Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers

By Christian Smith; Melinda Lundquist Denton | Go to book overview
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Concluding Unscientific Postscript
Observations and Implications of NSYR Findings
for Religious Communities and Youth Workers

We said in the conclusion that we intend this book to be, among other things, a stimulus for soul-searching conversations among adults in various communities and organizations about the place and importance of adolescents in our lives and, in particular, the significance of the religious and spiritual lives of teenagers today. We anticipate that our findings will provoke such discussions in communities of faith and religious organizations in particular. To provide a bit of initial input to those discussions, in this brief, unscientific postscript we step out of our normal sociological roles—with more than a little trepidation—to try to imagine some of the book's possible prescriptive implications for communities of faith. To be perfectly clear about our purpose here: we are academic sociologists, not religious ministry consultants or promoters. Nevertheless, detailed knowledge and understanding of the social world often raises real questions about cultural and institutional practices and commitments that can make real differences in people's lives. We expect that communities of faith will be interested in pondering the implications of our research and so we offer here some preliminary ideas that seem to us to emerge from our findings. Readers who are not involved or interested in religious work with youth can stop reading at this point. For the rest, what follows is not conclusive or exhaustive, nor does it apply to every religious community or institution. It will finally be up to various communities and organizations to, if they wish, digest our findings and consider implications relevant for their own contexts, constituencies, and activities. However, certain possible, initial implications of NSYR findings do seem worth offering for consideration. When we reflect on what we have discovered about youth and religion, the following possible implications for communities of faith come to mind.

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