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The Role of Congregational Leaders in Children, Youth and Family Ministry
 

The Role of Congregational Leaders in Children, Youth and Family Ministry

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The Role of Congregational Leaders in Children, Youth, & Family Ministry ...

The Role of Congregational Leaders in Children, Youth, & Family Ministry

by Dr. Terri Elton, Associate Professor of Children, Youth, and Family (CYF) Ministry & Director of the Center for CYF Ministry, Luther Seminary, Luther Seminary

Church Leaders and Congregations are key assets and partners with families in the faith journey in the 21st Century. Using the Exemplar Youth Ministry (EYM) Study as an element for this discussion, explore how the EYM study identified the value and role of church leaders and the congregation when designing and implementing ministry for children, youth, and families. Explore the EYM assets which support a robust ministry for families of all ages and type.

From the 2012 Southeastern Minnesota Synod, ELCA's Councils as Leaders event.

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  • 33 million teenagers in the US. This longitudinal study (over 10 years) began with the first set of interviews in 2003.Two levels of research – phone interviews (over 3,000 teen and parent pairs) and face-to-face interviews (267 teens in 45 states).Overall findings is that 85 % of teends believe in God. 1/3 regularly attend religious gatherings, 1/3 are not religious and 1/3 sporadically attend.
  • Adults in the past several decades have operated and articulated two important things about teens and religion. One is that young people are adverse to or rebellious to faith. This study, however, does not find that to be reality. There are many positive signs that youth see value in faith and religious, if nothing else then for moral or societal reasons. And interestingly, even the non-religious teens are open to faith and religion.#1 - Teen are not rebellious about faith, rather they are open to religion. Yet for most young people faith was not a viable or central element in their life, rather it served more as wallpaper/backdrop of their life.Youth are not flocking to "alternative" religions and spiritualities. Even non-religious teens are open to religion.The vast majority of the teenagers identified themselves as Christian -- either Protestant or Catholic -- or as Jewish or Mormon. Only about 8 percent said faith was not important at all. “Adults in the United States over the past many decades have recurrently emphasized what separates teenagers from grown-ups, highlighting things that make them different and seemingly unable to relate to each other. But our conversations with ordinary teenagers around the country made clear to us, to the contrary, that in most cases teenage religion and spirituality in the United States are much better understood as largely reflecting the world of adult religion, especially parental religion, and are in strong continuity with it. Few teenagers are rejecting or reacting against the adult religion into which they are being socialized.” (Soul Searching, 170)
  • This “creed” has no historical context, no “tradition” of a people passed on across time, and little theological depth. For example, when asked about grace, the most common answer connected to the current TV show of the time – Will and Grace.#2 - Yet, the faith the majority of teens spoke about was not true to any faith tradition or denomination. Rather the faith could be described as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Definition: “we suggest that the de facto dominant religion among contemporary U.S. teenagers is what we might call ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.’ The creed of this religion…sounds something like this:A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.Good people go to heaven when they die.” (Soul Searching, 162-163)No historical context or shared “tradition” of a people and little theological depth.“we can say here that we have come with some confidence to believe that a significant part of Christianity in the United States is actually only tenuously Christian in any sense that is seriously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition, but has rather substantially morphed into Christianity’s misbegotten stepcousin, Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” (Soul Searching, 171)
  • While teenagers are able to give a vast array of details about the lives of movie stars and current bands, they were not about to do so about the faith they said they believes. In other words, they have the capacity, they just don’t see the need to learn or speak in detail about the faith they say they have.#3 - Teens could not speak the second language of faith – A vast majority of teens are "incredibly inarticulate about their faith, their religious beliefs and practices.” In our culture today, faith is a second language…and young people are not catching the faith religions profess – they are not catching the core ideas and distinct practices that make their religion distinct and matter in their everyday lives. In other words, faith communities are not passing on the “faith” in word and deed in their living communities. “the language of faith in American culture is becoming a foreign language…” (Soul Searching, 268) and learning the language of faith will require many things, including being immersed in a culture that hears the faith spoken in the present tense and practice talking about faith themselves. “Especially when religion is structurally isolated from the primary schedules and networks that comprise teenagers’ daily lives are teens’ religious and spiritual lives most weak. It is, by contrast, when teens’ family, school, friends, and sports lives and religious congregations somehow connect, intersect, and overlap that teens exhibit the most committed and integral religious and spiritual lives.” (Soul Searching, 162)
