Your God is too Boring III: More on Catholic Discipleship
Feb 15, 2016
During Lent, we will be reading and discussing Jon Leonetti’s Your God is too Boring. The blog post that follows is part of our reflection. Feel free to read, share, comment on, and discuss all that is reflected on here. While you don’t necessarily need to read the book in order to participate in our online discussion, we really recommend that you do, because, well, it’s a good book. Books and the reflection guide are three dollars and can be picked up at the back of church.
In our last post, we asked some questions about what it meant to be a disciple and how we think Catholics do in making disciples. To give a little context to that last question, I thought I would write a little about something called the National Study on Youth and Religion and what it says about how Catholic young people are living their faith.
The National Study on Youth and Religion (NSYR) was first conducted from 2001-2005 by Dr Christian Smith and colleagues and provides us with a challenging look at what today’s teen believe and how they act in light of those beliefs.
What follows is a summary of five findings of the NSYR, the last two of which speak directly to the question of how we as Catholics are doing in preparing our young people for a life of faith. For a more complete summary of the NSYR, go here. Also, all of the books published through the study are in Mike E’s office.
1. Parents really matter: The single most important influence on the religious and spiritual lives of teens is their parents. The study showed that on most attitudes toward and practices of religion, the teen mirrored the parent. What the parent professed about their faith and how the parent practiced their faith, had a direct correlation on what the teen professed and practiced.
2. Whatever!: A word most likely very familiar to parents of teens, whatever! also becomes their attitude toward religion and spirituality. While most teens are not overtly hostile toward religion, neither do they think that it makes much difference in their lives. They do not generally want to rock the boat and take the culture’s view that whatever one believes is fine. While the majority of them profess a belief in God, there isn’t much evidence that it goes much further than that.
3. The power of faith: That being said, the teens that do go beyond the superficial elements of faith and practice regularly appear to be happier and healthier than those who don’t. The study also shows that parishes who “prioritize ministry to youth and support for their parents…seem much more likely to draw youth into their religious lives…”
4. We’re (Catholics) Number 5!: When specific religious behaviors like reading Scripture or praying alone, attending mission trips, retreats, youth group or religious service attendance were examined, Catholics came in 5th among major denominational groups, just behind mainline Protestant and just ahead of Jewish and non-religious youths. Mormons came in first.
5. Teens are incredibly inarticulate about their faith, and Catholics teens are especially so: In their conversations with researchers, youth frequently stated that their one hour conversation with researchers was the first time any adult had broached the subject of faith and religion with them. Catholics were seen to be seen as so inarticulate about their faith, in his book Soul Searching, about the study, Dr. Christian Smith included a chapter entirely devoted to Catholic youth.
Christian Smith gave two theories as to why Catholic teens are less religious than other denominations: a) Hearkening back to #1, Catholic parents of teens seem to be much less religious than previous generations, and b) Catholic parishes tend to invest fewer resources than other denominations on forming teens and supporting their parents.
*Relating this back to our discussion of Catholic discipleship, a few questions:
- Why do you think other denominations typically do a better job of forming their young people in faith?
- What are some things that need to change in order for us as a Church and parish to do a better job of making disciples?
- What are some roadblocks or challenges parents face as they strive to pass on their faith to their children?
- If you are a parent, what kind of support do you need from us in order to pass on your faith?
*If you would rather not answer any of these questions here, please feel free to email or call me at the parish offices. I really do want and value your responses, especially to questions 2-4.
Lastly, please plan on attending our Strong Catholic Families presentation on March 9 at 6 PM in the church hall. This meeting will help us answer some of these important questions. For more info, see our Strong Catholic Family Page.