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Faith Formation for Youth at Oakdale Park Church

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Faith Formation for Youth at Oakdale Park Church, Grand Rapids Michigan

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Faith Formation for Youth at Oakdale Park Church

  1. 1. Faith Formation in Kids 0-20(ish)
  2. 2. I Corinthians 13:11 • When I was a child, I spoke, thought, and reasoned in childlike ways as we all do. But when I became a man, I left my childish ways behind. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 • Listen, Israel! The Eternal is our True God—He alone. You should love Him, your True God, with all your heart and soul, with every ounce of your strength. Make the things I’m commanding you today part of who you are. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you’re sitting together in your home and when you’re walking together down the road. Make them the last thing you talk about before you go to bed and the first thing you talk about the next morning. Do whatever it takes to remember them: tie a reminder on your hand and bind a reminder on your forehead where you’ll see it all the time, such as on the doorpost where you cross the threshold or on the city gate. (The Voice)
  3. 3. Why Faith Formation? • Barna Study 2011 59% of all teens over the age of 15 leave the church, either permanently or for a significant period of time. Six Reasons: 1) Churches seem overprotective 2) Teens’ and twenty-somethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow 3) Churches come across as antagonistic to science 4) They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity 5) Young Christians’ church experience related to sexuality are often simplistic & judgmental 6) The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.
  4. 4. Ages 0-2 • Relationships with caregivers is the foundation for moral/spiritual development.
  5. 5. Caregiver(s)’ love/care (Especially primary caregiver) View of self as worthy or Not worthy of love View of God as able to love or not love me How Attachment Theory influences Faith
  6. 6. Ages 0-2: What Does this Mean? 1) Faith is rooted in a sub-conscious openness or wariness toward God. 2) Attachment theory suggests that a person’s God concept is an extension of his/her own identity. •Babies need to experience fellow-humans as loving, themselves as lovable or they will likely ALWAYS have difficulty experiencing God as loving or able to extend grace.
  7. 7. Ages 2-6 Young children’s understanding of faith is in keeping with their general cognitive capacity. • Limited Working Memory • Difficulty understanding others’ intentions or perspectives • Unfettered imagination and intense emotions
  8. 8. Ages 2-6: What Does this Mean? Parents/Teachers should: •Focus on one or two SIMPLE themes •Review the order of a Bible story SEVERAL times. •EXPLICITLY state causes and effects •GENTLY encourage children to acknowledge sin. •AVOID scare tactics (an unfettered imagination may amplify statements)
  9. 9. Ages 7-11 • An Elementary student is able to construct a STORY-BASED THEOLOGY based on literal, concrete, mechanistic cause and effect. • At this stage, a child can: • easily grasp a story in correct sequence • extract the main point • apply it to their lives • generate their own stories to explain theological mysteries HOWEVER, although children can grasp a discrete Bible story, they have a difficult time understanding how all the Bible stories work together.
  10. 10. • Advances in the understanding of how human relationships work help children to make sense of why God does what he does • Qualities that define good human relationships (fairness and reciprocity) are not just described to God, but become the reason for his existence
  11. 11. Ages 7-11: What Does this Mean? Children are: •Particularly distressed/reluctant to acknowledge that bad things happen to good people •Susceptible to a works-righteousness theology Parents/Teachers should: •Provide interpersonally complex Bible stories in which good people do bad things and vice-versa •Provide intentionally GRACE-FOCUSED instruction.
  12. 12. Early Adolescence (middle School) The Paradoxical Adolescent Brain (PAB): This is the idea that the kid who can memorize all the arguments against drunk driving gets into a car with a drunk driver OR the kid who understands the dangers of drugs is smoking marijuana a year later. This is explained by puberty-related developments in the brain •Myelination in the academic areas of the brain •Deconstruction/reconstruction of the frontal lobe (executive functioning)
  13. 13. Healthy Faith in Early Adolescence Will generally include: •Intense, emotional relationship with God •Ability to tell the “meta-story” of their theological tradition •Ability to articulate basic doctrines of faith •Ability to articulate what God requires of Christians personally and corporately •Complete trust and uncritical acceptance of traditions “whole package” •Values/Beliefs are deeply felt rather than reasoned •Difficulty understanding how one’s upbringing influences what one believes Unhealthy Faith Is Typically manifest as: •Already not trusting the religious community (because it has failed them) •Being unable to articulate their community’s theology – Often the result of never being required to formally articulate the tenets of the faith
  14. 14. Moral Therapeutic Deism This term is used to desCribe the common religious beliefs among American Teens Five Tenets of MTD: 1) God exists, created, and watches over the world. 2) God wants people to be good, fair, and nice. 3) The goal of life is happiness and self-esteem. 4) God is (mostly) for times of need. 5) Good people go to heaven. Missing from what teens believed were references to: Being a sinner Obeying God Salvation Loving neighbor Working for Social Justice Self-discipline
  15. 15. Early Adolescence: What does This Mean? • Teens are still inclined to embrace EVERYTHING their mentors tell them. • Youth have an EMOTIONAL relationship with God that is primarily personal. • Teens begin to have the ability to wrestle with complicated doctrine. Parents/Teachers/Mentors should: • Ask young teens to ARTICULATE doctrine • NOT skimp on training in doctrine/catechism
  16. 16. Middle & Late Adolescence (high school & college years) Group 1 Group 3GROUP 2 Three different developmental Trajectories • Life experiences prompt critical reflection on what the religious community has taught. • Doubts arise, mentors FAIL to acknowledge the uncertainty of faith. Teens then view mentor as naïve, outgrown them and leave the faith. Retains the faith of early adolescence, fully trusting church authorities to provide the “whole package” of beliefs. Typically: • close to parents • have limited education • little exposure to other belief systems. Life experiences prompt critical reflection on what religious community has taught. Doubts arise, mentors model faith that acknowledges that truth is NOT simple. Youth develop faith system based largely on what has been taught with some self- reasoned components.
  17. 17. Healthy Faith A healthy faith in late adolescence should include: •A more reasoned, less emotion dependent faith •An awareness of how one’s upbringing has shaped one’s faith •An understanding of religious beliefs as faith, not indisputable facts •Appropriate balance between uncritical acceptance and one’s own critical reflection •Manifest evidence of one’s belief in one’s behavior •Explicit/overt commitment to religious community
  18. 18. High School & Beyond: What Does this Mean? • Healthy teens begin to critically evaluate what they’ve been taught (in all domains) in approximately 9th grade. Parents/Teachers/Mentors should: • Pro-actively encourage youth with an inclination towards faith to ENGAGE in a public commitment rite during adolescence. • Mentors NEED to respond to critical reflection by acknowledging the uncertainty of faith and avoiding the temptation to give simplistic answers.
  19. 19. Take-Aways for Parents • Be ENCOURAGED • Be FAITHFUL • Be INTENTIONAL • Be SUPPORTIVE • Be a FRIEND
  20. 20. Take-Aways for the Church • Be ENCOURAGERS • Be MENTORS • Be PRAYERS
  21. 21. TO PONDER/DISCUSS • In what ways are you intentional with your children? Would you share that with us? • What has been a discouraging part of this faith journey with your child? • What excites you about the faith that you have seen in them?

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