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Spes Christiana 24, 2013, 36

Valuegenesis Europe: An Introduction

Manuela Casti Yeagley

The articles included in this issue of Spes Christiana are related to the European
Valuegenesis Survey, a research project conducted in 2007 involving approxi-
mately 6,000 Adventist young people in seventeen European countries. These
articles originate from two distinct research contexts. On the one hand the contri-
butions written by Thomas Spiegler, Andreas Bochmann and Stephan Sigg were
developed as part of the work of the team of researchers who originally partici-
pated in the European Valuegenesis Project. The findings presented in their
articles cover the entire dataset of the survey and paint a wide-ranging picture of
the contemporary scene of Adventist youth ministry in Europe, with highlights on
the most significant differences among the countries involved. Alexander
Schulzes article, on the other hand, summarises the conclusions of a derivative
study stemming from the main project. It focuses on a specific dataset related to
the German-speaking area (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland), and was devel-
oped as part of Schulzes doctoral thesis project.
Independently from these distinctions, the European Valuegenesis Project repre-
sents a significant contribution to the reflection on youth ministry practice within
the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but not only this denomination. The informed
reader will find significant points of contact between the trends emerging from
the European Valuegenesis Survey and the findings of the National Study of
Youth and Religion, a landmark research on Christian youth ministry in the
USA*. The concern behind the launching of the European Valuegenesis Survey
was closely connected to the reality not uncommon in the wider evangelical
context, especially in the USA (Dean and Foster 1998, 3031) of large numbers
of young people leaving the denomination in which they have grown up.
The architecture of the questionnaire tries to reconstruct the picture of the faith
environments where young people grow, and more specifically of their families
and church congregations. Starting from the study of these two contexts the
research team tried to situate factors that would correlate with positive or negative
outcomes in the area of youth devotional life, doctrinal beliefs, ethical values and
behaviours, and church involvement.

*
For further information about the NSYR, see Smith and Snell 2009. A most useful and important
contribution to the understanding of youth ministry based on the results of the NSYR can also be
found in Creasy Dean 2010.
Manuela Casti-Yeagley

Thomas Spieglers first article (Notes on Methodology) constitutes a basic intro-


duction to the survey. This article is indispensable as it clarifies some key issues
and concepts. After covering aspects related to the accuracy of the data and the
wording of the questions, it explains the crucial difference between correlation
and causality. It also provides a strong word of caution against the temptation of
making overly straightforward comparisons between age groups and, most impor-
tantly, different countries youth samples. As necessary in any good research, this
article is therefore a guide to understand the value and limitations of the European
Valuegenesis research project.
Andreas Bochmanns article (Family Matters) reconstructs a picture of Adventist
families as seen through young peoples eyes. As one of the most important
contexts of youth faith development, Adventist families constitute an indispensa-
ble, yet somehow neglected, area of church ministry. The research shows an
interesting overview covering the themes of mixed (Adventist/non-Adventist)
marriages, divorce, family climate, the role of parents in young peoples spiritual
lives, and devotional practices in the family. In his analysis, Bochmann specifi-
cally focuses on family-related factors associated with positive and negative
outcomes.
Stephan Siggs series of three articles on the church (A Spiritual Home for Young
People?) provides an extensive coverage of research findings concerning the
relationship between the church environment and young peoples faith. The first
article provides a general overview of young peoples doctrinal beliefs concerning
the Church, baptism and tithing. It also covers the area of church activities, ana-
lysing which ones young people perceive as meaningful. This leads to the articles
main focus, young peoples worship experience. Not surprisingly, in fact, one of
the most important findings of the European Valuegenesis study reveals how
youths experience of worship is powerfully connected to a series of very impor-
tant outcomes, including youth retention.
The second article of Siggs series deals with several crucial areas for young
peoples faith development: the churchs ability to provide an intellectually stimu-
lating environment (thinking climate), as well as its ability to be perceived as
welcoming, warm, and open to strangers (church warmth). Both these aspects
constitute essential factors in the youths growth of faith. Sigg also focuses on
exploring young peoples perception of their pastors, with some surprising results.
Furthermore, he discusses the respective impact of parents, pastors, youth leaders,
and church members in leading youth to baptism. Siggs third article concentrates
on youth activities and their impact on young peoples faith. A major issue
emerging from the findings, in line with other research, is the essential inability of
youth programmes to positively affect young peoples perception of their
churches; in Siggs words, this problem calls for careful attention in recruiting,
training and coaching youth leaders. It also highlights how the church as such
as well as the local pastor have a much stronger impact on the spiritual life of
the youth in the congregation than local youth programmes provided the

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Valuegenesis Europe: An Introduction

church as well as the pastor are youth-oriented. This result can be interpreted as
a call to build a more integrated system where young people attend quality youth
activities but are at the same time intentionally involved by congregations which
value their talents and abilities.
The final two articles, co-authored by Thomas Spiegler and Stephan Sigg, deal
with the area of ethical values and behaviours. The Seventh-day Adventist
Churchs theological identity is closely related to an emphasis on holy living,
which includes a specific focus on lifestyle and health. The content of these
articles (Values and Ethics I and II) covers four main themes. The first is the
extent to which the new generation of Adventists not only shares the denomina-
tional teachings on abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, hashish/marijuana, and
cocaine, but also translates them into concrete behaviour. The second section
covers issues related to young peoples values and behaviours in the area of
sexual ethics. The third discusses Adventist young peoples orientations concern-
ing abortion, euthanasia, suicide, and social ethics (including issues such as lying,
paying taxes, gender equality, racism and prejudice against minorities, as well as
involvement in armed military service). The analysis is enriched by comparisons
with the results of the European Values Survey (2000) for the general, non-
Adventist youth population of the countries involved; these comparisons provide
interesting insights that help elucidate the differences between national Adventist
samples and more general cultural trends. Finally, the fourth section deals with a
set of behavioural standards contemporary Adventism has inherited from its
tradition (among them, for example, abstinence from unclean meats, coffee, use
of jewellery) and explores their degree of acceptance and practice among young
Adventists.

In conclusion, the articles of the European Valuegenesis series constitute an


important source of reflection on contemporary trends in the Adventist denomina-
tion. While the findings represent the reading of a specific group mainly young
people who have grown up sitting on the pews of Adventist congregations in
seventeen countries of Europe Valuegenesis Europe constitutes a voice from
inside the churches, from individuals who know the Seventh-day Adventist
Church well. It is a wake-up call that rips aside the curtain of religion-as-preached
and projects a (sometimes uncomfortable) light on religion-as-lived, challenging
the Church to reflect on the reasons of the many gaps between the two. It also is
an invitation to value the Church in all its potential as the real and only true agent
of authentic youth ministry.

5
References

Dean, Kenda Creasy: Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is
Telling the American Church. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Dean, Kenda Creasy, and Ron Foster: The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul
Tending for Youth Ministry. Nashville: Upper Room, 1998.
Smith, Christian, and Patricia Snell: Souls in Transition: The Religious and
Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Manuela Casti Yeagley has recently completed her PhD thesis in Practical Theol-
ogy at Kings College London. In her capacity as director of the Jos Figols
Centre for Youth Ministry at the Facult adventiste de thologie (Campus ad-
ventiste du Salve, Collonges-sous-Salve, France), she led the European Val-
uegenesis Project and chaired the Research Group which studied its results. Her
areas of specialisation are contemporary missiology, spirituality and youth minis-
try, which she taught at Newbold College (United Kingdom).
E-mail: manuela.casti@gmail.com