one of these logs in their homes today (Strommen, 2005).

Dr. Strommen is always thinking in advance and toward the future. He is now taking piano lessons again, and still has a strong interest in music. At the age of 85, Mert released a CD, 24 Piano Favorites, a remarkable compilation of both classical works and improvisations. In 1993, he traveled to Norway to celebrate the anniversary of the first Augsburg quartets, who had returned there as immigrants to promote total abstinence organizations. Mert led a male chorus of former quartet members, who were invited to the palace for a reception, at which they sang for the King and Queen of Norway. Mert eventually relinquished his leadership role in the quartet, after decades of choral leadership (Strommen, 2005).

In reflecting on his life's work, Strommen describes it as nothing less than providential. It is his belief that God has placed him in the middle of some very important developments in youth and church ministry. This is abundantly clear to anyone who reads of his accomplishments. His quest for knowledge and unwavering pursuit of truth and excellence remain acute, even in his advancing years. No one who spends time with Dr. Strommen could question his intellect, his passion, or his love for Christ and His church. While those early injuries that kept him out of the army have begun to plague him in recent years, Mert remains active and committed to research, study, and writing, and he and Irene still live in Minneapolis.

Contributions to Christian Education

Merton Strommen's greatest gift to the Church, and the field of Christian Education, is undoubtedly his founding of Search Institute, which evolved over time from his doctoral dissertation in the fifties. His love for youth and his desire to see them grow spiritually, combined with his interest in clinical psychology, brought to light the importance of utilizing research to enhance the effectiveness of ministry. This "marriage" of Christian theology and clinical psychology was not without its critics. Strommen addressed the risks most succinctly in an article published in Religious Education in 1965, "Christian Theology and Psychological Research." In describing the characteristics of the Christian researcher, he wrote:

Whether he serves as an interpreter of psychology or a research agent, he must do so as one caught in the mission of Jesus Christ. Only as he incarnates the Gospel while serving as a scientist, can Christian theology be adequately related to the empirical sciences. If he serves in research then I believe the following will characterize this commitment.

1. His choice and conceptualization of research projects will reflect his awareness that the church is not only a part of the Gospel but also God's mission to the world. And the research project, then, is a demonstration of God's mission.

2. His sense of mission will impel him to the higher standards of research and a continuing discontent with present insights into important matters.

3. His awareness of the limits of psychological research (psychology has been called the queen of the inexact sciences) will encourage a God-given humility. He will ask that his findings be a stimulus to inquiry and reflection and not a new voice of authority in the church.

4. He will interpret his data in light of God's revelation in Jesus Christ. He knows also that when his church does not live by her reconciliation, she thereby deprives the world. Thus he sees his task as a ministry to the church through helping her listen and be questioned.

5. He will view scientific advance as part of God's continuing creation, to be employed in gaining a more rational understanding of those with whom he would share himself and his faith (Strommen, 1965, p. 208).

Strommen's copious and voluble work reveals his embodiment of these characteristics. This is very evident in his 2001 work, The Church and Homosexuality: Searching for a Middle Ground. As a Lutheran pastor, Strommen became especially disturbed by the church's lack of biblical reflection on the issue and its implications. As a Fellow in the American Psychological Association, he has an insider's perspective on how society has shifted its position on the issue as well. Strommen's work offers a dialectical approach, which combines careful research skills and sound biblical study to provide an intelligent, honest, and compassionate view of homosexuality and how the church should respond.

Much, if not most, of Strommen's research, writing, and teaching has been focused on youth. He served as the first Youth Director of the Lutheran Free Church, Research Director of the Lutheran Youth Research Board which became the Church Youth Research institute, and eventually Search Institute. He taught youth ministry and counseling courses at Augsburg College and Luther Seminary, and founded the Augsburg Youth and Family Institute. His pioneering efforts in the scientific study of church youth have contributed to the growing profession of youth ministry. Two of his most recent research projects exemplify his continuing commitment to this area of interest, Youth Ministry That Transforms and Congregations with Youth of Vital Faith. These major studies are also reflective of another of Mert's great contributions to the field; both involved youth or youth ministers from multiple denominations. Strommen's ministry is characterized by cooperation between Christians in Catholic, Mainline, and Evangelical churches. His work as Research Director for the Religious Education Association most certainly gave him a Kingdom vision for ministry and the importance of cooperation.

Merton Strommen has been recognized numerous times for his excellence and commitment. He received the Preus Award as Lutheran of the Year from the Lutheran Brotherhood in 1956, which allowed him to pursue his doctoral studies, and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Augsburg College in 1970, where he also served on the Board of Regents. Strommen received both Fellow Status in the American Psychological Association and the William James Award from Division 36 of the APA in 1983. The Association of Youth Ministry Educators recognized him as an Outstanding Youth Ministry Educator in 2001 and he was awarded the Philip R.A. May Award for the Society for Knowledge Utilization and Planned Change. The impact of his life and work is best expressed by those who have worked with him most closely. The following quotes are excerpts from a Tribute Book presented to Merton Strommen in August of 1994 (Strommen and Benson, 1994).

