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Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church [Kindle Edition]

Kenda Creasy Dean
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Based on the National Study of Youth and Religion--the same invaluable data as its predecessor, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers--Kenda Creasy Dean's compelling new book, Almost Christian, investigates why American teenagers are at once so positive about Christianity and at the same time so apathetic about genuine religious practice.
In Soul Searching, Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton found that American teenagers have embraced a "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism"--a hodgepodge of banal, self-serving, feel-good beliefs that bears little resemblance to traditional Christianity. But far from faulting teens, Dean places the blame for this theological watering down squarely on the churches themselves. Instead of proclaiming a God who calls believers to lives of love, service and sacrifice, churches offer instead a bargain religion, easy to use, easy to forget, offering little and demanding less. But what is to be done? In order to produce ardent young Christians, Dean argues, churches must rediscover their sense of mission and model an understanding of being Christian as not something you do for yourself, but something that calls you to share God's love, in word and deed, with others. Dean found that the most committed young Christians shared four important traits: they could tell a personal and powerful story about God; they belonged to a significant faith community; they exhibited a sense of vocation; and they possessed a profound sense of hope. Based on these findings, Dean proposes an approach to Christian education that places the idea of mission at its core and offers a wealth of concrete suggestions for inspiring teens to live more authentically engaged Christian lives.
Persuasively and accessibly written, Almost Christian is a wake up call no one concerned about the future of Christianity in America can afford to ignore.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dean (The Godbearing Life), a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, opens this absorbing portrait of teenage religiosity by throwing down a gauntlet: the faith of America's teens is "not durable enough to survive long after they graduate from high school. One more thing: we're responsible." Dean, who worked on the National Study of Youth and Religion with sociologist Christian Smith, says that American Christians' emphasis on "a do-good, feel-good spirituality" at the expense of deep discipleship may cost them the rising generation, which is (with the exception of Mormon teens, the subject of an admiring chapter-long case study) largely apathetic about Christian faith. How, then, can religious leaders and teachers inculcate what Dean calls a "consequential faith"--i.e., one that bears fruit for the long haul? She identifies four factors teens need: a personal encounter with God, a strong church or youth group, a sense of being called to duty, and hope for the future. In a refreshingly personal final chapter, Dean outlines her frustration at the daunting task ahead but emphasizes the possibilities if the Christian church decides to take up its cross and follow Jesus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"A lot of youth workers have been a bit depressed since the National Study of Youth and Religion revealed what we'd long suspected about American teen religiosity: it's pretty darn benign. But in Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean helps us turn the corner from the moralistic, therapeutic deism that afflicts our churches to a hope-filled, consequential faith that has the potential to change the lives of young people and, with a little help from the Holy Spirit, just might transform our world."

-- Tony Jones, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier

"Almost Christian hangs an illuminating theological magnifying glass over the startling conclusions of the National Study of Youth and Religion. Peppered with compelling, sometimes unsettling, dialogue from NSYR interviews, the book pulls no punches but, at the same time, inspires hope that the American church can--in fact, must--move beyond the flimsy, vague, self-absorbed spirituality that has unintentionally been woven into the faith fabric of postmodern American Christianity."

-- Mark DeVries, Founder, Youth Ministry Architects, First Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tennessee

"Kenda Creasy Dean argues passionately that the faith of the average American Christian teen is only a pale, watered-down version of the robust faith it could be. Drawing on extensive research and impressive analysis, Dean offers a smart how-to guide for Christian youth ministers and parents who hope to transform that watered-down faith into something much more."

--Donna Freitas, author of Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America's College Campuses

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
81 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Are You Christian? Or Merely "Almost" Christian? July 1, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This wonderful book is based on the National Study of Youth and Religion conducted from 2002 to 2005. It is a fascinating analysis of teen religious practice, which is a bellwether of the faith of us all. Teenagers are practicing the faith that we are teaching them, not what we say we believe, but what we actually believe as evidenced by our actions. All of this could be dry and boring, but in "Almost Christian" it is not! This is a truly fascinating exploration of what makes faith vibrant, what makes faith "consequential". As such it is important for everyone to read, not just those interested in teens and youth ministry. Much of the book describes real faith--a faith rich in holy desire and missional clarity--and explores ways that we as a church can experience and model this in our lives.

Most teenagers today practice an "imposter faith" what the author calls "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism"--"the new mainstream American religious faith" in which God is seen as a butler or a therapist rather than (as the approximately 8% of youth that are "highly devoted" do) as a "divine swimming instructor" who is down in the water with them, leading and instructing them. The book also explores the faith of these "highly devoted" youth and what makes them different from their peers.

