Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Youth And Religion

Here's part of an interesting posting from Drew Tatusko:
teens are functionally illiterate when it comes to religion
Jun 3rd, 2009 by Drew Tatusko.

This can be classified as a major church FAIL. It is not that all teens are functionally illiterate, but most teens indeed are. They have not acquired and thus have not practiced using the tools to articulate their religion. This was a finding Christian Smith reports in the book Soul Searching where data from the National Study of Youth and Religion is presented. The following is worth quoting in full.

We do not believe that teenage inarticulacy about religious matters reflects any general teen incapacity to think and speak well. Many of the youth we interviewed were quite conversant when it came to their views on salient issues in their lives about which they had been educated and had practice discussing, such as the dangers of drug abuse and STD's. Rather, our impression as interviewers was that many teenagers could not articulate matters of faith becuase they have not been effectively educated in and provided opportunities to practice talking about their faith. Indeed, it was our distinct sense that for many of the teens we interviewed, our interview was the first time that any adult had ever asked them what they believed and how it mattered in their life…Religious language is like any other language: to learn how to speak it, one needs first to listen to native speakers using it a lot, and then one needs plenty of practice at speaking it oneself. Many U.S. teenagers, it appears, are not getting a significant amount of such exposure and practice and so are simply not learning the religious language of their faith traditions (p. 133).

How would you characterize the religious literacy of your youth, and your adults in church? And then, what are you going to do about it?

I wonder how much of this is related to our technology-driven culture and how much of it is related to churches failing to provide teenagers with the tools to articulate religious viewpoints. I know personally that I didn't know much about Baptist principles until minoring in Religion at Campbell University---even-though, I grew up in a Baptist church and have been in a Baptist church ever-since. I did know a little bit about Baptists before though and how we were different from other denominations. Mostly because my Scout troop was connected with a Presbyterian church---also, one Summer, when I was staying with my grandmother at the beach she enrolled me in a Presbyterian VBS to give me something to do. Also, in my Youth Group at FBC-Laurinburg, we had members who regularly attended a Methodist church. I also saw Pope John Paul II and Catholic services in Europe and I went to the blessing of a friend's family's new pastor’s house in the Anglican tradition, so I've always been aware to some degree of denominational differences. I'm not sure how denominational distinctions play in the National Study of Youth and Religion's findings, but it is true that different denominations as well as churches phrase religious matters differently. I also know that technology is useful for disseminating religious information though there are times when technology gets in the way.

See also: Al Mohler On Text Messaging and Technolatry.

As far as Drew's questions go: "How would you characterize the religious literacy of your youth, and your adults in church? And then, what are you going to do about it?" I'm not sure how best to answer the first question as FBC-Wilmington may be a Baptist church but a large number of our congregation grew up and moved their memberships from non-Baptist churches and since we are a large church with a congregation spread between two different services---we truly have a diverse and ecumenical group with various religious opinions in that respect. Also, our members have a wide range of religious knowledge and aptitudes, because of this fact. Hect, we even have a lot of retired pastors in our congregation. As far as the youth in our church goes, I'd say that they are about the same as our adults---but with all that said it is still hard to tell who is religiously literate or not---because of the sheer size of our church. In regards to the second question, because I am the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina co-advocate for FBC-Wilmington, I try my best to spread information where I can about Baptist religious principles while remaining denominationally neutral and ecumenical and always Christocentric.

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