Saturday, January 27, 2007

new book for discussion

Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus
by Mark Yaconelli

I had the pleasure of participating in the second phase of the Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project from 2001 - 2004. The type of contemplation Mark and YMSP teach is not the type that leads you into the depths of yourself only to remain there, it is contemplation for the sake of life and the world.

I am excited to discuss this book with you. I look forward to hearing your views on it - good and bad. Read a review, buy it, and lets get started. I'll post the first question on the first few chapters on Friday February 9th.

God's peace,

the family's role in choosing church

Thoughts and Questions on
Part IV: Nurturing Teen Religious Loyalty in the Family
Choosing Church by Carol Lytch

Lytch lists 6 factors which are influential in a young person's decision to remain active in church after leaving home.
  1. Parents' expectation that the youth will attend church weekly.
  2. Religion is practiced at home through certain adapted rituals and symbols.
  3. Both parents belong to the same church.
  4. A "warm" family climate.
  5. Social networks between teens, friends, and the parents of friends.
  6. The style of parenting practiced in the home.
What do you think about this list? Does it seem to jive with your experiences? How do we help promote these things among families?

Lytch claims that our current youth, or "2nd Generation Choosers", have been short-changed on religious socialization because their parents, who were the first generation to be able to choose not to go to church, has not raised them with religious language, symbols and rituals. Therefore, much of what happens in our congregations is completely foreign to our youth.

Many other studies are claiming that "theology matters" in youth ministry. Teens really want to know what their tradition believes about God and the world. How can we introduce age-old theological concepts (i.e., grace, the Trinity, the incarnation, etc.) to our youth in ways to do not diminish their truths while still making sense to these "2nd Gen Choosers"?

Friday, January 19, 2007

what is their religious type?

Thoughts and questions on
Part III: Seven Styles of Being Religious . . . or Not
Choosing Church by Carol Lytch.

Here we get at the core of Lytch's book. She discovers 7 different religious types among teens: Conventionals, Classics, Reclaimers, Marginalizers, Customizers, Rejecters, and The Lost.

First of all. . . What do you think about these categories? Do they work? Does every teen fit into one (or more) of these categories? How do you feel about "categorizing" our teens? Is it helpful? Is it dangerous? Both?

Second, how do you see these "types" in your ministry? Do you see teens switching types at different stages or after certain experiences? Do teens from different "types" interact with one another? If so, in what way?

I look forward to your contributions!

God's peace,

Thursday, January 11, 2007

religious experience and socialization

Thoughts and questions on Part II: How Churches Hold Teens from Choosing Church by Carol Lytch.
  1. In these chapters Carol Lytch is pointing out that churches that successfully retain or hold their youth are churches that simultaneously socialize the youth into the tradition and create religious experiences for the youth. These religious experiences generally occur when the traditional symbol or ritual is disrupted, reframed n a new yet meaningful way, and then interpreted through one's tradition. Do you agree with this concept?
  2. How does your ministry foster religious experience? How does your ministry socialize youth into your tradition so they are able to interpret their religious experiences in meaningful ways?
  3. Lytch (and many others) recognizes the lack of meaningful rites of passage for our youth. She is especially concerned with rites of passage for high school seniors. The rites of passage the church does offer do not usually coincide with high school graduation. My issue with rites of passage is that they generally reinforce American individualism over-against relationships and community. What might be some meaningful rites of passage for our high school seniors that would focus more on community and responsibility and less on autonomy and individualism?
  4. ". . . churches foster in teens religious loyalty . . . when they both socialize their teens in the symbols, stories, rituals, and practices of their tradition and foster the conditions through which teens feel they encounter God. When congregations do both, teens tend to profess strong allegiance to their faith tradition" (pg. 84). But don't we, as Lutherans, claim to experience God in the symbols, stories, rituals and practices of our tradition? Aren't proclaiming the Word, baptism, and Holy Communion all ways in which we foster the conditions through which teens can encounter God? Are there other, more meaningful ways and places in which our teens experience God?
God's Peace.
Jeremy Myers

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

finding their way in

Thoughts and questions on the Part 1: How Churches Attract Teens from Choosing Church by Carol Lytch.

Take a few moments to respond to all or some of these questions/ thoughts. Then take some time to respond to the comments left by your colleagues. We will move on to Part 2 on Friday January 12th.

  1. One of Lytch's presuppositions is that their has been a societal shift to individualism and autonomy. This leaves her to conclude that "Teens, as individuals, choose their faith" (p. 5). But is this true? Do we choose our faith?
  2. On page 9 Lytch says "The tradition was not just imprinted on them. They negotiated with it and explored its boundaries and elasticity. In doing so, teens experiences the religious tradition as vital and life-shaping." How have you experienced the youth your work with negotiated and stretching the tradition in helpful ways? Has the church resisted or engaged these negotiations?
  3. Also on page 9 Lytch talks about the things that grab the attention of our youth. . . "It is the deeper, more universal things that congregations offer through a variety of means that attract teens: a sense of belonging, a sense of meaning, and opportunities to develop competence." How does this jive with your own experiences? What things do you see attracting young people to your congregation?
  4. On page 10 Lytch discusses the importance of both socialization and religious experience. Would you say your congregation emphasizes one over the other? If so, which one, how and why? Or, do you integrate the two? If so, how do you do this?
  5. How are the congregations in Part 1 similar and different from your own congregation?
  6. Lytch's primary research question was "What most influences what teens believe about God and how they practice their faith?" on page 24. She diagrams the responses she got on the same page. Noticeably, God (Holy Spirit) is not present on the diagram. What role might the spirit play in the faith of a teen and his or her choice of religion, church, etc.
  7. Pages 27-44 describe the three components of congregations that attract teen participation. Are these short-sighted? Any good youth service agency whether Christian, secular, Jewish, etc. should be able to list these three components as key strategies to what they do. What does the Christian church have to offer along with the three Lytch lists to our youth today?
  8. Lastly, how are the youth in your congregation involved or isolated from worship?

Thanks for taking the time. Have fun with these and with one another.

God's peace.