DECHURCHED & Churches could win back teens like me if they were more welcoming and less judgmental. #USAtoday

by Stacia Dayskovska, USA Today, 8/18/19.

From the standpoint of teens like me, many Christian denominations are too deeply rooted in tradition. Whatever this “tradition” comes dressed as, we find it a turnoff. Because of this, church should offer more open-ended resources to teens — such as meditation, discussion groups, and even nature walks. In other words, the Christian church experience needs to start transcending the traditional and adapting to the times. Only then can teens start finding meaning in church beyond traditional mass, and realizing they can come to God in their own way without indoctrination or an intermediary.

Offer teens flexible ways to worship

Teen religious disillusionment is more prevalent than ever. Today’s teens are the first generation to be called “post-Christian,” meaning they lack a sense of Christian identity. When Barna Group asked why last year, 17% of the churchgoing 13- to 18-year-olds in the survey said church is too much of an exclusive club for them to relate to it positively. And that’s only from those that do go to church. For teens that don’t, views of church are as detached as they are disapproving; 23% of non-attenders said a barrier to their faith remains the fact that Christians are hypocrites.

However deep-rooted and unalterable these attitudes towards the church seem, there’s actually great potential for inclusive policies to work. While only a slight minority of young adults claim they are still searching for a religion, a substantial 29% are already spiritual but seeking an outlet to deepen their beliefs. This means that if teen-centered programs are extended beyond, say, Bible camp, and are intentionally depicted as nondenominational, more teens would treat church as a safe space for worship rather than a convert-seeking institution. With flexibility in the “terms of worship” comes greater freedom, and with greater freedom teens might feel more inclined to involve themselves with the church.

Read more at …


YOUTHFULNESS & Bonhoeffer’s quote examined by Scot McKnight regarding the lure of focusing on the youthful spirit rather than the Holy Spirit.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in 1930 …

“Since the days of the youth movement [referring to the German Youth movement in the late 19th century] the church has been more obsessed with the youthful spirit than the Holy Spirit.”

What Happens to Church Ministry When…?

by Scot McKnight, Jesus Creed, 10/27/14.

What happens to ministry, then, when we turn the pastor from the giver and the audience as receivers into the pastor as a kind of mentor or guide for the congregation to discover God at work in their life as they really live it? This is the question Andrew Root thinks is at the heart of Bonhoeffer’s own ministry to youth (Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker).

This question transcends youth ministry. This question leads us from Sunday as performance to Sunday as worship; from the pastor as didactic performer to the pastor as, well, pastor and spiritual mentor. It leads us in some ways to the vision of Eugene Peterson.

To move on from where we were in our last post Bonhoeffer moved on from Barcelona back to Berlin to do his second dissertation (Act and Being) but his supervisor (Seeberg) kept DB from doing a study of child and youth, though he smuggled in some theology of youth at the end.

Off to Union he went and at Union in NYC he came in contact with Abyssinian Baptist church where he became a Sunday School teacher for youth, and is right here that Root sees Bonhoeffer’s great contribution to youth ministry as a theological turn in youth ministry. DB moved from the phraseological (which he saw throughout the American church, which was mostly NYC and Union), to the real. Here is how Root captures it, and it leads to this question: which of these expressions capture what we need to learn?

In youth ministry the theological turn is a turn into the real; it is the seeking divine action in and through the concrete and lived experience of young people. Bonhoeffer’s experiences in New York provide a great lesson for those us of seeking the theological turn in youth ministry today. It shows us the negative so that we might move into the constructive. We hear that the theological cannot become the phraseological and that we must take every step with our young people to avoid all loose phrases that are not bound in their experience of wrestling with God. To fall into the phraseological blinds us, as youth workers, from seeing the concrete humanity of young people and helping them see the humanity of others. “Youth ministry can so often overlook the reality of the suffering other, avoiding the challenges of reality in favor of safe programmatic language, settling for a drive toward religious socialization.”

