Pointers March 2019

Inside this issue:

Denominationalism Today
More Christian denominations exist today in Australia, despite the efforts to put aside differences and bring Christians together. Some attend one community for a Bible study, another for an action group, a third for worship service. Also there are those that have little regard for the old divisions and choose to call themselves ‘Christian, nfd’ (not further defined). Philip Hughes explores these interesting trends.

Reimagining a More Compassionate, Less Anxious Society: A community conversation with Hugh Mackay

Stephen Reid outlines a public conversation with Hugh Mackay where he lists a number of ‘gloomy’ characteristics which he believes paint a picture of the current situation in Australian society. He is, however, optimistic about Australia’s future. Mackay listed some factors which have led to a socially fragmented society. 

In Memorium: Rev Dr John Francis Bodycomb
In the last edition of Pointers, Philip Hughes reviewed John Bodycomb’s book, Two Elephants in the Room: Evolving Christianity and Leadership. John was ordained into the Congregational Church. He had a number of appointments in churches in Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

Changes in the Religious Identification of Children between 2006 and 2016
Between the 2006 and 2011 Censuses, the number of children being identified with a Christian denomination (by a parent or guardian) rose by around 40,000 people, from 2.292 million to 2.332 million. Stephen delves into the statistics behind changes in religious identification of children. He also notes that immigration is contributing significantly to the growth of non-Christian religious groups in Australia.

 

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Pointers December 2018

Inside this issue:

Volunteering and Change in Religious Involvement
Readers of Pointers may remember assisting us in the development of the survey for the Study of the Economic Impact of Religion on Society (SEIROS) in 2015. The survey was conducted in 2016, and some initial analysis was undertaken by the Christian Research Association. The survey data was then given to Deloitte Economics who prepared a report, which was released in May 2018. Deloitte Economics decided that they would focus only on those people who reported that they did not attend a religious group when growing up, but did attend when they were adults, that is, on religious converts. As a consequence of this focus, Philip Hughes has done more analysis on religious conversion and volunteering.

Unpaid Work in Australia
Unpaid or voluntary work fulfils many important functions for individuals and society. Voluntary work can provide meaning for individuals, can open up opportunities for community participation, and can assist with general wellbeing and health of the contributor as well as the recipient. Unpaid work also contributes to the national economy in often unrecognised and unmeasured ways.

A Review and Reflection of Two Elephants in the Room: Evolving Christianity and Leadership
John Bodycomb has been a minister in the Uniting Church for more than fifty years. He developed Christian Education programs in South Australia, taught in the United Faculty of Theology in Melbourne, was chaplain at The University of Melbourne, and has ministered in many Uniting Churches. One of the fathers of the application of sociological thinking to ministry, he has never been one to shy away from challenging questions. His latest book is no exception and addresses very important questions for all those involved in Christian ministry: is there a future for organised Christianity, and for professional leadership within it?

Book review: God Is Good For You: A Defence of Christianity in Troubled Times
God is good for you, argues Greg Sheridan, and his book with that title is good for you, too. The author is the Foreign Editor of The Australian newspaper, and all his journalistic skill and experience is on display in this easy-to-read but insightful and challenging book.

Changes to the Board of CRA
At the Annual General Meeting of the Christian Research Association in November, there were some significant changes in personnel. Although two long-serving members finished up, the future of the association remains bright with experienced members stepping into new roles, and new members coming onto the Board.

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Children’s Prayer – A Multi-faith Perspective

This book provides strong arguments for giving prayer a central place in the education and nurture of children. It is based on research in Australian Catholic, parent-controlled Christian, Independent, Jewish, Muslim and government schools. The author demonstrates focused attention and care in the data collection from the words of children and their drawings of people praying. She takes us through her thorough processes of analysis and synthesis.

The research shows that prayer is valued by all children, whether they come from a religious background or not. For some children it is a way of associating with their communities and traditions of faith. For others, prayer is practised in an individualistic manner.

Prayer is a way to perceive and respond to the experiences of life. It can help in dealing with the challenging emotional states of anxiety, loneliness, fear, anger and guilt. It can give hope for the future. It provides a way of seeking help for others, as well as expressing praise and thanksgiving.

Vivienne Mountain has a background in teaching and in clinical counselling. She lectures in Spirituality and Ministry with Children at Stirling Theological College, University of Divinity, Australia. She has published three books as well as contributing chapters to a number of others and articles for national and international journals.

Vivienne Mountain PhD, MA (Theology), MA (Creative arts therapy), MA ( Philosophy and religion), B Ed, B Th.

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A Vision for effective Youth Ministry

Many young Australians are struggling with issues of mental health, anxiety about the future, and addictions to drugs. Behind these struggles are often questions of what life is all about. Youth ministry is more important today than at any time in recent history. Yet, many churches are finding it difficult to connect with youth beyond those whose families are involved in the church.

This book has arisen out of Australian research into youth ministry, from visiting youth groups and talking with youth leaders and the youth themselves. It offers a vision for the development of youth ministry, recognising the diversity of youth and the backgrounds from which they come.

It explores how to build a youth ministry team and the qualities needed in the team. It discusses issues of training, payment, and support for youth leaders and building bridges with parents, church and school.

What are the factors which will really make a difference in developing youth ministry? Based on research, our conclusions are:

  • The vision for developing the spirit of young people

  • The commitment of the whole church to youth ministry

  • The youth ministry team with strong relationships with God, each other, the youth, parents, the church and the wider society;

  • A diversity of activities: both age-specific and intergenerational for fun, friends, inquiry and developing the spirit.

The Authors:

Rev Dr Philip Hughes has had pastoral experience in inner city, suburban and rural churches, and has been the senior research officer of the Christian Research Association since 1985. He has two adult children and one grandchild.

Stephen Reid has worked for the Christian Research Association since 2007 and has one teenage child and two younger children.

Margaret Fraser has worked for the Christian Research Association since 2011. She has two children who are completing university and two who are teenagers.

All three authors were involved in interviews with youth, youth leaders, clergy and parents for this study.

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