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I want to know how teens (both Christian and atheist teenagers) would respond to these beliefs.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism Case Study: Teens Telling Us What They Think

Kenda Dean, a youth ministry professor at Princeton Seminary, is one of the many youth ministry minds that reshaped my thinking about youth ministry.  Her latest book:  Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church, is causing a big noise in the youth ministry world because she provides a treatment for how to cope with the reality of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.  On Kenda’s website she describes MTD:

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is the name that sociologist Christian Smith gave to the default religious belief system of American teenagers, surfaced by the National Study of Youth and Religion and in Smith’s book:  Soul Searching.

Guiding Beliefs of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism: (Almost Christian, pg 14)

1. A god exists who created and orders the world and watches over life on earth.
2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught by the Bible and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. God is not involved in my life except when I need god to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

When I read the list, all 5 beliefs seemed to align with what I have observed in the youth ministry trenches, but I am still wondering if teens think these statements are true about themselves?  I am on mission to find out how teens (both Christian and atheist teenagers) would respond to these beliefs. If we asked teens we work with on the ground level, what w0uld they think about these statements? Would they disagree or agree with the research?  I was intrigued and had to do something about it.

Over the next 4 weeks, I am going to be running a Moralistic Therapeutic Deism Case Study among 50 teenagers.  My curousity to find out what 50 teenagers really think about what Christian Smith and National Study of Youth and Religion think about them.

This is where I need your help and relational investment.

I need 25 youth workers (vocational or volunteer) to ask 2 teenagers to respond to these 5 beliefs.

Each youth worker needs to ask 1 atheist teenager (Teenager A) and 1 Christian teenager (Teenager B).  Each teenager is required to type his/her responses and return it back to their youth worker. Once responses have been generated, please return them to me via email (zach.jeremy@gmail.com) or contact form.

I will compile all 50 teenager’s responses and I will write up a report analysis and commentary on my reyouthpastor.com blog towards the later portion of January.

Case Study Requirements:

–  Must know and work with Teenager A and Teenager B for at least 1 year

–  Responses must be typed (This is so that I can really dig into each teen’s thoughts, word for word, without a filter)

–  Teenager must be between the ages of 13-18 years old

–  Must submit both Teenager A & B responses by Wednesday, January 19th to zach.jeremy@gmail.com or use my contact form

I am really excited about how Teenagers A & B will respond with their thoughts to these 5 guiding beliefs.  Not only will this be an informative experiment, but a great conversational piece to engage our teens in a conversation about how they think, view, and live out their spirituality in relation to leading youth ministry research trends.

Do you want to participate in my self-made, youth ministry research experiment? Here is how:

(1)  Contact me here or at zach.jeremy@gmail.com.  The first 25 student pastors to contact me will be able to play.

(2) In your message, provide the two ages/genders of Teenagers A and B.  Also include what city they are from.  Please DO NOT submit the names of the teenagers.

(3) In your message, describe your plan on how you will contact and ask Teenager A and Teenager B the 5 MTD questions.  For example, I will message them through facebook, email them, or interview them over the phone or in person.

Once you contact me, I will email you the specific 5 MTD questions and an informed consent form that you will provide Teenager A and Teenager B.  I cannot accept any responses unless you verify that you have gone through the consent process with the student.  Again, this process should be confidential in that I do not want the full names of the students you help me to survey.

About Jeremy Zach

Orange XP3 Specialist | Youth Worker | MDIV | Hot Sauce Addict | Dr. Dre Beats Lover

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  1. I found the article on MTD to be extremely accurate. Most of my friends who I have talked to have agreed that MTD is a huge occurence with teenagers. Especially in Orange County. At Wheaton, we compared those 5 guiding beliefs with the Nicene creed and saw some interesting results.

    • Josh- I know you as you, not as Chase’s bro. I also found the MTD article to be dead on. However I am really curious about how this next generation of students will also align to these beliefs.
      Yeah I agree creeds have been lost. Do you think that in 10 years students will be more familiar with a more traditional/historical view of God?

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