"Mert came to me in about 1955 to ask me to serve as his M.A. advisor…This man's ability was soon apparent. I found myself encouraging him to go on to the Ph.D. The shoe was on the other foot. In the great post-war push of students for graduate work, students pleaded with me to take them on. I was pleading with Mert to believe in his ability as I did and go on to the Ph.D.! When his thesis was accepted, Ph.D. granted, dissertation published (way unusual) I was not surprised. Mert was!"- Gilbert Wrenn, Ph.D., Tempe, AZ

"The members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod owe you a very special thank-you for the leadership and counsel you gave us nearly a decade ago as you helped our denominational leaders focus on the most urgent needs of our day and how to respond to them. The lives of many, including my own, have been deeply touched by what you taught us then, and by your personal example of faith and courage, too. Well done, good and faithful servant!"- Ralph Al Bohlmann, President Emeritus, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

"In your own somewhat different but most talented manner we have seen (in the results above all else) how you continually express your concern for others in ways that we believe only a person of deep and abiding faith would and could do. Yes—you may at times be a model of Scandinavian reserve but to us it is as if there is a bright banner across your forehead which says 'I care about you- I pray constantly that God will help me so that I can give and contribute ever more to helping you and others like you.'"- Robert M. Skare, Search Institute Board of Directors

"Your approach to research was exemplary- it met real human needs (these days we would call it 'strategic') and was conducted with scientific rigor. You were visionary in identifying important topics to purse."- Anne C. Petersen, Deputy Director, National Science Foundation

"You have contributed a great deal in your career…Your pastoral concern for the church's ministry with youth; your ability to see complex issues and find ways to explore them; your venturesomeness in founding Youth Research Center and guiding it toward its more stable institutional expressions as Search Institute; your faithfulness as father, husband, and churchman… The list of notable achievements is large, and a huge cadre of people are beneficiaries of your work, your kindness, your insight, your energy."- Daniel Aleshire, Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada

"Let me say now that through these decades you have fed me with data and inspiration. If I miss-generalize about the young, or Lutherans, or the religiosity of congresspeople, or whatever, it's your fault. Positively: like thousands of others, I've found good reason to rely on you and SEARCH."- Martin E. Marty, University of Chicago Divinity School

"I suspect that none can ever know how many budding scholars blossomed because of your constructive support. To listen to your always positive criticism conveyed a sense of perspective far beyond the content of whatever issue was under discussion or paper that was being written."- Bernard Spilka, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, University of Denver

"For over one-third of a century, you stand tall among a select group of intellectuals who have led in the analysis and dissemination of research on the relationship between the mind and the spirit. It is this analysis which has done so much to bring new insight and new enthusiasm to this vital dimension we know to be faith."- Paul Ramseth, Lutheran Brotherhood

Works Cited

  • Strommen, M. P. (1965). The relation of Christian theology to psychological research. Religious Education, 199-208.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1994). A personal history of Search Institute. In Merton P. Strommen and Peter L. Benson, Search institute history 1957-1994 (pp. 1-25). Minneapolis: Search Institute.
  • Strommen, M. P. (2001, October). Three imperatives in youth ministry training. Paper presented at the meeting of the Association of Youth Ministry Educators, San Diego, CA.
  • Strommen, Merton P. (2004). The Augsburg quartets: A mission-driven tradition. . Minneapolis, MN: Lutheran University Press.
  • Strommen, Merton P. (2005) Interview by Karen Jones.



