A resources question on Giving

I wasked asked to write something around resources to help young people consider the arena of giving and generous living. It looked like this …..
What resources are available (or should be) to help disciple young people into lives of generous giving?
Encouragingly young people are in many cases already generous with time and with money. A recent survey of 14-18 year olds discovered that 45% regularly volunteer their time and 80% of them give some money to charity. (for the purposes of this paper it is well worth noting that the rate of volunteering went up to 69% for those who indicated they attended ‘Christian Meetings’)
Clearly there is some resourcing already that is working.
Furthermore, any resources that aid the discipleship and growth of young people, that lead to Christ centred lives and Christ-like behaviour can only be a good thing.
There is a danger though of having a sub-conscious mindset that sees this resourcing question in the realms of ‘what should we teach?’ and ‘what must young people know? It’s a model that is prevalent in our churches and demonstrates the ‘Modernity’ mindset that aims to give information to the intellect that will then lead to changed behaviour. Teaching is not a bad thing, but for young people who live totally in a post-modern paradigm the resourcing must be about how young people learn, encounter, observe and question. An exposition of 2 Corinthians 8 (for example) may impart information but young people learn when they see it lived, wrestle with what it really means, connect it to life as they experience it.
A significant study in the United States discovered that many young people had a faith that the author described as “Therapeutic moral Deism” that is a faith that had feel-good benefits, offered some moral guidance and reached for God when there was a crisis, further discovering that this faith (in its application) generally mirrored their parents faith. This is despite the fact that many of these young people had encountered ‘solid Biblical teaching’ in their churches.
This brings us back to the resource question. The most significant resource we can offer to young people in aiding them to discover the Jesus transformed life of generous living and giving are adults who are themselves on a spiritual journey and invest time in relationships with young people. The results of the “Soul Searching” study cited above was that despite what young people were taught, what they tended to absorb (and reproduce) was what they saw.
Jo and Nigel Pimlot in their book, “Youth work after Christendom” point to the dualism that can occur with a failure to make the connection between the Christian story and everyday life. They argue that for a deeper discipleship to happen knowledge can only be a starting place, there needs to be a move into understanding, on into application and finally arriving at integration. They draw heavily from adult education and coaching to point to both process (which will differ for different people) and relationship as the keys.
Mark Yaconelli, author of ‘Contemplative Youth Ministry‘ spent more than a decade working with a variety of churches to see what a more contemplative approach to youth ministry would look like … and if it would work. One of the drivers for the experiment was his observation that young people are not blank slates and Christianity is not words, but the churches approach seemed to exist on the basis that these statements were true. His reflective conclusion was that the barrier was often that we, the adults, didn’t know how to be with our kids, didn’t know how to be with ourselves and didn’t know how to be with God. His work concluded that the resource needed to help young people grow in all areas of their faith were adults who could be present with God and present with young people. His conclusions reinforced by a statement by a 15 year old quoted in the book,
“Young people can’t just have someone reciting lines or reading a book or teaching. You want someone who’s learning, someone who’s alive and growing with you”
Of the resources that are currently available to help young people engage with Giving most are contained in resources produced by charities that specialise in Justice and/or environmental issues. The best resource that I can point to is the Youth Emmaus course that does provide a section called “Living it and giving it.” Furthermore it is a course that takes seriously the post modern paradigm and encourages gathering around food, notes the importance of questions and discussion, as well as holding relationship and spirituality as core values of its delivery.
My thesis though is very much that in the area of Christian giving and living, the resource question for work with young people is better rendered as who? than what?
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Supplemental links and Resources:
Young people and the environment
Generous.org
Fifty small acts that make a difference
The Live Simply website
The book, Simplify by Paul Borthwick
We are what we do website
Love Life-Live Lent
The Simple way website

One Reply to “A resources question on Giving”

  1. I love the phrase “Therapeutic moral Deism”!
    Great way to bring three disparate threads of a vaguely defined belief together, so they sound like a clearly defined whole.

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