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Tackling the Issue: Retaining Young People in Mainline Denominational Congregations*
"Why are there so few youth and young adults now in this congregation? What can we do?” This is a familiar plaint in many congregations and echoed in their denominations’ national offices. Recently there have been many articles and books on the spiritual culture(s) of young people, what they seek, where they look, and what might keep them within their church’s folds. Denominational offices are continually trying various programs and ways of reaching and keeping their young people. Students will be asked to discuss course reading on line, and write a final paper applicable to their individual experiences or their congregational programs for those under thirty.
Online, beginning Tuesday, January 22
Nearly monthly empirical studies, position papers, articles and books are published on how young people’s religious commitments are maintained, altered or discarded as they move from childhood into adulthood. Research studies underscore the importance of context in which young people mature – including the world they see around them, their relationships with family, local community, religious institutions, schools and peers, and the like. Publications often report experiences and offer suggestions on what might be done to strengthen the faith commitments of teens and young adults. On this research front, there are study findings, insights, and advice, but no definitive answers.
In this graduate level course the reading assigned is intended to give students an overview of recognized scholars’ and youth ministers/practitioners’ theories, findings and suggestions. Students are expected to read the instructor’ weekly online lecture, and look over the reading assigned carefully for concepts and trends.
Additionally the instructor’s lectures will summarize the major findings of very recent empirical studies on religion and young people. Students are NOT expected to read these more statistical articles, but some of particular interest will be posted on some week’s reading in a category called “New Empirical Studies.” In illustration only, an article published December 2012 summarizes empirical studies on how parents influence their teenagers’ faith commitments in predominantly Christian families in the United States, before presenting the authors’ new findings on Muslim parents and young people in Malaysia (see week 4). (Reciprocally, insights from the study of Malaysian Muslim youth may suggest additional areas of importance for those studying Christian or Muslim young people and religion in the US or elsewhere.)
The first half of the course is more theoretical, and the second half is more focused on applying concepts and findings to youth and young adults’ faith commitments. Each weekly lecture will be followed by discussion questions posed by the instructor. The discussion questions generally ask how applicable the weekly reading material has been for the students’ own experience and what they would add, critique, or pose as issues to be further explored. Students’ weekly responses can provide a basis for developing a proposal for and completing their final essay.
ALL READING ASSIGNED WILL BE AVAILABLE ON–LINE.
Weekly: Complete the assigned reading; answer one of the questions posed by the instructor with each lecture, and comment on at least one of the answers written by another student. 40% of final grade*
Mid-term proposal for final essay: 500-1000 words on your proposed subject and approach on a final paper for this course. 20% of final grade
Final essay: About 1500 or more words (15 pages double-spaced) on what you see or propose for the future of young people’s s involvement in your congregation, teenage or young adult group, denomination, or other faith community -- AND WHY (using your scholarly reflections, assigned readings, interviews, insights, and hopes.) 40% of final grade
Course Starts Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Weekly reading will usually include a lecture of several pages and assigned reading. The reading assigned in forthcoming weeks is primarily to gain understanding of themes and trends (not historical or statistical details)
WEEK 1: Introduction to Religious Views and Participation of Young People
- Reading: Only the on-line lecture introduction
- Students: Introduce themselves to the class, and give some information about their backgrounds, and their particular interests are in this course or for their future careers.
COURSE SECTION I: THEORIES ABOUT YOUNG PEOPLE AND RELGION
WEEK 2: The Effects of Cultural Changes on Young People’s Beliefs
Reading: Christian Smith. Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults (New York: Oxford, 2009). Chapter 2: “The Cultural Worlds of Emerging Adults”, pp. 33-87.
WEEK 3: Religious Involvement of the Boomer, X, Y and Tinkerer “Generations”
- Robert Wuthnow. After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty and Thirty-Somethings are Shaping the Future of American Religion (Princeton, NJ: Princeton U. Press, 2007). Chapter 1: “American Religion: An Uncertain Future” pp. 1-19.
- Mason, Singleton and Webber. The Spirit of Generation Y. (Victoria, AU: John Garratt Publishing, 2007). Part of Chapter 9:”’From obligation to consumption’: Spirituality, Culture and Society” pp. 228-247.
- Patrick Nachtigall. Mosaic: A Journey Across the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana: Warner Press, 2010). Part of Chapter 2: “Boomers, Xers, and Y Should I Care?” pp. 25-37.
WEEK 4: Parental Behavior and Young People’s Religious Involvement
- R. Stephen Warner and Rhys H. Williams, “The Role of Families and Religious Institutions in Transmitting Faith among Christians, Muslims, and Hindus in the U.S.” Chapter 19 in Sylvia Collins-Mayo and Pink Dandelion, eds., Religion and Youth (Farnham, England: Ashgate Publishing, 2010) pp. 159-165.
Lecture will summarize the following recent articles and others: “New Empirical Studies” listed here and elsewhere are not required reading.
New Empirical Studies
- Hsien-Hsien Lau and Nicholas Wolfinger, “Parental Divorce and Adult Religiosity: Evidence from the General Social Survey.” Review of Religious Research, 53 September 2011): pp. 85-103.
- Richard J. Petts, “Is Urban Father’s Religion Important for their Children’s Behavior?” Review of Religious Research, 53 (November 2011): pp. 85-103.
