One of the great challenges for the churches is how to contribute to people’s sense of purpose and meaning in an age where tradition is seen as having little value. Western cultures have been changing very considerably over the past 50 years, and the meaning and purpose that was prescribed by the community into which children were socialised is no longer effective. The sense of duty that was assigned to gender, the expectations about marriage and the roles of the spouses, the duties associated with one’s birth into particular religious communities have almost disappeared. Rather, people seek meaning and purpose as the fulfilment of their personal interests and passions.
But in this age, many young people find it hard to identify a sense of purpose. This lack of purpose is a contributing factor to the epidemic of mental health issues among young people, to anti-social behaviour, and to the lack of fulfilment and direction that many experience.
The book explores what can be done to help young people find a sense of direction. It reviews current practices and thinking about religious education. However, it suggests an alternative curriculum which brings together the students’ own experience and thinking, scientific research, and the insights of religions, philosophies and literature. It looks at the role of social justice projects, the importance of special experiences including camps and retreats, and the place of intergenerational involvements. It documents how building a culture of respect within a school can contribute to a sense of purpose. While the book has been written for educators, many parents and church leaders will also find its ideas relevant as they seek to help young people to find purpose and meaning.
The book is based on research conducted in more than 70 secondary schools, including surveys with more than 10,000 students and many interviews and focus groups. It offers a new direction in thinking about education in a post-traditional age.
The book is available from the Christian Research Association (http://cra.org.au/products-page/books/educating-for-purposeful-living/) in hardcopy ($38) and as an e-book ($15).
Philip Hughes (Honorary Researcher)
7th November 2017