As I have been doing some research on rites of passage and on human faith development, I began to explore the Bible for some examples of rites of passage. Not surprisingly, I didn’t find any! In fact, a lot of people in the Bible go from being an infant (or child) to being an adult, with nary a mention of their childhoods. Some examples:
- Jesus (other than a brief mention late in Luke 2, he pretty much grows up in the gospels without any childhood!)
- John the Baptizer (doesn’t even get a childhood story–just birth to grown man.)
- Isaac (one minute, he’s a boy about to be sacrificed, the next minute, he’s grown up and looking for a wife.)
- Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:26–babies; Genesis 25:27–grown men!)
- Moses (Exodus 5:10–baby in the bullrushes; Exodus 5:11–grown man!)
It’s no wonder we have a hard time expressing rites of passage in the church today–there are precious few examples of rites of passage in our most foundational Scriptures. There are no bar mitzvahs in the Bible! Pastoral theologians Herbert Anderson and Edward Foley wrote in their book Mighty Stories, Dangerous Rituals: Weaving Together the Human and the Divine that in the church, “…there is an absence of ritual models for significant moments of crisis or transition.” (pg. 7)
That’s why I am doing my Doctor of Ministry project in the area of spiritual direction/spiritual growth with youth and young adults. It is my hope to be able to help youth/young adults create for themselves meaningful rites of passage that will help them be prepared to face the challenges (to their faith and their sense of self) that will come when they enter the so-called “real world.” The goal is not to create a youth ministry with spiritual direction tacked on, but a ministry of spiritual direction with youth and young adults.
Look to see and hear more about this project in the coming months, as I work through the details and start working with my “subjects” (participants) for the study.