The theological turn in youth ministry does not simply use the language of theology or religion. Rather, the theological turn in youth ministry seeks the living revelatory encounter with Jesus Christ (the real, as Bonhoeffer says). And Bonhoeffer’s New York experience not only gives us the negative, a warning to stay away from the phraseological, but also pushes us into the constructive and practical. Watching Bonhoeffer, we see how forms of art (like the [Negro] spiritual for him) capture the deep expressions of others’ concrete and lived experience. Bonhoeffer’s own youth ministry, which moved from the phraseological to the real, from the abstract to the concrete, from theology to the theological, involved inviting young people to reflect on art (deep expressions of pathos) as an introduction to young people themselves doing the theological, seeking God in the midst of their own deep questions and experiences.

Bonhoeffer was not trying to get young people to like art, to become fans of the spiritual, but was inviting them to step inside it as a concrete articulation of the human experience, to dwell in the experience for its corollaries to their own concrete and lived experience of Negroes, to seek the God who suffers the experience of exclusion. He wanted them to seek God’s act and being in and through Jesus Christ within the experience, to speak of the presence and absence of God within the concrete and lived as the way of doing the theological.

During his time in Harlem, youth ministry remained and even deepened as Bonhoeffer’s ministerial focus. But as such it also became more integrated. Bonhoeffer took his rich theological conceptions of sociality and Stellvertretung and pushed further into the concrete. The spiritual and Harlem helped move in this direction. Even his classes at Union, the classes he was reluctant to take when arriving, turned him to the practical. As a doctoral student in Berlin, Bonhoeffer had been drawn to practical theology courses, and at Union he found that such practical theological classes moved him into further reflection on youth work (85-86).

Read more at …

YOUTH MINISTRY & “Warm is the new Cool” and other innovations explained by #Princeton’s #AbigailRusert

Episode summary (with time stamps) from Reclaimed Leader interview with Abigail Rusert, Director of the Institute for Youth Ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary, and the Principal Investigator on the Log College Project grant.

Give us a 30,000-foot view of youth ministry from your perspective.  What are you seeing out there?

  • Abigail shares about the changing landscape of youth ministry and why she believes churches are mistakenly continuing to resource programmatic models of youth ministry that are no longer effective instead of investing in new and innovative approaches. 00:13:00.
  • Jason and Abigail talk about the power and importance of stories of life transformation as a key metric for youth ministry. 00:18:00.

Relationships are still the key to impacting youth.

  • Even with some of the failings of past approaches to youth ministry, the vital importance of relationships is still the heartbeat of ministry to young people. Inviting the whole congregation to be a part of offering relationship to youth is vital to the growing faith of young people today. 00:22:00.

Why it’s crucial for senior leaders to help each person in the congregation see themselves as youth ministers.

  • Abigail shares about the power and the tools senior leaders have at their disposal to share vision with the congregation. Instead of ‘giving the job’ to our youth leaders, senior leaders can help create an environment where all are considered youth ministers together. 00:25:00.

“Warm is the new Cool.” – Growing Young.

  • Abigail reflects on the freedom that warmth over cool gives to congregations of all sizes. It’s not about providing flashy experiences, it’s about creating opportunities for great relationships across the generations of the church. 00:30:00.
  • Abigail shares about the importance of creating sacred spaces for young people while protecting against that being the only strategy for faith formation in young people. 00:35:00.

Call yourself a youth minister.

  • Jason and Abigail reflect on the importance of relationships of love and authenticity and how senior leaders can lead the way by telling stories of how they are a youth minister. 00:39:00.

Why inviting young people to be a part of the design process works.

  • Jesse shares about how Marine View is working to help young people serve and connect in the church ways that are natural for them, instead of creating the feeling of being put on display. Abigail shares about ways to get kids involved by inviting them to shape ministry. 00:42:30.

Listen to the podcast at …

YOUTHFULNESS & Are you yearning for something more at church than skinny jeans, hipster hairstyles and pop-40 music? So was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Read on…

“The Good News should be a life transforming message that utilizes culturally relevant methods, but is not captive to them nor obsessed with them.”

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: A new book by Andrew Root titled “Faith Formation in a Secular Age: Responding to the Church’s Obsession with Youthfulness,” reminds us that sharing the gospel can become captive to trendiness, hipster appearances and pop-40 music. Rather the Good News should be a life transforming message that utilizes culturally relevant methods, but is not captive to them nor obsessed with them. For good insights check out Root’s book as well as read this interview with the author.

