Hearts and Minds
WILL OUR CHILDREN have faith? Christian educator John Westerhoff asked that question over 25 years ago in a book with that title. It a question worth asking repeatedly, for the church is always only one generation away from extinction. Are mainline churches winning the hearts and minds of their youth? Or do they serve as a revolving door, with youth exiting either into faithless secularism or "hotter" forms of religiosity, from evangelicalism to Orthodoxy to New Age spirituality?
Bob McCarty, executive director of the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry, says that Westerhoff's question needs to be turned on its head: not will our children have faith, but will our faith have children? Youth, McCarty claims, are very much interested in God, Christ and Christianity, but they're not drawn toward institutional expressions of it.
Some mainline seminaries are appropriately giving renewed attention to youth ministries--Perkins, Columbia and Princeton, to name just three. Princeton's Institute for Youth Ministry sponsors two Youth Forums each year that draw hundreds of youth ministers and others who work with youth--people who are concerned about youth and hopeful about the signs of faith and commitment that they see.
Why does the church concern itself about passing on the faith? …