Times of intense change afford us positive opportunities to reshape institutions and operational patterns. As Christian educators, we should seize this opportunity to not only reshape our educational practices, but also to consider new information that has been emerging about the very nature of what we seek to do in Christian schools—educating for wisdom and discipleship. In this article, I hope to review some of the recent research related to the faith formation of children and adolescents and examine the role of the Christian school and the Christian educator in nurturing student faith.
Recent Research on Faith Formation
Here is a quick rundown of some recent research around faith formation. There has been considerable energy and monies expended within the Christian community on this topic in the past ten years. It is imperative that we pay attention to this information and discuss possible implications for our practice in Christian schools. Full bibliographic information for each title can be found in the Works Cited at the end of this article.
Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (2005)
This book is highly significant because it reports the findings of the largest study ever done of the faith beliefs of 13–17 year olds in America (The National Study of Youth and Religion, NSYR). The authors coin the term “Moral Therapeutic Deism” to describe teens’ dominant religion, and suggest that it is a secularized version of the historic Christian faith. They identify five tenets: 1) A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over life on earth, 2) God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, 3) The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about one’s self, 4) God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem, and 5) Good people go to heaven when they die. Today’s teens demonstrate a warm, fuzzy faith with no demands, low commitment, superficial understandings of faith, and a focus on self and one’s own happiness rather than a life of obedience and service to God and neighbor. The authors state that “we have gotten what we are,” meaning that kids are modeling themselves after their parents.