When the news slows down come summertime, opportunities arise for stories with a different lens on spirituality – through travel, rest, reading, retreats and camps, the out-of-doors, college orientation and the need to help others. Here are 15 ideas to get you started.
1. Highways to heaven: roadside spirituality
Highway shrines, towering statues of Jesus, religious billboard campaigns and rest stop religion theme parks are all part of the phenomenon of “roadside spirituality.”
A book on that topic is out from Timothy K. Beal, Harkness Professor of Biblical Literature at Case Western Reserve University and author of Roadside Religion: In Search of the Sacred, the Strange and the Substance of Faith (Beacon Press, 2005).
Also, the “God Speaks” billboard campaign returned in 2005 after a five-year hiatus. The DeMoss Group announced that the anonymously funded campaign, which hit 10,000 billboards across the nation in 1999 with 18 separate “messages from God,” would make a summer encore.
The phenomenon has not been without its controversies, as some American Atheist chapters and other secularist groups filed lawsuits to have displays removed, arguing that highways are public, taxpayer-funded property. Atheist groups have also launched their own billboard campaigns in response.
“‘Roadside Religion’: Cross Country”
Read a New York Times review of Roadside Religion: Cross Country. Contact Beal.
The Rev. Lizette Larson-Miller, a professor at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, Calif., wrote an article in the May 23, 2005, edition of America magazine (subscriber-only) titled “Holy Ground: Roadside Shrines and Sacred Space.” She identified five general characteristics of roadside shrines, and she ponders what liturgical churches might learn from this widespread trend.
2. No rest for the holy? Clergy and the 'summer dilemma'
Holidays for most of us are still “holy days” – the origin of the term – that offer a respite from the routine, a chance to recharge. But for clerics who have to fill the pulpit back home while everyone else is on the road having fun, the summer holidays can be a different story. Sometimes pastors get a seminary student to fill in – good experience for a would-be cleric. But what about clergy “left behind”? Pews tend to be nearly deserted during the dog days of summer. Clergy burnout is a growing problem. Can pastors get away for a break along with everyone else? Or must they stay home? Do they get depressed? Or is the workload lighter? When clergy do get away from it all, where do they go? What do pastors consider a vacation? What do they do to relax?
National Clergy Renewal Program
The Lilly Foundation’s National Clergy Renewal Program provides funding for pastors to “take an extended break for renewal and refreshment.” Contact program director Robert C. Sale.
The Alban Institute in Herndon, Va., provides data and expert commentators on congregational and clergy dynamics.
3. Nature And neo-pagans
Neo-paganism is a fast-growing U.S. religion. In summer, neo-pagans – members of Earth-based religions, such as Wicca – take many rituals and practices outdoors, closer to the nature they hold sacred.
Summer begins and ends with two minor holidays – Litha, the summer solstice (June 20 or 21 depending on the year) and Mabon, the autumnal equinox (Sept. 22 or 23 depending on the year). On Aug. 1 is Lammas, a major harvest festival.
Throughout summer, many groups observe full-moon rituals and drumming circles.
What do neo-pagans take away from outdoor rituals and celebrations that is different from indoor gatherings? How well do nonpagan neighbors accept these public rituals? How will neo-pagans in your area mark these holidays?
Selena Fox is a high priestess and senior minister of Circle Sanctuary, a Wiccan church and pagan resource center near Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. Wicca is a neopagan faith that relies heavily on nature and a belief in some forms of magic and the supernatural.
M. Macha NightMare
M. Macha NightMare is co-author of The Pagan Book of Living and Dying (HarperSanFrancisco, 1997) and is an expert on neo-pagan death and funerary practices. She lives in San Rafael, Calif. Contact her via her website.
The Witches’ Voice
The Witches’ Voice lists outdoor rituals and festivals around the country, including a state-by-state section.
“The Witch Next Door”
Read a Beliefnet.com article by Kimberly Winston about the rapid growth of Wicca and other Earth-based religions.
