The purpose of this study is to provide a strategy for youth ministry at St. Paul United Methodist Church, establishing “adoption” as a baseline hermeneutic, making it more likely that adolescents grow into lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ. Although no research exists which proves concretely that a particular youth ministry approach can guarantee an adolescent will embrace discipleship of Jesus Christ for a lifetime (nor is such research likely possible), nevertheless, a church can position itself to make such a trajectory more likely. This project asserts that a hermeneutic of adoption is the polar opposite of, and the Church’s correct response to, systemic abandonment of contemporary American adolescents. The Church can assist adolescents in their journey through individuation—identity, autonomy, and belonging or reconnection—in a more holistic fashion than other institutions through redemptive embrace of both their psychosocial and spiritual needs.
This project examines the psychosocial and spiritual development of adolescents. The study reflects on the key theological issues of discipling adolescents for a journey of lifelong discipleship with an emphasis on God’s grace and power to transform the whole person from within. A theology of “adoption” is presented as the Church’s proper response to the “current” of systemic abandonment of youth prevalent in contemporary culture. Biblical, historical, and ecclesiological examples and applications supporting a hermeneutic of adoption are presented. Finally, a strategy for needed change in order to implement a hermeneutical of adoption for youth ministry at St. Paul United Methodist Church is posed. The intended outcome is that St. Paul United Methodist Church will be a more interconnected body of Christ, living a hermeneutic of adoption with respect to the Church’s relationship between adolescents and their families, making it more likely that St. Paul’s “sons and daughters” will become lifelong disciples of Jesus the Christ.
Theological Mentor: Chap Clark, PhD
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Showalter, David S., "Nurturing Adolescent Lifelong Discipleship: Implementing a Hermeneutic of “Adoption” at St. Paul United Methodist Church" (2013). Doctor of Ministry Projects. 126.