the last paper was presented by kenda creasy dean. a huge survey has taken place amongst teenagers in the US - the National Study of Youth and Religion by Christian Smith - the largest study of religion and youth ever undertaken in the U.S., extensively profiling 3,370 American teenagers between the ages of 13-17. her paper is 40 pages long - but a quick summary:
most US teens are religious, but the kind of religious belief doesn't correlate too well with the chrisian faith we know - the survey describes it as moralistic therapeutic deism which might be summarised as having this creed:
1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.
the three groups who fared better than others were mormons, conservative protestants, and black protestants. kenda's response is that part of the reason for this is that they have learned and embodied a consequential faith. this has been in four resources that those communities offer to provide anchors for religious identities - a creed to believe, a place to belong, a call to live out and a hope to hold onto. the obvious question is that if she is right youth ministry (and churches across the board) need to ask whether they might be able to offer or deliver these things? however (and it's a pretty big however) it's only up to about 8% in those three groups that are doing better - so everyone has a big challenge on.
clearly the US context is very very different to here but this is fascinating and probably has lots for us to learn from... the report is published in a month or two i think.