- Stephen Eric Krauss, Azimi Hamzah, Ismi Arif Ismail, Turiman Suandi, Siti Rabaah Hamzah, Dzuhailmi Dahalan, Fazilah Idris. “Religious Socialization Among Malaysian Muslim Adolescents: A Family Structure Comparison.” Review of Religious Research, 54 (December 2012): pp. 499-518.
WEEK 5: Importance of the Teenage Years in Faith Formation
- Christian Smith, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, (New York: Oxford U. Press, 2005). (skim) Chapter 4 “God, Religion, Whatever”, pp. 118-171.
- Smith, op. cit.(2007). Chapter 7, (skim) “The Teenagers of Soul Searching Five Years Later”, and part of Chapter 8: 180-210; 231-241
- Patricia Snell Herzog and Robert Wedow, “Youth Group Cliques: How Religious Goals Can Disguise Discriminatory Group Dynamics.” Review of Religious Research, 54 (2012): pp. 217-238.
Other New Empirical Studies
- Philip Schwadel. “Jewish teenagers’ Syncretism: A Research Note” Review of Religious Research, 51 (March 2010): pp. 324-332
- Patricia Snell Herzog, “Contextual Inequalities in Religious Youth Programming.” ” Review of Religious Research, 53 (November 2011): pp. 227-246.
WEEK 6: Importance of the College Years in Faith Stability and Change
- Lori Peek, “Becoming Muslim: The Development of a Religious Identity”. Sociology of Religion, 66(2005):215-232.
- Selections from: Astin, Astin & Lindholm, Cultivating the Spirit: How College Can Enhance Students’ Inner Lives. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011) (skim) Pp. 9-10, Chapter 6, “The Religious Life of College Students”. Pp 83-100; Chapter 9, “Higher Education and the Life of the Spirit”, pp. 137-157.
New Empirical Studies
- Jonathan P. Hill, “Higher Education as Moral Community: Institutional Influences on Religious Participation During College.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion,48 (September 2009), pp. 515-534.
- Jenny L. Small, Nicholas A. Bowman. “Religious Commitment, Skepticism and Struggle Among US College students: The Impact of Majority/Minority Religious Affiliation and Institutional Type.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 50 (March 2011), pp. 154-174..
WEEK 7: Seeking a Spiritual Identity and a Faith Community
- Robert Wuthnow, op. cit. 2007, Chapter 6: “Spirituality and Spiritual Practices: The Role of Faith in Personal Life” pp. 112-135.
- Christian Smith, op. cit. 2007, (skim) Chapter 5: “The Cultural Structures of Emerging Adult Religion” pp. 143-165, plus 166-168.
- Mike Hayes, Googling God: The Religious Landscape of People in their 20’s and 30’s (New York, Paulist Press, 2007), Chapter !. “Identifying Young Adults: Would you know a young adult if you fell over one in the aisle?” pp. 3-24.
WEEK 8: Catch up reading week, and proposal
There will be more information about the final essay. No other reading or web posting is required. Instead, students should ensure that their 500+ word proposal for their final essay is emailed to the instructor by the end of the week or very soon thereafter
COURSE SECTION II: THE PRAXIS OF MINISTRY FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
WEEK 9: Young Adults and Congregational Participation
Robert Wuthnow, op. cit. (2007), Chapter 3 “Going to Church or Not:
Who Participates in Congregations”, pp. 51-70.
- Wuthnow, op. cit (2007), Chapter 7 “Faith and Family: Facing the Difficult Choices”, pp. 136-156.
WEEK 10: Being a Youth Minister is Risky Business
Mark DeVries, Sustainable Youth Ministry: Why most youth ministry doesn’t last and what your church can do about it. (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2008.)
- Chapter 8, “Aligning the Heart: The Emotionally Healthy Youth Worker”, pp.107-123.
- Chapter 10: “Dancing with Alligators: Navigating the Turbulent Waters of Church Politics”, pp. .173-187.
WEEK 11: Finding a Youth Minister
Mark DeVries, op cit. (2008)
- Chapter 2 “The Easy Button: The Crisis of Chronic Underinvestment”, pp 28-39
- Chapter 7 “Searching Right: A Primer for Youth Ministry Search Teams”, pp. 90-106,
- Chapter 10 “Architecting the Constellation: From Camp Counselor to Sustainable Leader”, pp. 140-158
WEEK 12: Congregational Case Studies and Ideas for Effective Young Adult Programs
Mike Hayes, Googling God: The Religious Landscape of People in their 20s and 30s. (New York: Paulist Press 2007),
- Chapter 7; “Doing Ministry: Fifteen Initial Steps in Starting a Young Adult Ministry” and
- Chapter 8: “Resources for Building a Young Adult Ministry”, pp. 157-201.
- Illustrative case studies of Young Adult Ministries from the FACT study
WEEK 13: Pulling Together as an Age-Diverse Congregation
- Wuthnow, op. cit. (2007), Chapter 11 “Vital Congregations, Youthful and Diverse”, pp 214-232.
- Carol H Merritt, Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation (Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 2007). Chapter 2: “Fostering Intergenerational Relationships”, pp 19-38
WEEK 14: Spring Reading Week: (No Seminary classes)
WEEK 15: Summary Lecture and Final Essay No reading or web posting required of students. Final Essay is due on or before May 22, or at least by May 29..
*Weekly participation on the discussion course site is expected. Missing more than two weekly discussion sessions is likely to lower your final grade by 10%. .