“Responding to American Christianity’s obsession with youth” By Jonathan Merritt, Religion News Service, 3/2/18.

(RNS) — Centuries ago, some of our ancestors powdered their wigs in order to appear older and wiser. Today, adults dye their hair darker to seem young and relevant. It’s difficult to dispute that, as Simon Donnan put it, “Youth is the new global currency.”

One might assume that the Christian church, which often touts itself as counter-cultural, would buck this trend. But many American congregations have embraced it instead. Have you ever been to a house of worship with a top-40 style music and a skinny-jeans wearing pastor donning a carefully coifed hipster hairdo? Then you know exactly what I mean.

This trend is born out of an earnest desire to “reach the next generation” and is usually well-motivated. But according to Andrew Root, author of “Faith Formation in a Secular Age: Responding to the Church’s Obsession with Youthfulness,” it is a recent phenomenon and creates challenges that must be addressed. Here we discuss how American Christians can understand and respond to our obsession with youth.

RNS: Talk to me about the history of “youthfulness.” What are the key turning points?

AR: I am developing this idea of “youthfulness” because of a thesis that Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in 1930, in it he said, “Since the days of the youth movement [referring to the German Youth movement in the late 19th century] the church has been more obsessed with the youthful spirit than the Holy Spirit.”

When I read this five years ago, I almost jumped out of my chair; it felt incredibly prophetic and like Bonhoeffer was speaking to the American church today. I think the legacy of youthfulness, like Bonhoeffer says, goes back to “the days of the youth movement”; as some cultural theorists point out, it is always 1969 in America. In the late-1960s the counter-culture drew from older avant-garde communities to embrace this ethic of authenticity, opposing a larger sense of obligation and duty. The baby boomers shifted the whole ethos of the culture to follow only what speaks to you. We all, in one way or another, live in this legacy now.

RNS: How did American society specifically become obsessed with youth culture?

AR: How we got here was not just young people growing their hair long and smoking weed, but Madison Ave picked up these themes of authenticity. After World War II, it was your duty to buy. Madison Ave took the counter-culture ethic of authenticity and made it the new engine for buying and consuming. Youth become the prophets of the age of authenticity – to be authentic is to be youthful. This continued to be sold to us for the past 50 to 60 years. So as the church finds itself with an authenticity deficit, it often runs to youthful forms to legitimate it.

RNS: I’ve heard some Christians say that working to attract young people is a good thing, that the youthful spirit will keep the church vibrant. Is this true?

AR: I clearly want young people in the church. I am a professor of youth ministry, after all. My concern is that the youthful spirit becomes a certain form of idolatry – a way of saving ourselves without the need for God. Do they actually want to attract young people? Real young people will force them to have relational encounters that will change them and their church. Or do they like the idea of having young people as a measure of their church’s vibrancy, legitimacy, or longevity?


Read more at …

YOUTH GROUP & Study finds youth group participation can reduce bullying

by David Briggs, The Association of Religious Data Archives, 8/9/17.

A powerful resource for reducing bullying and helping victims heal may be right in your local church, temple or mosque.

The congregational youth group.

A new wave of international scholarship addressing public concerns over bullying is extending into religious communities.

Researchers are discovering that congregations are uniquely positioned to offer the type of social support and the promotion of values such as empathy, forgiveness and love of neighbor that appear to be effective ways of addressing the issue.

Here are five ways research suggests faith can play an important role in reducing bullying…

Read more at …

YOUTH & The science behind risky behavior in teens

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Neuroscientists have confirmed what every parent suspected, that teenagers brains are not fully wired up-during their teen years making them night-owls, impulsive and more likely to take risks. The leading force behind this research is UK neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore. The British paper, The Telegraph gives a good introduction to her research, including facts such as asking young people to get up at 7 AM is like asking an adult to rise at 5 AM due to different neurological clocks. Read this helpful article and then watch the linked TED Talk to better understand appropriate responses to teenage behavior.”

Read more at …

Plus, watch Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s insightful and entertaining TED Talk, The mysterious workings of the adolescent brain, here: