Learning from Almost Christian 2: Kenda Creasy Dean online

As we reported in Part 1 of this series, the hottest book on youth ministry in the fall of 2010 is Kenda Creasy Dean’s “Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church,” by Oxford University Press. This week, ReadTheSpirit is helping readers to understand the significance of Kenda’s findings and her recommendations. The best way to fully understand her work, of course, is to visit Amazon and order your own copy of “Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church,” by Kenda Creasy Dean and Oxford University Press..

Today, A Look at Kenda Creasy Dean Online:
Her Website Includes a Study Guide

Kenda is using her website to gather and publish some of her own fresh responses to readers of her new book—and she also is providing a study guide to “Almost Christian.” It’s a work in progress with questions for Chapters 1 and 2 now available.

But first, an important disclaimer: “Almost Christian” is not your typical small-group study book used in most congregations across the U.S. This is an Oxford University Press book reporting on a professional level about Kenda’s own conclusions from the much larger National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR), a massive report on adolescent spirituality across the U.S.

Here’s one typical passage from her section on “Decentering”: “Spiritual detachment enacts the liminal principle of the gospel that we discussed in chapter 5. In youth ministry, liminal practices leverage dissonance for the sake of divine transformation.”

Or, another passage: “Proponents of transformative learning theory note the importance of clash, conflict and creative disequilibrium as precipitating factors in change and growth.”

In other words, many passages of this book aren’t exactly Max Lucado or even John Dominic Crossan with the message entirely digested to a general reading level. Nevertheless, Kenda’s book is very well organized and adult readers quickly will pick up these concepts if we—as suggested above—actually buy the book and read it. If you get a copy, you can discern quickly who, in your own congregation, should be invited to read and discuss the book together.

Kenda wants to help! Chapters 1 and 2 of her new book are the most clear-cut, direct-to-general-readers sections of her book. These opening chapters are written in a passionate, provocative tone that will spark discussion among most adult readers. But, Kenda doesn’t want to stop there. She wants adults to get involved in the book’s final section—her 3-part prescription, which we summarized yesterday. So, her online study guide starts with Chapters 1 and 2. The guide provides questions both for adults and for young people. She promises to add more materials in coming months.

SAMPLE of “Almost Christian” Study Guide Online

FOR ADULTS, here are 2 of the 8 sample questions she suggests raising about Chapter 1 of her book …

  1. When you read on the book’s first page that, “We’re responsible,” did you count yourself among the “We”? If so, how did it feel? If not, who do you think “we” means?
  2. This book is about our teenagers, but it is also about us—the congregations, pastors, parents and Christian adults who are “charged with ‘handing on’ the good news of Jesus Christ to the teenagers on our watch.” In order to look at the version of Christianity that we are handing on, let’s look at the way we first received it. Who handed the good news of Jesus Christ to you? How did they do this? What did they show you and teach you?

FOR TEENS, here are a couple of the questions she suggests raising about Chapter 1 …

  1. Which adult in your life does your faith/religious beliefs most resemble? Why do you think your faith is much like theirs? How is your faith different from theirs?
  2. A lot of teenagers say religion is fine, it’s just not a big deal to them. Yet passion means loving something enough that you are wiling to suffer or make sacrifices for it. What or whom are you passionage about?

YOU CAN SEE, there’s a whole lot to discuss in this new book—even if major portions of the book grapple with the issues in a fairly professional tone. Thanks to Kenda and her colleagues for deciding to add material to her website to help readers spark better discussions.

URL Web Address for Kenda Creasy Dean

TAKE A LOOK: Kenda Creasy Dean’s website for “Almost Christian” is at http://kendadean.com

AND: Remember to visit Amazon and order your own copy of “Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church,” by Kenda Creasy Dean and Oxford University Press..


Part 1: Problems and Prescriptions

Part 2: Kenda Creasy Dean online

Part 3: Interview with Kenda Creasy Dean (coming Wednesday)

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