The scope of this book is limited to Christian ministry and formation and does not include Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or other faiths. There are helpful appendices and an index, and the book is written in a somewhat intellectual style and at the same time a very moving style---very readable and pragmatic--not academic.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poignant View on Teenage Faith in America November 23, 2010
In Dean's close proximity to extensive research involving youth and religion (NSYR), a study outlined in the book Soul Searching by Smith and Denton, her approach is two-fold: refreshingly poignant, especially her argument she lays out that teenage faith is a reflection of the church's hold on faith (i.e. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism), which she outlines with great energy and articulation; her approach also remains very theoretical - although this book has been touted as a practical theology (that is what I've read, and was an appealing aspect for me) on the religious state of youth ministry and church, she remains very prescriptive - she outlines what is wrong, things which virtually all youth ministers and many pastors can relate to when it comes to jaded faith of youth and adults - she also outlines places that are filled with hope, namely the church is still the vehicle for spiritual guidance and formation - but that is where she leaves it - she leaves out a descriptive nature of how this has played out, or will play out, with the exception of a riveting example from a teen's journal from a missions trip and its ripple effects on her choices after her return.

Almost Christian is a must read for youth pastors, and I believe pastors would benefit from the truths that Dean brings to light regarding the church's and family's role in a teenager's faith development. Be prepared that when you finish the book, the real work is still to be done - figuring out how to translate all that data into something tangible and transformative.

*I received this book for free by Oxford University Press in exchange for my honest and unbiased review and opinion. Thanks to Oxford Press for the opportunity to review this title.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sobering Call to Parents of Teenagers November 23, 2011
Kendra Creasy Dean (Professor of Youth, Church, and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary) has written a disturbing yet thought-provoking book on the current religious state of America's teenagers. The background research for this book was the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR). One of the largest studies ever of the religious views of teenagers, the original research was conducted from 2002 to 2005 and consisted of extensive interviews with 3,300 American teenagers (13 to 17 years old) and face-to-face follow-up interviews with 267 teenagers. The study also continues on with a longitudinal study of 2,500 of these teenagers. The overall summary of the findings (and the basic theme of the book) is "American young people are, theoretically, fine with religious faith - but it does not concern them very much, and it is not durable enough to survive long after they graduate from high school" (3). The most condemning part for us as the parents and grandparents of this generations is that Dean rightly associates the lukewarm nature of our children's faith as a "barometer of the religious inclinations of the culture that surrounds them, giving parents, pastors, teachers, campus ministers, youth pastors, and anyone else who works closely with teenagers fifty-yard-line seats from which to watch America's religious future take shape" (9).

Dean summarizes the NSYR findings under five general headings. First, most American teenagers have a positive view of religion but otherwise do not give it much thought. So while teenagers are not hostile towards religion, neither do they care much about it. Dean believers that most teenagers equate Christian identity with "niceness" but do not think religion has any influence on one's decisions, choice of friends, or behaviors.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Happy with this item.
Published 12 days ago by Sangyeop Han
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This book is well written and very understandable. It answers many of our concerns in clear ideas.
Published 27 days ago by Barbara J. Warner
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Resource for Church Leaders and Parents
Almost Christian should be read by every pastor, youth worker, and parent. The church has been asking about the condition of our ministries to youth for some time and Kenda Creasy... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Nathan Schneider
5.0 out of 5 stars This book has been a great tool in my library
This book has been a great tool in my library. I actually used it for several papers and sermons. Great resource.
Published 2 months ago by Chris Gilmore
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good for those working with children.
Published 4 months ago by DWL
This book will open your eyes and will give you a reality check on youth and their perception on religion. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Jesse Jaquez
1.0 out of 5 stars ... fear and guilt As a Pastor I do NOT recommend it Read something...
this book is shallow
and a guilt fest
asking American Christians to increase their attempts to
shape (brainwash) young people using fear and... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Stephen Kliewer
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
inspiring book on youth.
Published 7 months ago by Poppa S
5.0 out of 5 stars Teen Faith
Very informative and high challenging- great read if you're involved in the lives of teens and care about their faith.
Published 8 months ago by Clinton Faupel
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a great book that all Christian parents should read.
This book is great information and scary at the same time. It does a great job of outlining where we're headed as a society.
Published 15 months ago by T. JENSEN
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More About the Author

Kenda Creasy Dean is an ordained United Methodist minister and Professor of Youth, Church and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary, where she works closely with the Institute for Youth Ministry. A graduate of Miami University (Ohio), Kenda and her husband Kevin taught at Ball State University before attending Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. Before receiving her PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary, she was a pastor and campus minister in Maryland. She has two almost-launched children, and lives with her family in Princeton, New Jersey.,


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