- Beliefnet.com maintains a page of articles and links about neo-pagan holidays and festivals.
- Read highlights posted on the Religious Tolerance website from the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey, which found that the number of people who identified themselves as Wiccans grew by 1,575 percent between 1990 and 2001.
4. Pages of sages: books for the beach
Summertime is light reading time – for some. But it also is a time to catch up on all those religion books that have flooded the market in the past year. What religion-themed books will people be catching up on in your area?
• Fiction – Religion has become a growing theme in literary fiction. Some top sellers in 2013 were: Guilt by Jonathan Kellerman (Random House, 2013), Inferno by Dan Brown (Knopf Doubleday, 2013) and Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders (Random House, 2013). Or look into older but still popular titles – called backlist in the book trade – such as Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent (Picador USA, 1998).
• Christian fiction – Sometimes called “inspirational fiction,” Christian fiction comes from faith-based publishers and ranges from literary novels to squeaky-clean bodice-rippers. This category has been growing steadily since the 1990s, initially led by Christian romance novels. While those remain strong, literary faith-oriented novels are finding their niche. Talk to local Christian book retailers about who is reading what, what categories are strong and which are duds.
• Chick lit – Taking a cue from secular publishers, religion publishers are delving into “chick-lit” – lighthearted girl-fests with a religious bent, such as She Makes it Look Easy: A Novel by Marybeth Whalen (David C. Cook, 2011), The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Caught by Neta Jackson (Thomas Nelson, 2008) and The Whitney Chronicles series by Judy Baer (Steeple Hill, 2004). Have any reached secular success? What religious value, if any, do readers say they glean?
• Theology – Dominating Christian best sellers and crossing over to the secular lists are two titles by popular pastors, The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren (Zondervan, 2002) and Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen (Warner Faith, 2004). At the top of the list in 2013 was Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (Thomas Nelson, 2004). Ask local booksellers who’s buying what; ask readers or clergy why people are reading these books. Are church-based book clubs reading them, and why?
• Politics – On the Democratic side is God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005) from liberal evangelical Jim Wallis, and Anne Lamott’s Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith (Riverhead, 2005), a faith-based screed against the Bush administration. On the religious conservative side are books about the faith of George W. Bush – A Man of Faith: The Spiritual Journey of George W. Bush by David Aikman (W Publishing Group, 2004) and The Faith of George W. Bush by Stephen Mansfield (J.P. Tarcher, 2003).
• Non-Christians – Several top sellers have been by and/or about Muslims. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead, 2004), The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra (Riverhead, 2004) and Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (Random House, 2003) are examples. Who is reading books like this today – Muslims, Christians, Jews? And what of books, such as Blink by Ted Dekker (WestBow Press, 2005), by Christian authors who take Islam as a major theme or include Muslim characters? How are they received among Muslim readers? Christian readers?
• The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association tracks trends in Christian publishing and book selling and offers a list of the top-selling Christian books.
• The Book Industry Study Group tracks trends in publishing, including religion.
5. A thousand windows: sensing the divine in nature
Conservationist John Muir wrote of the trees offering hymns and prayers, of days spent walking mountains that open “a thousand windows that show us God.” Many religious traditions speak of sensing the presence of the divine in nature, of glorying in God’s creation. Some who stay far from organized religion consider woods and mountains, ocean and desert to be their private cathedrals. Various groups offer programs plumbing the connections between faith and the great outdoors.
- Check your area for outdoor ministry programs or retreat centers. Some colleges offer “adventure retreats” for students – think whitewater rafting and mountain climbing – to challenge them to rely on God. Many religious-related camps offer outdoor programs for congregations, individuals and families (for example, Spruce Lake Retreat, a 370-acre, Mennonite-owned camp that offers an outdoor school and spirituality retreats).
- Look around for specialized outdoor ministry programs in a range of religious views. At TorahTrek Spiritual Wilderness Adventures, a rabbi leads trips (including wilderness weddings and bar mitzvahs) exploring the connection “between the journey into the wilderness and the path of the soul.”
