The Spirituality Of Youth

The Spirituality of Youth and Ministry to Young People

Day 2 of the Roundtable on ‘Shaping Australia’s Spirituality’ focussed on ministry among young people.

Assoc Prof Kath Engebretson (ACU) spoke about the high levels of mental illness among young people. On the other hand, she noted that young people do have a spirituality that includes:

  • hope – especially for loving relationships;
  • capacity to be inspired;
  • strong networks of friends;
  • concern about social justice; and
  • a capacity for an experience of God.

Rev Dr Philip Hughes noted that there are many ways in which the churches interact with young people.

  • About 15 per cent of young people have a frequent connection with a church;
  • 30% of primary students and 38% of secondary students in Australia attend church-run schools; and
  • around 30% of government schools in Australia have chaplains and many more have religious education.

Yet, many young people are, at best, equivocal about the church and the Christian faith. For many, it is not their ‘cultural expression’. Claire Pickering expanded on how young people look to their own forms of music, for example, to express identity, cope with feelings, give assurance and encouragement.

Nor does the church represent a form of community that is familiar to most young people. While young people appreciate cooperation, peace and social justice, young people’s communities are often not pre-arranged or regular, but are informal ways of ‘hanging out’ or connecting electronically.

Overall, Philip Hughes concluded, students appreciate the care that is offered by the chaplains, schools and churches. But they are not generally impressed with the Christian faith – which they see as a matter of personal preference. While we are succeeding well in pastoral care, we are not succeeding well in the spiritual dimension of preparing young people to live well in the world.

For an audio version of these research presentations, right-click here to download an mp3 file.

For further details of the research, see Philip Hughes, Shaping Australia’s Spirituality: A Review of Christian Ministry in the Australian Context (2010, Mosaic Press, Melbourne).

The following people commented on this research and brought their own insights on ministry with young people:

  • Ruth Pinkerton (Scripture Union, Tasmania)
  • Malcolm Hart (Youth Ministry, Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference)
  • Jeanette Woods (Christian Schools Association)
  • Grant Bickerton and Dave Huddleston (Campus Crusade for Christ)

For an audio version of these reflections and comments on the research, right-click here to download an mp3 file.

Comments are closed.