No Questions Asked
From a report by Youthscape
Phoebe Hill, Head of Research for Youthscape was sat with a teenage girl in a youth drop-in centre. They were passing the time of day, talking about the jobs that she was applying for. After a short while they got onto the topic of God, and Phoebe asked her if she had any questions about God, faith or religion. She said, ‘No not really. I don’t have any questions about that’.
What Youthscape have identified, through a small qualitative study of 16-19 year-olds in Luton schools, resonates with the conversation Phoebe had with the teenage girl above; they discovered a profound lack of questioning around God, faith and religion among the young people they spoke to.
This poses new questions for those of us seeking to engage young people in conversations around these important topics, and a potential shift in perspective when it comes to the starting points and in-roads to open up discussions around faith.
All of the young people interviewed believed in some sort of higher power, even if they would not call themselves religious. Interestingly, some participants began by saying that they didn’t believe in God or were unsure, but by the end of the interview said that there might be something that created the world.
Death was a prominent theme in the interviews, brought up by all of the young people without prompting from the interviewer. For some of the young people, the death of a loved one was a significant moment to reflect spiritually.
Nearly all of the young people interviewed had experiences of prayer, even if they would not call themselves religious. Many had prayed in the midst of difficult situations, almost as an instinctual response to what was going on around them.
They were passionately committed to the fair and equal treatment of all people, regardless of belief or religion, and demonstrated a sensitive and nuanced understanding of religion as a positive force which can be misrepresented by individuals.
Youthscape employed a range of approaches to draw out big questions from the young people interviewed. Their initial hope was that they would arise naturally from conversation and prompting around the topics of God, religion, spirituality and hopes and dreams. In general, they had to work quite hard to get questions out of the young people interviewed. They found a general lack of questioning when pushed for it.
Five different reasons are highlighted from the interview data as to why these young people may not be questioning God, faith or religion. These are:
1. Questioning is disrespectful
2. We're all the same
3. Beliefs are personal
4. Religion is practical, not abstract
5. Religion is not a big concern
Youthscape suggest some practical ways we approach the areas of belief and religion with young people. They suggest we need to:
Create safe spaces for conversation about belief and religion.
Offer practical faith experiences for young people.
Encourage religious young people to be different and bold.
Start with prayer, death and afterlife.
Download the report from here.
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