- Creation Safaris invites people to worship God in the great outdoors (while gathering evidence from nature supporting creation theory and opposing evolution).
- Consider the links between religious groups and environmentalism. The National Religious Partnership for the Environment, for example, is a Jewish and Christian alliance. The Forum on Religion and Ecology examines how the world’s religions see nature as a part of faith and respond to environmental concerns.
Read the transcript of a March 9, 2001, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly program on Celtic spirituality, which discusses the Celts’ sense of nature as “the theatre of divine presence.”
“‘There Are Two Flavors of God People'”
Read a Beliefnet.com interview with Ursula Goodenough, a poet, biology professor and “religious naturalist” who has written a book called The Sacred Depths of Nature (Oxford University Press, 2000).
6. School's out - but hunger is ready to take its place
Most people’s thoughts about summer vacation and kids include swimming pools, the beach, indoor games or lazy hours in front of the TV. But for many poor children, summer vacation can bring uncertainty. With the regular school routine upended, free breakfast and lunch and a place to spend most of the day disappear. According to the Food Research and Action Center, 16.6 million children lived in food-insecure households in 2011. Also, data from the National Survey of America’s Families finds that in the summer, many children ages 6-12 with working caretakers are regularly caring for themselves.
The federal government is trying to address the situation primarily through the Summer Food Service Program. Administered at the federal level by the USDA and at the state level by state education agencies, the program funds schools, public agencies and private nonprofit organizations, such as churches and religious groups, that serve nutritious meals to children in low-income areas during the summer. The White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and child advocacy groups such as the Food Research and Action Center encourage religious organizations to sponsor summer food centers. In addition, FRAC urges religious and other nonprofit groups to go one step further by including summer activities that will keep children safe and supervised.
About 31 million children receive a free or reduced-price lunch through the National School Lunch Program, while 10 million receive free or reduced-price meals through the National School Breakfast Program.
How are religious organizations in your community working to keep children fed and safe during the summer months? What challenges do these groups face when trying to sponsor summer food programs? What impact is the economy having on these organizations’ ability to help hungry children? What is the need for summer food programs for children in your community?
- America’s Second Harvest offers a state-by-state breakdown of how much of the population takes part in various federal food programs.
- The Food Research and Action Center works to improve public policies to eradicate hunger and under-nutrition in the United States.
- The White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives offers a list of nutrition grant programs for which faith-based organizations can apply.
- An outline of the Summer Food Service Program is available on the USDA’s website.
7. The Quran and campfires: Muslim-American summer camp
For Christians and Jews in America, the idea of religious summer camps spans several generations. However, the concept is relatively new for Muslim-Americans. The first recorded summer camp for Muslim-American youth in the U.S. dates back to 1962 in California, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that more began springing up all over the country, from a ranch in New Mexico to a former high-society estate in Philadelphia. The camps, like those of other religions, teach the language and traditions of the faith – along with fun outdoor activities.
Since 9/11, however, Muslim-American summer camps have faced challenges that Christian and Jewish camps have not. In 2003, the oldest-known Muslim-American summer camp in the nation, the Muslim Youth Camp, canceled its annual gathering because organizers said they needed to protect the campers’ safety “in light of the current political tensions.” In Iowa, plans by Muslim Youth Camps of America to build one of the largest permanent camps in the nation on federal property languished for years before being approved in 2003. Along with environmentalists’ concerns that the large camp would damage the ecosystem, others openly expressed fears the camp would become a terrorist training ground. The camp has yet to be built.
But along with the challenges have been opportunities. Interfaith youth camps for Muslims, Jews and Christians have organized around the country to try to foster understanding among the young.
What kinds of summer programs or camps are available to Muslim youth in your community? What spiritual importance does the Muslim community place in such programs? What has the reaction to such camps been in your community? Are there efforts to put together interfaith summer camps?
