Gordon College Hosts Author of National Youth and Religion Study at Youth Ministry Symposium

Gordon College’s Fourth Annual Symposium on Youth Ministry will feature Dr. Christian Smith, co-author of a newly released study on teenagers and religion.

Gordon College, a Christian liberal arts college located in Massachusetts, will hold its Fourth Annual Symposium on Youth Ministry on Nov. 17. This year’s symposium will focus on a recent report published by the National Study of Youth and Religion, called “Soul Searching: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers.”

Authored by Dr. Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the book reports the findings of one of the most comprehensive studies on teenagers and religion conducted to date. Researchers conducted phone surveys with teens and parents nationwide as well as interviews with more than 250 survey respondents.

Unlike the belief that teens are falling away from religion, the study instead found that teens are significantly influenced by the religious beliefs and practices of adults. Religion plays a large and complex role in the lives of teenagers, as a major force shaping the lives of teens, but one that is poorly understood by teens themselves.

Smith describes a “major transformation of faith,” where teens have moved away from traditional religious practice to what Smith calls a “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.”

Reviewers have praised Smith’s book, saying that it brings to light important issues for those involved in youth ministry. Most of all, the study points out the need to educate youth about their faith.

Smith, a Gordon College alum from the class of 1983, will be a special guest at this year’s symposium. The event is free of charge and will last from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Lane Student Center on Gordon College’s campus. For more information, or to sign up for the event, contact bob.whittet@gordon.edu, or 978-867-4010.