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Review: Spiritual Development: New Directions for Youth Development

Spiritual Development: New Directions for Youth Development
Edited by Peter L. Benson, Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, and Kathryn L. Hong
Published by Jossey-Bass

Is Spiritual Development a valid question in the secular realm? Do youth workers have a significant contribution to make in the secular conversation about spiritual development? What is spiritual development outside of construct of the church?

The editors of New Directions for Youth Development tackled these very questions in their Spiritual Development edition. The contributing articles look at various aspects of the spiritual development conversation to create a holistic view of the current conversation on the matter.

Many youth workers have at least a minimal understanding of faith development theory and they exercise that knowledge in the way they create faith opportunities for the youth in their ministry.  However, there are a large number of youth who are never reached by the ministries of our churches. Are they developing spiritually, too? Is spiritual development something that occurs only in relationship to Christ? Or is it, like physical or emotional development, something that occurs for each person?

A read through this edition of New Directions is challenging for the Christian youth worker. The articles come from a variety of secular and ministerial contributors. They address the social need of spiritual development and challenge the youth worker to examine their place in a secular conversation about spiritual development. As community programs begin to explore spiritual development as a piece of their offerings, how will we respond? Can we contribute to their exploration without violating our confidence in Christ?

New Directions poses more questions for the reader than answers. But as the congregational experts on the spiritual development of adolescents, we have a duty to be prepared and informed of the community conversation. Our young people will be exposed to the spiritual development efforts of community programs and will hear the perspectives of those outside of our faith community.  Instead of reacting in fear and self-preservation, we can, as Christian youth workers, pro-actively understand what is occurring in our communities in terms of spiritual development and create corresponding tools for our youth. If they are practicing yoga in health and wellness class at school, we can teach them strategies of Christian meditation. We can develop a presence in the community conversation that encourages others to explore what a spiritual life in Christ, the true spirituality, looks like.

Published May 29, 2009

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