  • A second commonoperating assumption is that teens faith and adult faith is significantly different, and therefore highlight the differences between then. This study did not find there to be such a great difference, for teens faith (good or bad) largely reflects adult religion. Because the faith of teens so much mirror that of their parents, this study wonders about the state of faith and spirituality among the broader spectrum of people. Also, in the longitudinal study, it was found that most adolescents actually want the loving input and engagement of their parents, more in fact then parents even know. (Souls in Transition, 284)#4 - Parents are important – For most of the young people their faith mirrored the faith of their parents. Three out of four religious teens consider their own beliefs somewhat or very similar to those of their parents. “Thus, whether adults – particularly parents – know it or not and like it or not, they are in fact always socializing youth about religion.” In other words it is not WHETHER parents are passing on faith, but WHAT faith/beliefs are they passing on? (Souls in Transition, 286)Also “Most adolescents in fact still very badly want the loving input and engagement of their parents – more, in fact, than most parents ever realize.” (Souls in Transition, 284)
  • There was a significant minority for whom faith mattered, it part of their life and defined their identity. These teenagers are doing better in life on a number of scales, compared to their less religious peers. (Almost Christian, 19) One of 12 (8%) of teens that deemed religion important enough to practice it regularly, were described as ‘highly devoted.’ (They attend religious services weekly or more, feel very close to God, participate in religious youth group, read Scripture, pray frequently, and say faith is important in their lives.) Almost Christian, 19-20.Yet there were exceptions. For the small percentage of young people where faith was not wallpaper – or was an active, integrated part of their lives, communities of people where the faith is spoken, practiced and lived…mattered. “it appears that only a minority of U.S. teenagers are naturally absorbing by osmosis the traditional substantive content and character of the religious traditions to which they claim to be belong.” (Soul Searching, 171)
  • This study was also a national study, carried out by 7 denominations (Assemblies of God, Evangelical Covenant, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Presbyterian Church (USA), Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, and United Methodist. The research included surveys from four groups of people (youth, parents, volunteers and staff) in 131 congregations (with national, denominational, and size representation) across the country that demonstrated a high percentage of youth with a mature Christian faith and site visits to 21 of those 131 (3 from each denomination – one small, medium and large).While the National Study of Youth and Religion was getting going, another study was also getting under way. This study is a bit more grounded, as it looks at congregations, and gives us an “inside the closet” look at congregations that ARE bucking the trends. In other words, these are places were young people’s faith is not the wallpaper, but an active part of their life, places where congregations are fostering mature faith in young people. (Show clip from EYM – with three primary researchers)  Here are big learnings from this study:
  • #1 - It’s about nurturing mature Christian Faith – This study both reminds us of the goal, the hope, the target, the purpose of why we engage in ministry with young people anyway and it offers a robust definition.
  • The congregations studies varied is many, many ways. But overall it was the spirit and culture of the congregation that mattered. From 30,000 feet, three things stood out within these congregations – a particular theology, particular qualities of ministry and particular ministry practices. The shape these particulars took varied, but the reality was they were present within each congregation. (For more on the importance of congregational culture, see Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry, chapter 2.)
  • Each sphere has it’s own set of assets: congregational – 18; youth ministry – 6; family/household – 5; leadership – 15. Clearly the congregation and leadership are KEY, but the goal is not to have the “most assets” as much as it is to have assets in each of the four spheres. This allows for the most robust culture and creates a, so-called, sweet spot for young people. (For more, see Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry, chapters 3-6).
  • What did you hear? Get into groups of 2-3 and share what you heard - both around what was troubling to you and what makes you hopeful.
  • #1 - It’s about nurturing mature Christian Faith – This study both reminds us of the goal, the hope, the target, the purpose of why we engage in ministry with young people anyway and it offers a robust definition.