John Voll is professor of Islamic history and associate director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He is an expert in Middle Eastern, Islamic and world history, and he has written on Islam in the modern world and Islam and democracy.
“Proposed Muslim Youth Camp Stirs Debate”
Read a June 4, 2003, article on the Fox News website on the controversy over a Muslim youth camp in Iowa.
“Muslim camp backers want lease extension”
Read a March 3, 2011, Gazette article about how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers leased land in Iowa so Muslim Youth Camps of America could build a summer camp and the efforts to build the camp after the lease expired.
“Camp brings kids from three faiths together”
Read an Aug. 7, 2002, United Methodist News Service article on the Foundation for Religious Freedom’s website about an interfaith summer camp gathering at a United Methodist Camp in North Carolina.
The Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group of San Mateo, Calif., offers a list of interfaith camps for Jews, Muslims and Christians.
8. Orientation - or indoctrination?
For many young people making the transition from high school to college in the fall, this summer will include an orientation session at the campus they’ll soon call home. But what universities describe as a crucial introduction to college life is sometimes more like indoctrination, according to some critics.
The nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, for example, says on its website that “All too often, these orientation sessions are forums for intrusive sensitivity training and politically correct thought reform.” FIRE, whose work has included assisting religious groups seeking waivers from campus nondiscrimination policies, is offering students and parents a guide that addresses such things as how to resist inclusion in orientation sessions without risking administrative sanction.
The concerns raised by these critics represent a rich story vein to tap:
- How much of the concern involves religious liberty issues? Is the wariness about orientations a growing phenomenon, or a mainly isolated one?
- To what extent are colleges facing pressure to modify their orientation programs? Are they doing so?
- Talk to parents and students in your readership/viewing area. What fears, if any, do they have about a collision between home-taught values and those that freshmen might be exposed to at college? Are any families opting out of orientation because of these concerns? In the view of colleges, how might that affect the students?
9. God on the road
For congregations near hot tourist spots, the lazy, hazy days of summer can be anything but. Some places of worship see their attendance boom when the visitors show up – Florida and Arizona when the snowbirds hit town, and those near theme parks, lakes or the ocean in the summer.
Some communities go the extra mile – in Louisville, Ky., for example, the Catholic archdiocesan newspaper prints a vacation Mass schedule for churches near popular resort areas, and in Florida, California and North Carolina some congregations offer casual worship services on the beach (bring your own chair).
In Las Vegas, the Riviera Hotel and Casino has a full-time chaplain (see a Beliefnet.com profile of “Chaplain Charlie” Bolin).
But the ebb and flow of visitors also can present challenges – in budgeting, in keeping a sense of reverence as the tour buses pull up, in reminding people not to leave their faith behind when they leave home.
- A Christian Ministry in the National Parks is an interdenominational ministry though which laypeople, including students and retirees, lead worship services at lodges and campgrounds in 25 national parks.
- Some churches, mosques or other houses of worship are tourist destinations themselves – among them St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I., and Old North Church in Boston. Since Thorncrown Chapel – an award-winning glass chapel set in the woods at Eureka Springs, Ark. – was completed in 1980, more than 6 million visitors have stopped by.
- Catholics traveling in the United States can go online to find the Mass schedule for places they’re planning to visit, at Mass Times ministry. Or tourists can use The Church Finder or Find A Church to search for churches, synagogues, shrines and mosques.
- Read the introduction to Blessed With Tourists: The Borderlands of Religion and Tourism in San Antonio (University of North Carolina Press, 2004), a book by Thomas S. Bremer that examines the relationship between tourism and worshipping communities.
10. Conversations with tigers: communicating with animals
Many pet lovers would swear their animals have the patience of a saint and the wisdom of the Buddha. Now more and more people are paying to find out what spiritual pearls their pets have to share. They’re hiring animal communicators, the psychics of the pet world, who claim to connect telepathically with dogs and cats – not to mention alligators, tigers, snakes and pot-bellied pigs.
