Discussions of adolescence and youth spirituality often focus primarily on the problems that need to be fixed in youth or their context. This essay draws upon positive youth development theory, which asserts that youth are much more than problems or at-risk. It affirms that all youth have resources that can be developed and contributions to make to their communities. This essay reviews the pervasiveness of problem-based approaches in the larger society and contemporary research on the religious lives of youth. It also calls theologians and youth workers to contribute to the shifting perspective of youth by re-imaging youth spiritual maturity as more than “adult like” and to offer a theology of adolescence which explicitly affirms youth engagement as partners with God, right now.
DamonWilliam. “What Is Positive Youth Development?” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 591 (2004): 13–24, Accessed January 14, 2015. Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4127632.
“Event Transcript: Religion Trends in the U.S.” Pew Research Centers Religion Public Life Project rss. August 19, 2013. Accessed January 28, 2015. http://www.pewforum.org/2013/08/19/event-transcript-religion-trends-in-the-u-s.
PittmanKaren, IrbyMerita, TolmanJoel, YohalemNicole, and FerberThaddeus. “Preventing Problems, Promoting Development, Encouraging Engagement: Competing Priorities or Inseparable Goals?” Based upon Pittman, Karen & Merita Irby, “Preventing Problems or Promoting Development?” The Forum for Youth Investment, Impact Strategies, Inc., Washington, dc, 1996. www.forumfyi.org.
“Rise of the Nones Re-examined.” Unreasonable Faith. August 28, 2013. Accessed January 28, 2015. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unreasonablefaith/2013/08/rise-of-the-nones-re-examined/.
On “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” as U.S. Teenagers’ Actual, Tacit, De Facto Religious Faith.” Paper presented for the Princeton Lectures on Youth, Church, and Culture, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ, 2005.
WrightAlmeda M. “
Integrated-Integrating Pedagogy: A Practical Theological analysis of fragmented spirituality among African American adolescents.” PhD diss., Emory University, 2010. http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/8kfj0.
Urie Bronfenbrenner, The ecology of human development. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979) See also http://www.actforyouth.net/youth_development/development/research/ for a brief synopsis of Bronfenbrenner’s contribution to positive youth development theory.