Spirituality and Young People

Ok here goes, Youthblog’s take on the Spirituality day put on by CTE and the inimitable JBB!
The key parts of the day were presentations by Bob Mayo and by Phil Rankin who were reporting on two seperate pieces of research, the first connected with the Nazarene College in Manchester, the latter at Sarum College in Salisbury.
Bob was reporting on the Nazareth project which is seeking to explore “The gap between the reality and expectation of Christian Youth Work” and working with young people who have a connection with some sort of faith based work. I’m afraid I was not able to get down all the questions that formed this work but Bob identified three types of Spiritual response in those questioned:
1. Entertainment (ghosts, scares, talking points)
2. Significance (family, friends connections, an idea of life being lived to the full)
3. Transcendence (a sense of “other” an acknowledgment of God)
As a work in progress Bob and team also postulated two types of Spirituality:
FORMATIVE (concerned with the human condition, making meaning, value sensing)
TRANSFORMATIVE (conscious attempt to touch a deeper reality)
They also noted how many of their respondents prayed but were often unclear about to whom they prayed and why ….. but prayer was part of who they were!
Phil Rankins work was based around conversations with young people (aged 14-25) in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The conversations happened wherever he found people and was as random as is possible. His research was around two questions and the ensuing conversation. He used no tapes or notebook (in order that the discussion would flow) but wrote up detailed accounts immediately afterwards. The two questions were:
1. Do you perceive yourself as spiritual
2. What do you understand by spirituality
Candle2.gif I’m really looking forward to this report being published as this open conversation prompted some extrodinary stuff. What emerged was young people would often struggle to consider themselves spiritual BUT as the conversation went on spiritual stuff emerged.
Phil discovered that young people really appreciated the opportunity to talk about this subject and their experiences. They were really happy to talk about “spirituality” when someone was actually listening not telling them.
Phil discovered that Young People pray a lot.
He also discovered that Young People think they have sufficient information to reject christianity when in fact they have very little understanding of the christian faith. His experience also bore out that Young people long to be genuinely part of REAL community.
It was clear from all aspects of the conference that a unifying definition of spirituality eludes us. Probably the most helpful one came from someone in Phil’s research who referred to it as,
“Stuff concerned with life and death”
Great day, I hope it’ll form the basis for lots more discussion, experimentation and theological reflection.
Key thing so far for me (and a regular line of mine):
(PS CTE are considering repeating the day in the Midlands sometime in the Autumn, if you’re interested let them know as they are keen to see if there’s a demand, JBB via [email protected])

9 Replies to “Spirituality and Young People”

  1. Now I hear that you are exited about Phils work I will own up to being on his advisory group – certianly what I’ve already read of his research is really exciting me

  2. Fantastic …….. you may just have moved up to 35 points 🙂 I’m really looking fwd to Phil’s work being published.

  3. I have a feeling that his findings aren’t going to be ‘limited’ to that side of the pond! 🙂
    Keep listening – great advice.

  4. great write up – thanks for writing it down.
    Think the research on both projects is intriguing – cannot wait for the results

  5. Good Stuff. Bob mentioned the transformative and formative stuff a while back. If anyone is still trying to work through their response to the NYA paper on Spirituality by MAxine Green Bobs thinking provides some helpful hooks. I would say Maxine generally means formative in the paper but when we read it, it tends to be with a transformative mindset around spirituality.

  6. I found Bob and Sylies research fascinating as ever 🙂 I agree that much of the discussion re. spirituality refers to the formative dimension, though I question how polarised these two can be – one question I have is the place of personal narrative in spiritual formation – and is it posible to identify transformative moments in the development of personal spirituality without the outcome being transformative in a holistic/cohesive sense e.g. an identified spiritual/belief system or even a systematic exploration … ie. the death of someone close may be truly transformative whilst not resulting in a deliberate quest.
    Whilst I found Phils findings interesting and consistent with personal observations I had some concern over the question of language – without recording how is it possible NOT to substitute words with interpretation – i.e. if I replace your words with mine I am imposing my meaning. I’m sure that with experience one can become quite accurate but the length of his interviews (up to 2.5hrs) surely make it impossible to be completely accurate? This does not negate his research for me but it does make me somewhat wary of any concrete findings and recommendations. However as his thoughts echo other research they are undoubtably useful corroberation.

  7. In defense of Phil’s research this was one of the questions that we asked at the advisory group. It is a recognised method of research used in sociological research and is seen as valid. I guess it has to be balanced with the recognition that with some sort of audio or video recording people are less likely to share such intimate and personal thoughts. Swings and roundabouts really just like any sort of research method

  8. I do agree Dianna, there is always a play off – with the first question I see no problem, it is the second – the “what do you understand as” bit that is a bit of an issue for me, if you are seeking an interpretation then there seems to me to be a possibility of building another language layer, secondly the length of the interviews surely makes it harder to recollect the linguistic subtelties? But you are right it is a valid method, and no more problematic than focus groups and I understand the need to allow the interviews to flow without obstruction. Presumably though you cannot get recorded consent for the data to be used/held either?

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