To get in touch with the mind, body and spirit of an animal, some communicators use crystals and flower essences or rely on shamanic spiritual healing techniques. They say they can receive mental images from the animal or hear actual words and relay the animal’s innermost thoughts on everything from euthanasia to the afterlife.
The service costs from $30 for a phone conversation to up to $300 for a one-hour private visit. Most communicators don’t require office visits, claiming they can connect with the soul of a living or deceased animal without ever setting eyes on its body. Among the chief skeptics are veterinary behaviorists.
Find out what kind of spiritual sustenance animal communicators offer their human friends, and whether they deliver on their promises.
- For the name of a pet communicator in your area, consult the Animal Communicator Directory.
- Look up a quarterly journal on the subject, “Species Link.”
Kate Solisti-Mattelon, an animal communicator based in Boulder, Colo., who wrote Conversations with Cat (Council Oaks, 2005), says the field is growing by leaps and bounds.
Psychic medium Nicole Roberts of Minneapolis says she communicates with living and deceased animals.
Sue Hopple of Monument, Colo., says she does shamanic soul retrievals in animals and humans to heal fragmented souls and promote wholeness. She says she also recovers lost animals.
- Contact your local veterinarians, particularly veterinary behaviorists, to hear skeptical points of view.
11. Executive serenity: business leaders breathe deeply
A number of executives will search for serenity in contemplative retreats during the next few months in the hopes of integrating spiritual values into business ventures.
Some business leaders will take the ascetic route, munching on veggies and living in cabins while learning to meditate in Buddhist, Christian or Hindu traditions. Others will pay up to $1,000 a day for executive retreats geared to teaching small groups of like-minded souls to meditate in bucolic settings between gourmet meals.
Find out what kinds of insights business leaders are gaining from contemplation and why they believe “mindful” executives can breathe new life into business.
- Call your local retreat centers to find out if they are offering special programs for executives in the upcoming months – or if business leaders are signing up for meditation with the masses.
Assistants of meditation master S.N. Goenka regularly offer meditation courses for executives throughout the world.
Jay Alden Conger
To discuss trends in spirituality and business, call Jay Alden Conger, senior research scientist at the Center for Effective Organizations, University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He edited Spirit at Work: Discovering the Spirituality in Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 1994).
12. The quest for rest
We long for summer for its promise of rest from the usual intensity of work, school and the merry-go-round of family and community commitments. But many, particularly mothers, find that even summer is loaded with stress. “I’ll rest when I die,” we joke. Many houses of worship and their leaders see the problem and are addressing it.
Judeo-Christian religions model their rest schedule after God’s – six days of work and a day of rest. Stories can explore the renewed interest among Jews and Christians in the meaning and practice of the Sabbath. Some Orthodox Jews, for example, see it as a chance to taste the joys of heaven. Explore what people of various faiths say their traditions offer the weary and overworked. Ask religious communities what – from respite care and day care to meditation groups to summer programs – they are doing.
Jacques B. Doukhan
Jacques B. Doukhan is a professor of Hebrew and Old Testament exegesis and director of the Institute of Jewish-Christian Studies at Andrews University, a Seventh-day Adventist school in Berrien Springs, Mich. He is an expert in the area of the Sabbath.
Siang Yang Tan
Siang Yang Tan is pastor of the First Evangelical Church in Glendale, Calif. He wrote Rest: Experiencing God’s Peace in a Restless World (Regent College Publishing, 2003). He can discuss the concept of spiritual rest and how to achieve it through the practices of solitude and silence, surrender, simplicity and Sabbath-keeping. Ask him about sleep and approaches for those who have trouble sleeping well.
David L. Weddle
David L. Weddle, a professor emeritus of religion at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, has written about Jehovah’s Witness and Christian Science faiths. Ask about the Sabbath, rest and restoration in those traditions.
- Faith itself has much to offer the exhausted. In a study of students at colleges and universities, students with low levels of religious involvement reported high levels of psychological distress, compared with highly religiously involved students, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, which tracked the spiritual growth of students during their college years.
