Rabbi Peter Rubinstein of Central Synagogue in Manhattan and a member of the New York delegation that visited Salt Lake City last year said he “came away amazed by the sense of volunteerism” he saw among Mormon young people. “Think of what we could do if we had that kind of commitment,” he said.I wrote about the Jewish/L.D.S. agreement announcement a few days ago. The above quote caught my eye in one of the articles I read. That coupled with a recent USA Today articled suggests teens aren't even coming to church pizza parties anymore. This is a carbon copy statement of what a woman told us at our city park a short time ago when we walked our dog.
Only about one in four teens now participate in church youth groups, considered the hallmark of involvement; numbers have been flat since 1999. Other measures of religiosity — prayer, Bible reading and going to church — lag as well, according to Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif., evangelical research company. This all has churches canceling their summer teen camps and youth pastors looking worriedly toward the fall, when school-year youth groups kick in.Kenda Creasy Dean, a faculty member of the Princeton's Theological Seminary wrote a book entitled, Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church. Chapter 3 entitled, "Mormon Envy: Sociological Tools for a Consequential Faith" chronicles what the Mormons are doing for youth. Her data came from a national longitudinal study. She sums up her reasoning about Mormons in the end of the book. I'm taking the following from Jana Riess' book review of Dean's book "Flunking Sainthood."
1. They are sufficiently catechized in beliefs by their own parents and by a spiritual community that expresses consistent expectations.
2. They need to acquire a personal testimony.
3. They need concrete religious goals and a sense of vocation.
4. They need hope for the future.Some doubt on whether the Mormon model can be used or replicated elsewhere. I think the following author is assuming that most Mormons live together in the same community, probably Utah. This is not the case, and when they don't they make up in cohesiveness what they lack in propinquity.
I also wonder if Kenda (and the NSYR researchers) underplay the fact that Mormons tend to live in community with one another, thus muting the parallels that most church-based youth workers can draw from the study. The tightness of the Mormon community is something that simply cannot be replicated by the average American youth pastor.I would think the Mormon model would be relevant for other religions and would encourage other faiths to examine it and especially the online resources and information the Church provides for youth and their leaders. But, what do I know? I haven't been a youth or a youth leader in years. So, I'll let one of them sum up: