Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity: On the Ground

We’re heading into the last day of what has been a fairly intense conference here in Washington, DC.  The best word that I really have is “intense,” in that nearly every moment is being used in some way, and there is a lot of discussion, networking, resourcing, etc.  An interesting mix of folks are present:  academics, pastors, laypeople, c.e./r.e. directors, interested outsiders.  All faith traditions are present; I had lunch with German Methodists and spoke to Unitarian Universalists on my way out of lunch.  We are all here to talk about the future of children’s and youth ministry in the so-called “emergent”/”emergence”/”missional” ministry contexts; realizing that the faith formation of younger folks has been neglected in this conversation.

My presentation went really well, and people keep coming up to me to tell me how much they liked my talk on The Synaptic Gospel, which is gratifying because it is this audience who I intended to reach in the book.  The conference bookstore ran out of copies of the bookI love saying, “it’s sold out!”–but they clearly didn’t order very many and didn’t think there would be interest in the book.  I told folks I would link Amazon on the blog, so here it is.  For folks outside of the US, contact me directly and I’ll find a way to get the book to you.

Some observations:

There is a real hunger to talk about innovative liturgy and using the body in worship among children’s ministers.

LGBTQ inclusion issues do not seem to be coming from the Sunday School department, or at least from what I hear at the conference.

As soon as academics who have little contact with church leadership enter the conversation, the conversation stops and everyone is in awe of how many different ways we can eloquently talk about “the” paradigm shift since 1950 (R).

It’s difficult to talk about emergent/emergence/missional church practices because there are varying degrees of depth to the conversation to something that is in essence very simple, and children’s ministry folks are entering the conversation in a new way.

Nearly all classic theological or theoretical paradigms of religious education are entirely unknown, because they aren’t taught in seminaries, the books are out of print, and the major players of the discipline have suppressed them.

We need more substantive theological reflection that leaves room for the Kingdom of God to be inclusive of children and youth.

It is this last point that seemed to be missing the most from the conference.  One presenter gave a rousing reflection, leading to a standing ovation, was about making theology more public.  Now, little that was said was anything new (Martin Marty got ripped off), but the fact is that coming out of the United Methodist General Conference last week, the mainline church folks here all must realize that the theology we think we might want to go public is anything but prepared to engage the world of the secular, is personally distructive, and fundamentally dishonest about valuing the development of children.

6 thoughts on “Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity: On the Ground

  1. I appreciate the plug. I sent your link to several pastors and youth leadership counselors who are trying to wrestle with similar obstacles. Your book should hopefully lead to more discussion.

  2. I wish I could have made it to this conference.

    I am about to enter Duke Div to work on an M. Div but have worked with junior high students (6th-8th grade) at an afterschool ministry in Nashville for the last two years. We have ended our time in about 10 minutes of a liturgical worship that I adapted from Common Prayer. It was usually about 20 students and 5-6 volunteers (of varying age ranges). We had a Monday liturgy and a Thursday liturgy that included the Doxology, a declaration of faith, a time of confession, and a call and response of Philippians 2. I witnessed a 7th grade student who has the literacy of a second grader recite the basic confession from memory. My last evening there, one of the 8th graders mentioned that he could probably pray through the sheet from memory. He didn’t totally understand, that that was the point. The entire time was a very beautiful moment for me and something that I continually have to remind myself is the most real.

    In the final minutes of our last time together, I closed by sharing a few words that were trying to convey the gospel of God’s non-violent acceptance and reconciliation of us and our charge to non-violently accept and be reconciled to each other. I shared those words on my blog here:

    All of that to say, I would be very interested in reading your book. I read off the Kindle so if there is a way to get a copy for that, I would love it. It is nice to know that I am not alone in thinking through how practices of liturgy, non-violence, forgiveness etc. can be used to transform the lives of students.

  3. Thank you!

    Also: I was really, really impressed with Brian McLaren. I didn’t speak with him directly, but I was in a small group discussion with him, and his presentation and panel comments were very good. I really haven’t kept up with his work since I decided I needed to stop reading new things aroune 2007 to finish my dissertation, and just never went back to him, but I deeply appreciated his graciousness and frankness.

  4. I will check on the status of the kindle edition. I know that the plan is that there wouldn’t be a cost advantage to any e-books that were made, and I know an ISBN was assigned to an ebook version of the book. Thanks for your interest!

  5. Thank you for your contributions bro. I am exploring a call to young adult ministry as well as that of one to take current certain church practices to task.
    I am VERY anxious to read your kindle edition book. Space and portability are my top reasons for kindle. Might be something to share with publisher. Especially true for those of us who work with younger generations.

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