Kenda Creasy Dean

kenda.jpg Kenda presented a well constructed theory that all young people are intuitive theologians, that their lives demonstrate a search for Fidelity, Transendence and Communion. That at a pre-conscious level there is a search for a salvation figure, a quest that’s acted on without thought. This exploration was well backed up with film, story and example and was an insightful analysis of the passion and quest of adolescence.
A Study of young people and religion from the States had produced the following (my note form)
1.Teenagers are not hostile towards religion (not rebellion, actually they don’t care …. It’s off the radar screen) ‘benign whateverism
2. Teenagers faith mirrors their parents faith
3. Teenagers are incredibly inarticulate about religion (but are incredibly articulate on other stuff)
4. A 40% minority say that religion is important to them and makes a difference in their lives (although only about 8% we would recognise as devout)
5. Most teenagers adhere to Moralistic Therapeutic Deism as their unacknowledged religious creed.
This fifth point of teenagers ascribing to a Moralistic Therapeutic Deism was an important one and its creed was expressed thusly:
God exists and watches over life
God wants us to be good
The central goal of life is to be happy
God doesn’t need to be involved in my life unless I need God to solve a problem
Good peoplel go to heaven
But this is not the God we know, the God of relationship, the God of suffering love. So where have young people picked this theology up from. Explored how much of it actually mirrors what they see in christians?
Challenging question: How much of our ministry could quite easily happen without Jesus?
Kenda then explored some of the Rocks that make a difference:
1. A creed to believe …………… A God worth worshipping
2. A community to belong to ……….. Who has the sense that they belong
3. A call to live out (a sense of meaning and purpose)
4. A hope to hold onto (an explicit eschatology)
and further to this, talked about our role of helping young people have a language to explore faith. Using this metaphor there was a call too …
Teach the grammar of Christ
Surround youth with those who talk to God, who speak the faith, who tell the stories … who live baptismal lives.
Foster Faith fluency
Immerse youth in a baptismal community where people practice dying and rising in Christ
Practice Diction
Create opportunities for youth to participate in the baptismal life of ministry … to claim God’s call for themesleves
Keep your accent
Live advent lives alongside youth ….marked by un-anxious, expectant, and articulate presence
I’m not sure these brief notes do the day justice, it was a critically important day for me in terms of the way that we do youth ministry and the way we view young people.

10 Replies to “Kenda Creasy Dean”

  1. Hey Ian, interesting that “Gen Y” study from Bob Mayo and others comes to different conclusions about what young people are looking for – consciously or otherwise. Quite possibly a cultural gap exists as “in God we trust” is on every bit of American currency and “God language” is found in a lot of popular culture in America – but not to the same extent as in the UK, not sure wht to make a Kenda’s findings for a UK youth missional context.

  2. Ask yourself this, that’s the point of ramming a one sided argument down children’s throats, who are incapable of balancing up both sides? Brainwashing? This is taking advantage of teenagers and children’s inabilities to make informed decisions.
    “Teenagers don’t care about religion”! I could have told you this without doing any surveys at all. Which leads my onto the next question why are you trying to introduce teenagers to Christianity if they don’t care? Oh i remember! To get your next pay check (assuming your getting paid for your work). All your efforts are leading to is for teenagers to reject Christianity with the majority not considering religion for sometime in their later lives, if at all.
    “Teenagers faith mirrors their parent’s faith”. This is because their parents force them to church. You should be ashamed of yourself if you force your own children to church. This isn’t developing any faith at all. They only believe in it because they’ve been brought up with it not because they have faith. You’re only kidding yourself if you seriously think your children have faith in God.
    Sorry for sounding so negative about youth work. However i think it’s exploitation.

  3. Hi there Anon,
    Thanks for commenting on the blog, that’s certainly some issues that you’ve raised.
    I would love to answer if that’s OK. I don’t believe in brainwashing anyone and I’m certain that forcing someone to go to church would not be productive, credible or ethical.
    The youth work/ministry that I am involved in is concerned for the whole young person whether they come to faith or not. It is however, my discovery of a life worth living, forgiveness, meaning and purpose through Jesus that I share, open to questioning or rejection.
    I’d be really interested to know what your world view is, what it is that is central to your life?
    I reckon you’re right to question whether christian youth work is coersive (and I would disagree with any practice that is), but what would your message be to young people? What would be the converation around meaning that you would want to explore with them?
    I see a whole generation of adults and young people who aren’t sure what life is about, whether they have worth. I’m happy telling the story of what’s changed my life!
    I don’t know your name but feel free to comment back or to e-mail as I’d love to ‘talk’ further.

  4. For me I think about being a baptismal community was a really important point for the conversations of youth ministry in an Anglican setting. It is the use of the language that for me was the most helpful and I will be testing it out tonight at a PCC of the middle tradition. I hear you Ali on the missiological context but some of the traditions are not yet engaged in that language. This is where KCD was helpful and I think this is one of the routes we could explore with those of the middle and catholic traditions even those of the evangelical tradition.
    I shall see tonight how it goes down and report back.
    By the way, Ian thanks for this as ever.

