Way to Live Leader’s Guide – Ideas for Growing in Christian Practices with Teens
This Guide provides chapter-by-chapter suggestions for involving teens in thinking about and taking part in the eighteen Christian practices discussed in Way to Live.
In and through them, life together takes shape over time — in response to and in the light of God, as known in Jesus Christ. Woven together, these practices form a way of life.
Each practice is a complex set of acts, words, and images that addresses one area of fundamental human need:
A child or adult can participate in a practice such as hospitality through warm acts of welcome, even without comprehending the biblical stories and theological convictions that encourage and undergird this practice. Most of our practicing takes place at this unreflective level, as we go about our daily living.
Within a practice, thinking and doing are inextricably knit together. When people participate in a practice, they are embodying a specific kind of wisdom about what it means to be a human being under God — even if they could not readily articulate this wisdom in words.
Our practices are shaped by our beliefs, and our beliefs arise from and take on meaning within our practices. A practice is small enough that it can be identified and discussed as one element within an entire way of life. But a practice is also big enough to appear in many different spheres of life. (For example, the Christian practice of hospitality has dimensions that emerge as (1) a matter of public policy; (2) something you do at home with friends, family, and guests; (3) a radical path of discipleship; (4) part of the liturgy; (5) a movement of the innermost self toward or away from others; (6) a theme in Christian theology; and probably much else.)
Notice that each of the practices (keeping sabbath, honoring the body, hospitality, discernment) necessarily leads to the others. In fact, you can tell when you are doing one well when it necessarily involves you in the others. But (for example) if you are practicing hospitality so intensely that you neglect sabbath and don’t honor your body, your practice of hospitality is misshapen.
All of this means that people need to craft the specific forms each practice can take within their own social and historical circumstances. This approach thus requires attention to the concrete and down-to-earth quality of the Christian life. It invites attention to details such as gestures and the role of material things. This crafting is an important responsibility of ministers and educators.
Some additional practices cry out for attention today. If we were identifying indispensable and endangered practices that are urgently needed today, the list might be somewhat different.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan [and Ukraine], and the perilous stockpiling of weapons at home and around the globe, we could argue for including the Christian practice of Peacemaking. In exploring this practice, we would encounter the nonviolent way of Jesus, centuries-long arguments about just war and pacifism, and courageous contemporary practitioners of reconciliation.
As climate change endangers our planet home, we could seriously consider identifying Caring for Creation as a distinct practice. (It is now one aspect of Household Economics.) This is a hands-on local practice with global reach that is deeply rooted in Scripture and important in the historical and contemporary witness of many Christian practitioners, though disregard for creation’s well-being has also distorted this tradition at times. Christian practices do more than address fundamental human needs and conditions; they also respond to God’s active presence for the world in Christ Jesus by fostering care of the larger oikos of which we human beings are part, the household of Earth.
Increasing public concern about what and how we eat suggests widespread yearning for another life-giving practice, one we sometimes call Breaking Bread. This concern often emerges when people become aware of the harm done by prevailing patterns of production and consumption — widespread hunger, environmental degradation, animal abuse, bad health, alienating mealtimes — and deepens as they discover the pleasures of good food that is justly produced and generously shared.
These questions were prepared to guide conversation among Christian, Muslim, and Jewish teens during an Interfaith Youth Forum hosted by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Dorothy Bass and Craig Dykstra consider how worshiping congregations can provide a fertile, communal context for the inculcation and nourishment of Christian practices.
This sermon based on I Corinthians 11:23-26 was preached at the Wellesley Congregational Church on March 7, 1999.
This sermon based on “Practicing Our Faith” was preached on August 3, 2003 at the Old Cambridge Baptist Church (Cambridge, MA).
This sermon based on I Thessalonians 4:13-14 and Matthew 28:1-20 was preached at the Wellesley Congregational Church on April 4, 1999.