  • Andress, S., Strommen, M. P. & Samples, P. (Eds.). (1996). Your congregation's future: A faith-centered planning process: Stage 1: Committing. Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute.
  • Benson, P. L., Strommen, M. P. & Williams, D.L. (1982). Religion on capitol hill: Myths and realities.
  • Brekke, M. L., Strommen, M. P. & Williams, D. L. (1979). Ten faces of ministry: Perspectives on pastoral and congregational effectiveness based on a survey of 5000 Lutherans. Augsburg Fortress Publishers.
  • Schuller, D. S., Strommen, M. P. & Brekke, M. L. (Eds.). (1980). Ministry in America. San Francisco: Harper & Row.
  • Solberg, R. W. & Strommen, M. P. (1980). How church-related are church-related colleges? Answers based on a comprehensive survey of supporting constituencies of 18 LCA colleges. Philadelphia: Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America; New York: Division for Mission in North America.
  • Strommen, M. P. (2004). The Augsburg quartets: A mission-driven tradition. Minneapolis, MN: Lutheran University Press.
  • Strommen, M. P. (2001). The Church and homosexuality: Searching for a middle-ground. Minneapolis, MN: Kirk House Publishers.
  • Strommen, M. P., Jones, K. E. & Rahn, D. (2001). Youth ministry that transforms. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
  • Strommen, M. P. & Hardel, R. A. (2000). Passing on the faith: A radical new model for youth and family ministry. Winona, MN: Saint Mary's Press.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1997). The innovative church: Seven steps to positive change in your congregation. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress.
  • Strommen, M. P. & Strommen, A. I. (1993). Five cries of grief: One family's journey to healing after the tragic death of a son. New York: HarperCollins.
  • Strommen, M. P. & Strommen, I. H. (1993). Five cries of parents. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Youth and Family Institute.
  • Strommen, M. P. & Ram Gupta. (1993). Five cries of youth: Issues that trouble young people today (Second Rev.ed.). San Francisco: HarperCollins.
  • Strommen, M. P. & Andress, S. (1980). Five shaping forces: Using organizational dynamics to do more with less. Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1973). Bridging the gap. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House.
  • Strommen, M. P., Brekke, M., Underwager, R. & Johnson, A. (1972). A study of generations. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House.
  • Strommen, M. P. (Ed.). (1971). Research on religious development: A comprehensive handbook. New York: Hawthorn Books.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1963). Profiles of church youth. St. Louis, MO: Concordia.

Book Chapters and Monographs

  • Strommen, M. P. (1995). Ministering to families in the twenty-first century. In Life-changing events for youth and their families. Nashville, TN: Convention Press.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1994). A personal history of Search Institute. In Merton P. Strommen and Peter L. Benson, Search institute history 1957-1994 (pp. 1-25). Minneapolis: Search Institute.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1991). Four imperatives: Youth and family ministry. Minneapolis, MN: Youth and Family Institute of Augsburg College.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1966). Youth work in the Lutheran church. In Encylopedia of the Lutheran church (pp. 2555-2561). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing.


  • Aleshire, D. O.& Strommen, M. P. (1978). Introducing innovations into volunteer organizations: Factors associated with resistance to change. Innovations, 2.
  • Johnson, A. L., Strommen, M. P. & Brekke, M. L. (1974). Age differences and dimensions of religious behavior. Journal of Social Issues, 30.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1984). Psychology's blind spot: A religious faith. Counseling and Values, 150-61.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1982). Five cries of Lutheran parochial school students. Lutheran Sunday Schools Quarterly.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1980). Sitting on a time bomb. The Lutheran Standard, 8-10.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1980). Eight factors in school vitality. Momentum, 11 (1), 32-35.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1974). Project youth: Training youth to reach youth. Character Potential, 6, 117-81.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1970). Alienation and gratification in religious education. Social Compass, 17 (3), 439-43.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1970). Entfremdung, befriedigung, ernuckterung. Lutherische Rundschau, 192-99.
  • Strommen, M. P. ((1969). Alienation, gratification and disenchantment. Religious Education, 64 (5), 362-68.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1968). Evaluation and christian growth. Review and Expositor, 65 (2), 195-207.
  • Strommen, M. P. ((1967). Do Christian beliefs encourage prejudice? The Lutheran Standard, 7 (11), 6-7.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1967). Christian anti-semitism. Lutheran Forum, 6-9.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1966). Religious education and the problem of prejudice. Religious Education, 52-59.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1966). Indicators of faith. Interaction, 3-5.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1966). I can't get close to my young people. Eternity, 20-22.
  • Strommen, M. P. (1965). The relation of Christian theology to psychological research. Religious Education, 199-208.

Other Materials

  • The five cries of parents: A conversation with Dr. Merton Strommen. (1985). YouthWorker, 50-57.
  • The myth of the generation gap. (1984)). Christianity Today, 14-19.
  • Strommen, M. P. (2005). 24 Piano Favorites. Music CD, E-2767.
  • Strommen, M. P. & R.K. Gupta. (1971). Manual for youth research survey: Section 4. Minneapolis, MN: Youth Research Center.

