Speaking of Faith
A couple of weeks ago I was at a middle school retreat where a discussion arose among leaders about kids inability to articulate what they believe.
According to the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR) team led by Christian Smith, the vast majority of [U.S. teenagers are] incredibly inarticulate about their faith, their religious beliefs and practices, and its meaning or place in their lives. ((Christian Smith with Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 131.)) One of the teams conclusions from this is that faith communities are giving kids very little help in knowing how to express their faith, why its important to them, or how it connects with the rest of their lives. In general, this trend seems to have been true in the second wave of NSYR research five years later, reported in Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults.
The leaders at the retreat were talking about how difficult it is to help students make those connections and actually articulate what it is they believe. What I appreciate about Mark Oestreicher, who was the speaker for the weekend, was the way he was working to help leaders help their students articulate their own faith. He used his platform time to help weave together the Grand Story of what God has been up to throughout history, the centerpiece being Jesus as the Rescuer, and encouraged cabin discussion time as the time to begin fleshing it out.
I like that language of rescue, and I think its something teenagers can grab on to. In fact, our cabin discussions led to some kids working through what it may mean to be rescued, to live as rescued ones, and to participate in the Kingdom of the Rescued every day at home and at school. But more than that, I like that youth workers are wrestling with this important gap in the faith development of our students
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