Self-Reflection: Check-in Exercises for Faith Leaders  

 In Religion & Spirituality

At Springtide, we focus on learning and understanding how young people make meaning via their religious and spiritual lives and beyond. Over the years, we’ve gathered numerous insights on how young people think, feel, act, and believe. Some of our findings encourage religious and spiritual leaders, while others may cause them to feel disillusioned or at a loss on what to do next. Most leaders want to be connected to the young people in their communities and to accompany them on their spiritual journeys. Our insights can help chart a path on how to do that. 

The reflection prompts below, shaped by our findings, can help faith leaders explore how to better relate to the young people in their care. By having an awareness of how and where their own experiences may match what young people are thinking and feeling, and by examining how community life may or may not be meeting young people’s needs, faith leaders are better positioned to connect in meaningful ways. Use the following prompts to critically examine personal and organizational strengths and weaknesses to identify where change could lead to better connection with young people.

Reflect on Your Personal Experience

  • What drew you to your particular faith tradition? Did you ever feel distant from it? If so, how did you respond to that experience of disconnection?

  • If you’ve experienced moments of friction in your own faith life—moments when it was hard to believe, belong, or practice; moments when you felt the difference between your values and that of your tradition—name them and include who or what you remember turning to at the time for answers.

  • Living in a plural, globalized, and interconnected world, it’s nearly impossible to not be exposed to or influenced by people, cultures, and traditions other than our own. Do you turn to anything outside of your primary tradition to add meaning, foster community, forge identity, or encourage practices in your life?

  • What assumptions or instincts do you have when it comes to young people and their religious or spiritual lives? How might these observations impact how you approach ministry, advocacy, care, or outreach? What changes would you make moving forward?

Reflect on Your Organization 

  • Does your organization have a mission or purpose statement? If so, who does it name or address, explicitly or implicitly? Is any particular group or individual type excluded from that statement? 

  • As you think about your connection with your young people, reflect on how you’d like to serve them. What can you offer them that they can’t get elsewhere?

  • Young people are curious about different religions and spiritualities and may want to ask questions about your tradition, beliefs, and practices. How can you harness the wisdom of your tradition to encourage the curiosity that drives their religious inquiries?

  • If young people don’t feel free to be themselves, they may find it difficult to fully explore the ways your religious or spiritual tradition might help them become whole. Take time to assess your organization. Does it send signals—subtle or otherwise—to young people that they are more valuable the more they conform to certain norms and the less they ask hard questions about religious beliefs and practices?

  • If your organization doesn’t have many young people, how might you partner with the places and spaces young people are already in (in your area and beyond) to offer religious and spiritual resources and begin to forge meaningful connections with them? 

Want to engage in more self-reflection? Check out our Guides to Turn the Tide! 

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