The Least of These…
I finally started to read a book that has languished on my bookshelf for awhile now – Kenda Creasy Dean’s Almost Christian. Professor Dean teaches youth ministry at Princeton Seminary – and I quickly pre-judged this book to be relevant for “youth” – how wrong I was! This is becoming one of the most important books on ministry that I have read in recent years.
The Scriptures say that we will know people by the “fruit” that they bear – and this seems to be the main point of Professor Dean’s book – that we see in our youth just how vital our ministry as churches are. The fact is that our youth ARE learning what we are preaching and teaching. If faith is benign, safe, inarticulate to our teenagers, chances are better than not that this is exactly the message we are giving them. Highly religiously motivated teenagers aren’t accidentally produced!
The academic foundation of this book is based upon a study produced between 2003-2005 entitled the National Study of Youth and Religion, which was a study of teenage spirituality in the United States. As Professor Dean writes, “the religiousity of American teenagers must be read primarily as a reflection of their parents’ religious devotion (or lack thereof) and, by extension, that of their congregations” (pp.3-4).
So, let me just simply and demonstrably commend this book to your attention. The leadership of my own congregation will become all-too familiar with this book in the coming months – I promise you that it will shape our strategy of living out our church’s mission.
I have introduced this book to get to this story – Professor Dean begins chapter 5 with a story about how one Christian school in Texas decided to live out the mission of Christ – in sports of all places. Rather than stumbling through a summary, I invite you to go to the link. I have to admit that I am not the biggest Rick Reilly fan – but this is a story that is compelling despite him. Please give this a read:
Grace and Peace!