  5. Its been really interesting reading generation y hearing Kenda and reading Ian Rankin’s stuff. To be honest I really think there is a distinct lack of depth to the Generation Y stuff. I like what they are saying ie “we oversimplify young people assume they are all spriritual and got a God shaped hole that we can fill” and would work against anyone working like this BUT when their research is based on less than 150 young people!!!! you have got to ask the question. Kenda’s presentation was asking the question of whether intuative theology had echoes over here or not and I have to say yes 1) From y own experience, 2) from two far better pieces of research (Ian rankin and catholic dyo from northampton wrote a report funnilyt enough called generation y)
    I like Bob’s work and i count Graham as a friend but when I was a kid doing maths o level I always just wrote the answer (which invariably I got right) and didnt show working out and got marked down accordingly. I think generation y is like that great conclusion pitty u didnt spend more time working it out

  6. Very interesting blog Ian!! Sadly I wasn’t able to attend the Kendra’s events and I haven’t yet read Bob Mayo’s ‘Generation Y’ but I still have a few comments. The first thing is the different context. I have read ‘Soul Searching’, the main text on the religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers. It’s a very interesting read and I would recommend that everyone get a copy, along with ‘Buried Spirituality’ of course!! But some of the world view/philosophy of U.K. young people is decidedly different from those of young people in the U.S.A. Considering Kendra’s five points:
    1: U.K. young people are generally much more hostile to religion, especially in England. There is for sure a prevailing ‘whateverism’ attitude, or an ‘its alright for them, but its not for me’. But there is also a strong negative attitude to Church. Not to the message necessarily, but definitely to the method (e.g. Church, many forms of evangelism etc.). A significant factor here is the role of R.E. in U.K., something that most areas of the U.S.A. do not have.
    2. In the U.K. most parents do not have an active and visible faith so there isn’t anything to mirror in the first place.
    3. Many U.K. teenagers are not inarticulate at all, and to some degree are able to talk about bible stories, Jesus, God, Church structures etc. This is especially the case outside England. Their perceptions may not be wholly accurate, but they are often able to recall aspects of Christianity and other religions. This again is influenced by R.E.
    4. This isn’t something I can recall off the top of my head but I would suggest looking at some of the work Leslie Francis’ has done over the years. I would expect that 40% figure to be lower in the U.K. but ask them if they think about their life’s purpose, what happens when they die or if there is a God and that figure will jump dramatically!
    5. This is true to some extent in the U.K. and was something that I thought about in ‘Buried Spirituality’ but in a different way. For instance, high numbers of young people pray to a ‘god’ (and I use that term loosely) to ask to be cared for or to get through an exam yet often they don’t believe that ‘god’ exists. The notion of a ‘god being’ is entirely for the benefit of the young person and is really so that life will be good, easy, happy etc.
    These kind of differences make direct comparison difficult and again reinforces one of the main points of my work – create the space with young people so that each individual person can be enabled to connect their lifestyle and belief in the best way that THEY can. To Kendra’s four rocks I would say that I am in no doubt that young people are seeking the first three:
    1. ‘Young want to connect lifestyle and belief’
    2. The need to belong is very strong in U.K. young people (but they don find Churches providing it)
    3. Spiritual questions especially ‘Why am I here?’
    The fourth point I’m not entirely sure about and will have to give more thought too!! (Ian, perhaps you could explain it a bit more?!!)
    My one comment on Kendra’s and Bob Mayo’s work in relation to mine is related to the suggestion that young people aren’t seekers. Basically, if young people want happiness and that is their perceived ultimate aim, then they are asking a significant, (spiritual) question – Why am I here? If they believe there is/isn’t a God, then young people are asking a significant/spiritual question – Is there a God? While the ANSWER to the questions is important, and it is the asking of the questions that is the presentation of the spiritual. And of their seeking. Youth work/ministry and the Church has to create spaces with young people to connect with the questions and explore their and our current ‘answers’ as well as any other new possibilities that come along.
    Hope this isn’t too long!! As usual, I could write another two pages but that will have to keep for another time!!!
    Why do I always write such long responses on this site?!!!

  7. Ian, thanks for this. I went to the Kenda gig in Guildford.
    I am not sure that there is a right or wrong path to steer between Kenda’s work and that of the Gen Y and ‘Buried Spirituality’. I take on Sud’s point that Kenda was actually asking questions about whether young people are “intuitive theologions”. It was a stimulating day!
    From all the discussion above I am still left thinking that churches need to find new “unconditional” ways of engaging with young people and stop providing answers to questions that no-one is bothered with.
    Love the blog mate!

  8. Been saying for a while that each individual Christian needs to create space with other people, not to give answers but to explore spiritual questions and the whole of life but I absolutely loved this line from miz that sums it up perfectly!!!
    “Churches need to find new “unconditional” ways of engaging with young people and stop providing answers to questions that no-one is bothered with.”

  9. This is good stuff and BIG thanks to Phil, Tim, Dean ,Miz, Ali and Anon for the discussion.
    I think this will be a BIG source of discussion at the DYO annual get together next week. Phil I’ll fill you in on that discussion and ask for your thoughts on where we get to on how this impacts our ministry.

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