The Role of Congregational Leaders in Children, Youth and Family Ministry The Role of Congregational Leaders in Children, Youth and Family Ministry Presentation Transcript

  • The Role of Congregational Leaders in Children, Youth and Family Ministry Terri Martinson Elton, PhD
  • National Study of Youth and Religion 5 learnings
  • Teen are not rebellious about faith, rather they are open to religion• Youth are not flocking to "alternative" religions and spiritualties …and in fact the majority are connected to faith communities. – 1/3 regular attenders, 1/3 connect, 1/3 not connected• The vast majority of the teenagers identified themselves as Christian – either Protestant or Catholic - or as Jewish or Mormon.• Yet, faith is not a viable or central element of their life.• Only about 8 percent said faith was not important at all.
  • de facto creed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism• A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.• God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.• The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.• God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.• Good people go to heaven when they die.
  • Teens could not speak the second language of faith• A vast majority of teens are "incredibly inarticulate about their faith, their religious beliefs and practices.”• Faith is a second language … and young people are not catching the faith religions profess. In other words, faith communities were not passing on the faith in word and deed.• Learning the language of faith will require, among other things, being immersed in a culture where the faith is spoken in the present tense and where it is practiced being spoken.
  • Parents are important• Three out of four religious teens consider their own beliefs somewhat or very similar to those of their parents.• Parents, whether they know it or not and like it or not, they are in fact always socializing youth about religion.• It is not whether or not parents are passing on faith, but what faith/beliefs parents are passing on!
  • “a significant minority” Yet, for a small percentage (8% of teen where religion was important)of young people faith was not wallpaper, but an active, integrated part of their lives.
  • Religious SocializationChristian Smith says…“The form, content, and intensity of religious socialization are … crucial in shaping the … religious outcomes of those being socialized. And since most of the broader American society is not in the business of direct religious socialization, this task inevitably falls almost entirely to two main social entities….
  • Religious Socialization…First are individuals family households, where parents predictably do the primary socializing. Souls in Transition, 286
  • Religious Socialization…Second are individual religious congregations, where other adults can exert socializing influences on youth…If formation does not happen there, it will – with rare exception – not happen anywhere.” Souls in Transition, 286
  • Exemplary Youth Ministry Study
  • It’s aboutnurturing faith
  • 7 aspects of mature Christian faith • Seeks Spiritual Growth • Possesses a Vital Faith • Practices Faith• Makes the Christian Faith a Way of Life • Lives a Life of Service • Exercises Moral Responsibility • Possesses a Positive Spirit
  • #1 influencer of spiritual life in a young person is their parent!
  • #2most important factor in fostering faithful young person is an intergenerational community of faith!
  • #3 influencer of spiritual life in a young person are their peers!
  • 3 particular aspects in congregations• Particular Theology – Sense of the Presence and Activity of a Living God – Emphasis on Spiritual Growth, Discipleship and Vocation – Promote Outreach and Mission• Particular Qualities of Ministry – Reflect Congregational Priority and Support for Youth Ministry – Foster Significant Relationships and a Sense of Community – Develop Committed Competent Leadership• Particular Ministry Practices – Focus on Household or Families – Common Effective Youth Ministry Practices – Custom Designed, Integrated Approaches to Youth Ministry
  • 44 4 assets within areas Congregational18 Assets Age-Specific 6 Ministry Assets Leadership 15 Assets 5 Family Assets
  • Leadership Findings from the ExemplaryStudy …. • #1 Youth Minister was the Sr. Pastor/Solo Pastor • Leadership within Youth Ministry matters! • Everyone in the congregation is a youth minister • Youth are involved in leadership within the congregation • The Youth Ministry culture leads the overall congregational ministry culture
  • Leadership matters! • Pastoral leadership Matters! • Youth Ministry Leadership Matters! • Involving Youth in Leadership matters!
  • Exemplary Youth Ministry StudyPublic Christian Leaders • Have a personal and vibrant faith • Value the faith formation of young people • Are competent and skilled • Equip, mentor and train others • Are communal in their leadership style – relational and team-oriented
  • Exemplary Youth Ministry StudyLeadership Assets• Leadership of Pastor: spiritual influence, interpersonal competence, supports youth ministry, and supports leaders• Leadership of Youth Minister: provides competent leadership, models faith, mentors faith life, develops teams, knows youth, and establishes effective relationships• Youth and Adult Leadership: equip for peer ministry, establish adult- youth mentoring, participate in training, possess vibrant faith, and competent adult volunteers
  • Share• What did you hear?• What was troubling?• What is hopeful?
  • Bad News Christian way of life is no longer the normFaith communities are not passing on the faith World isn’t going to pass on the faith “church” language is not familiar to most
  • Good News Youth are open to faith and religionYouth are open to parents and significant adults Actions are important It’s time to be creative and discover new ways
  • It’s aboutnurturing faith
  • It’s aboutthe spirit and culture of a congregation
  • Exemplary Youth Ministry Study Congregational The Sweet Spot! Assets Age-Specific Ministry Assets Leadership Assets Family Assetswww.exemplarym.org
  • • Vibrant faith that is integrated into the lives of the next generation!• What is at stake? What does that mean… • personally? • for congregations? • for the church-at-large?• Can congregations reclaim the focus on discipleship?• Are we, congregations, willing to change?• What are we, congregations, willing to let go of for the sake of being faithful to our calling to pass on faith to the next generation?
  • Things you can do today to nurturemature Christian faith in young people• Grow spiritually yourself– Making faith for you matters - it’s contagious• Engage in faith practices and invite young people to join you!• Use God language – put God talk into your conversations, both in church and in the world – and let young people overhear you.• Make time for young people in your life – notice them, talk with them.• Care about the parents and families of young people.• Engage in conversations with young people about things that matter – and ask how faith intersects with those things.• Foster the gifts and passions of young people and• Give youth opportunities to lead.• Serve – and invite young people to serve as well.• Pray for young people and with young people• See the potential in young people and invite their imagination.