Reviews on Strommen's Works

  • Book Reviews. (1993). [Review of the book Five cries of grief: One family's journey to healing after the tragic death of a son]. Christian Century, 110 (12), 410-11.
  • Brandis, J. (n.d.). [Review of the book The church & homosexuality: Searching for the middle ground]. Lutheran Chaplaincy Service. Retrieved February 6, 2006, from
  • Bullard, G. (2000). [Review of the book The innovative church]. The Ooze: Conversations for the Journey. Retrieved February 6, 2006, from
  • Dittes, J. F. (1981). [Review of the book Ministry in America]. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 20 (4), 386-87.
  • Gorsuch, R. L. & Wallace, W. L. (1982). [Review of the book Ministry in America]. Review of Religious Research, 24 (2), 169-72.
  • Heath, D. H. (1975). Compassionate, perceptive, honest, but biased by author's presupposition. [Review of the book Five cries of youth]. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 14 (1), 76-78.
  • Kasemann, E. (1980). [Review of the book Ministry in America]. Library Journal, 1645.
  • Lewis, D. (1982). [Review of the book Ministry in America]. Review of Religious Research, 24 (2), 172-75.
  • Mosser, D. N. (2001). A Review of Books: Pastoral care, Christian education, church administration. [Review of the book Passing on the faith: A radical new model for youth and family ministry]. The Clergy Journal, 55.
  • Nichol, D. H. (n.d.). [Review of the book Passing on the faith: A radical new model for youth and family ministry]. Resourcing for Ministry in the 21st Century, Retrieved February 6, 2006.
  • Vangerud, R. D. (1981). The ministry today: A survey of perspectives. [Review of the book Ministry in America]. Word & World, 391-97.

Excerpts from Publications

Strommen, M. P. (1968). Evaluation and Christian growth. Review and Expositor, 65 (2). ,

Though we grant that the partial and general findings of research add nothing to the revelation of God in Christ, they can be a means by which God speaks to Christians that is beyond scientific truth. He can use them to show his people the serious shortcomings in their understanding of God's special revelation and their obedience to it. (p. 199)

Strommen, M. P. (1984). Psychology's blind spot: A religious faith. Counseling and Values. ,

My understanding and faith in God as Creator leads to the conviction that science should be viewed both as a divine gift of the Creator and a divinely appointed task. Though science and technology are claimants of the same world, they need not be competitive, but rather should attempt to be complementary disciplines. They represent two different attitudes in one world, two different modes of apprehending it, and two different ways of accounting for it.

It is my conviction that psychology as a profession will have a more accurate and useful understanding of human behavior when its studies take seriously the impact of religious beliefs and values. And, likewise, religious institutions through such research will be helped toward a greater understanding of how best to minister to people under stress. Such cooperation, if we can help bring it about, would open a most promising future. (p. 160)

Strommen, M. P. & Strommen, A. I. (1993). Five cries of grief: One family's journey to healing after the tragic death of a son. , New York: HarperCollins.

I discovered also how much comfort is given through the written word. In the past I seldom read the verse on a greeting card. Now I read every word and eagerly looked for written comments. I treasured the letters and cards we received and read each one several times. What I especially appreciated were the many people who said they would pray for us each day. Never before had I felt such a great need to be prayed for.

In the past, people thought of me as one well able to care for myself. Now it was different. My whole being quietly cried out for support and love. I was discovering what it means to be part of the body of Christ. When one suffers, others suffer with you. I was the one suffering. (p. 62)

Strommen, M. P. (1993). Five cries of youth: Issues that trouble young people today (Rev. ed.). , San Francisco: HarperCollins.

"The message, which people are to incarnate, centers in promise and possibilities-no person is a hopeless case. Possibilities for change are open to everyone because implicit in each of God's promises are the words "I am with you." The unique potential in a Christian ministry is the awareness of God working in man, inspiring both the will and the deed.

A Christian youth ministry should be an extension of one's theology. The accent should be not on problem solving (overcoming fears, gaining confidence, improving one's self-concept) but on helping youth to become aware of possibilities found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. This means communicating to youth that they are loved, are important, have potential, and can look forward to growth and positive change. (p. 37)

Strommen, M. P. (1993). Five cries of youth: Issues that trouble young people today (Rev. ed.). . Boston: Pilgrim Press.

This landmark study is recommended for all persons ministering with youth, teaching youth, parenting youth, and caring for youth. It is rich in story, research, and insightful instruction.

Strommen, M. P. & Strommen, A. I. (1993). Five cries of grief: One family's journey to healing after the tragic death of a son. New York: HarperCollins.

The Strommens present a powerfully transparent account of how the death of their son has impacted their lives. Presented from both a mother's and father's distinctive perspectives, it is moving and insightful. It is strongly recommended for those experiencing the death of a loved one and for ministers counseling those walking through this tragedy.

Strommen, M. P. & Hardel, R. A. (2000). Passing on the faith: A radical new model for youth and family ministry. Winona, MN: Saint Mary's Press.

This book is for academicians, ministers, and parents who are interested in the spiritual formation of youth. It includes solid research and creative ministry suggestions for families and churches.

Author Information

Karen E. Jones

Karen E. Jones (Ph.D. in Youth Ministry, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas) serves as Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Mill Valley, California, and Associate Professor of Ministry and Missions at Huntington University, Huntington, Indiana.