i’m in the middle of reading kenda creasy dean‘s new book, almost christian: what the faith of our teenagers is telling the american church (it’s so good, and critical reading for all youth workers – i’m sure i’ll be posting more about it). the book is kenda’s interpretation of the findings of christian smith’s ‘national study on youth and religion’ (summarized in the book — or film, if you’re lazy — soul searching), and implications for the christian church (and, specifically, for youth ministry).
smith’s study, if you haven’t heard of it, found that the vast majority of teenagers in america subscribe to a faith he calls ‘moralistic therapeutic deism’. and, as tony jones writes in his endorsement of kenda’s book, “a lot of youth workers have been a bit depressed since the national study of youth and religion revealed what we’d long suspected about american teen spirituality.”
that’s why, early in the book, i found these few sentences very encouraging, while still clarifying the challenge:
we have known for some time that youth groups do important things for teenagers, providing moral formation, learned competencies, and social and organizational ties. but they seem less effective as catalysts for consequential faith, which is far more likely to take root in the rich relational soil of families, congregations, and mentor relationship where young people can see what faithful lives look like, and encounter the people who love them enacting a larger story of divine care and hope.