Conversations in Process
Conversations in Process
Ellen Rowland – The Religiosity of Teenagers and Being a Youth Minister in 2022

On this episode of Conversations in Process, Jay is joined by his former student Ellen Rowland to discuss her experience as a youth minister and the values and religious perspectives of the teenagers with which she works.

Ellen Rowland is Minister to Youth & Families at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church in Little Rock Arkansas where she works directly with teenagers in a religious context, giving her unique insights into the younger generation’s thoughts and feelings about religious topics.

In this conversation, Jay questions Ellen on a wide range of topics relating to the experience of teenagers. She begins by sharing how the process perspective is one which is often resonant for the youths in her congregation, stating that it provides a relieving alternative to Evangelical perspectives on God which can often be heavy-handed. She explains that process theologies offer effective language for discussing hard issues and confronting suffering—things which are certainly important in teenage life.

Next, Jay asks Ellen about the common assumption that younger generations are uninterested in traditional organized religion, and she explains that there is definitely some truth to this notion, but she puts it in a more positive light, showing how teenagers are very interested in religious institutions that are honest, transparent, and which can provide resources for navigating difficult experiences and growing in discipleship through social action. Ellen also explains that a theology which can effectively and compassionately navigate diversity is very important for young people, mentioning that the teens with whom she works are more concerned about the question of heaven and hell for their friends from different backgrounds than they are for themselves.

Ellen and Jay conclude this discussion by focusing on the passions of teenagers—music, television, film, etc—which show their deep engagement with life and even have a spiritual character. Ellen closes the conversation with a suggestion to view process as something which is internal as much as external—a perspective which she says has had a significant impact in her own life.