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Got Religion?: How Churches, Mosques, and Synagogues Can Bring Young People Backby Naomi Schaefer Riley
Synopses & Reviews
According to a 2012 report by the Pew Forum on Religious Life, a third of American adults under the age of thirty claimed no religious affiliation. The reports findings can easily paint a dismal picture of American religion, yet the future may be brighter than we imagine. While studies indicate that this generation of emerging adults is less likely to be involved with religion than their parents and grandparents, some religious institutions are successfully retaining, nurturing and developing young believers. But which are these organizations? What methods are they employing? And can their strategies be successful for other religious groups?
In Got Religion?, veteran journalist Naomi Schaefer Riley sets out to identify and meet with religious leaders across America who are successfully engaging and growing the number of young members in their congregation. In interviews with clergy, academics, and (most importantly) the young men and women themselves, she uncovers a series of practical cross-denominational solutions that leaders of all faiths can employ in their own communities.
Unlike other books, Rileys research goes beyond one faith to lay out the reasons that people in their early twenties to mid-thirties are leaving their churches, synagogues, and mosques. She discovers that the secret to maintaining these congregants may lie not in catering to this demographic with more flashy programming and cutting edge technology but rather in giving them opportunities to take responsibility and truly serve their communities.
Through a series of vignettes, Riley discusses how an all- American mosque, a Catholic teacher-training program, an evangelical church plant, and a synagogue-hopping program, for instance, can not only foster a sense of community among young people, but also successfully compete against modernday entertainment. She shows how service-based programs encourage ownership of faith, how churches can collaborate to bring in new members without stealing each others sheep, how congregations have asked older members to give up some responsibility to encourage young adults to step up, and how a focus on the old-fashioned concept of neighborhood can reinvigorate faith communities.
An essential guide for religious leaders who are trying to grow their congregation of emerging adults, Got Religion? provides a broad, ecumenical view of the problem and offers proven methods in getting young adults to commit to religious institutions for now and years to come.
"A former Wall Street Journal editor, Riley (God on the Quad) has written a useful overview of the challenges facing religious congregations as they try to recruit a younger generation to old-timey institutions and traditions. But rather than dwell on the reasons for the religious decline, she provides readers with case studies of seven different faiths that have tried innovative programs to meet the needs of a post-college generation, sometimes identified as 'emerging adults.' Although all the groups are different, they share a fundamental predicament: keeping their heritage going in an age of distraction. In her reporting, Riley finds that young people want community, a sense of belonging, and an opportunity to serve. Ironically, many college-based religious offerings are too successful; they make it hard for congregations to draw young adults after they've graduated. Roman Catholic groups have tried to recreate a shared living experience through the Alliance for Catholic Education and Jewish groups through Moishe House. Other faiths have tried other approaches. Though there is no magic bullet, the examples in this short volume provide a concise and readable examination of ways to shape future congregational lay leaders. (May)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Why are young people dropping out of religious institutions? Can anything be done to reverse the trend? In Got Religion?, Naomi Schaefer Riley examines the reasons for the defection, why we should care, and how some communities are successfully addressing the problem.
The traditional markers of growing up are getting married and becoming financially independent. But young adults are delaying these milestones, sometimes for a full decade longer than
their parents and grandparents. This new phase of emerging adulthood” is diminishing the involvement of young people in religious institutions, sapping the strength and vitality of faith communities, and creating a more barren religious landscape for the young adults who do eventually decide to return to it. Yet, clearly there are some churches, synagogues, and mosques that are making strides in bringing young people back to religion.
Got Religion? offers in-depth, on-the-ground reporting about the most successful of these institutions and shows how many of the structural solutions for one religious group can be adapted to work for another.
The faith communities young people attach themselves to are not necessarily the biggest or the most flashy. They are not the wealthiest or the ones employing the latest technology. Rather, they are the ones that create stability for young people, that give them real responsibility in a community and that help them form the habits of believers that will last a lifetime.
About the Author
Naomi Schaefer Riley is a weekly columnist for the New York Post. From 20052010, she was the deputy Tastepage editor of the Wall Street Journal where she wrote about religion, higher education, and philanthropy. She is the author of Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America, an editors pick by the New York Times Book Review, The Faculty Lounges . . . And Other Reasons You Wont Get the College Education You Paid For, The Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation are Changing America, and co-editor of Acculturated: 23 Savvy Writers Find Hidden Virtue in Reality TV, Chick Lit, Video Games, and Other Pillars of Pop Culture.
Table of Contents
Preface / vii
Introduction / 1
Location, Location, Location:
How the Theology of Place Is Plugging Young Adults back into Their Communities and Their Churches / 17
The All-American Mosque:
How Shedding Immigrant Ways Can Reshape Islam in the United States / 35
Joining the Service:
How the Catholic Church Is Training a New Generation of Laypeople to Be Spiritual Leaders / 55
Channeling the Enthusiasm of Birthright Israel into a Permanent Jewish Commitment / 73
A Ward of Their Own:
How the Mormon Church Is Turning Twenty-Somethings into Community Leaders / 91
When No One Needs Church Anymore, How Do You Make Them Want It?
The Relevance of the Black Church in the Twenty- First Century / 107
The End of Sheep Stealing:
How Churches Can Collaborate to Bring Twenty-Somethings Back into the Fold / 123
Conclusion / 139
Notes / 155
Index / 157
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