Voluntary Commitment in Church-Based Environments As a Chance of Generating Meaning for Adolescents

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 6:15 PM
Room: Harbor Lounge B
Oral Presentation
Christel GÄRTNER , University of Muenster, Muenster, Germany
In analyzing the religiousness of youth, positions vary between the hypothesis that religiousness has decreased and the hypothesis that there is a specific youth religion. In my paper I will assume that the development of religious identities and convictions depends on social contexts and family environments. My paper elucidates that adolescents generate different religious interpretive patterns in order to position themselves in relation to concepts of life and meaning in societies that are marked by the pluralization of values, the secularization of social relations and the individualization of life styles.

In western Germany, church-related status passages are still part of the norm. With schools being the main educators of Christian beliefs, parents quite often grant their children a free choice in the realm of religiosity. During the time of (their) adolescence, youths not involved with church-activities frequently distance themselves from the churches, which seem to barely offer any relevant answers to questions of meaning and identity formation. However, churches can become attractive by offering space for social commitment provided that it is linked with the characteristics of being voluntary, unrestrained, and discursive. On the basis of group discussions with Catholic youths, I want to show how the participation in a church-based project oriented towards the common good can initiate an involvement with religiosity.