- Buddhists meditate to integrate a spiritual state of peace and restoration into daily life. Ask Buddhists how they approach stress, spiritually and in practice. Some American churches adopt the Buddhist spirit, if not practices, in classes and guidance for the overworked. Check churches and synagogues for summer offerings – yoga, meditation, mindfulness classes, for example – that emphasize rest and restoration.
Sandra A. Wawrytko
Sandra A. Wawrytko, professor of philosophy at San Diego State University, has written about the integration of Buddhist values in the modern world; ask where rest and retreat fit into this picture.
Randy Frazee wrote Making Room for Life: Trading Chaotic Lifestyles for Connected Relationships (Zondervan, 2004). He is senior pastor of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas. Ask him about the spiritual value of relationships in the quest for rest and peace.
13. Summer trips to Israel
Summer, for many, means a time to get away from life’s regular routines with trips, long or short. Sometimes the goal is to not just get away but also to get in touch with the religious or spiritual side of life through retreats, pilgrimages, cruises and visits to sacred sites.
Pilgrimages to the Holy Land are increasingly back on the summer calendar for Christians. The quieting of terrorism and new cooperation on tourism between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Tourism Ministry are two reasons why tourism in Israel is increasing, says Vardit Kaplan, director of Israeli Tourism Ministry Center in New York. Catholics and Protestants, mostly in organized tours, retrace Jesus’ footsteps at such places as the Mount of Olives, the garden of Gethsemane, and the garden tomb and Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.
Before the intifada began in October 2000, American tourists to Israel were about 55 percent Christian and 45 percent Jewish. Since, some 90 percent have been Jewish. The increase in Jews during the violence surprised Israeli tourism officials and appears due largely to solidarity campaigns by American Jewish organizations that put pledges to visit Israel on each seat in some synagogues and temples.
More than 583,000 Americans traveled to Israel in 2012, according to Israel Ministry of Tourism officials.
Jews visit Israel for many reasons – religious, cultural, recreational and to visit family. In the 1990s, many families held bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs there. Even secular Jews visit to give moral and financial support to Israel. The Israeli Tourism Ministry intends to target American Jews with increased marketing efforts. Because of connections with Israeli family and friends, American Jewish travelers are less likely to join tours and more likely to face the everyday dangers of Israeli life than on group tours, which are extra security-conscious.
- U.S. travel advisories affect Israel travel.
- Pilgrims go from every walk of Christian life. Some save years to make the trip. Tours are organized by or with church leaders or by denomination. Megachurches and Bible Belt churches are particularly active.
- Ask churches and travel agencies if Israel travel is picking up and why. Find pilgrims preparing for the trip; ask their expectations. Publish a diary from one. Interview veteran pilgrims to inquire about the durability of spiritual change created by the visits.
- Ask local synagogues and temples whether and how they encourage Israel tourism. Contact Jewish peace groups to ask whether they, too, support Israel tourism at this time. Ask Jewish tourists their reasons for going, if they feel safe bringing children and what they derive from their visits.
Ask Rabbi Mayer Waxman at the Orthodox Union in New York about travel trends, about trips and whether families around the country are planning bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs in Israel.
Hadassah, the Jewish Zionist women’s organization, sponsors Israel tours mixing education, politics and religion.
North American Federation of (Reform) Temple Youth
The North American Federation of (Reform) Temple Youth sponsors a summer youth program, NFTY in Israel, and the Eisendrath High School exchange program.
14. Immersion vs. mission trips
Summer’s here, and already 14 local groups have contacted you about covering the fabulous youth and adult mission trips they’re planning. Why not try a new angle?
The big debate used to be between two ways of doing missions: Should Christians go out and help people because their faith motivates them to, or should they help people with the primary goal of sharing their faith? Debates are sizzling on this topic, in part because of the increasing number of domestic and international mission trips for both youth and adults, a trend partly attributed to the growth of megachurches and independent churches that have sponsored their own trips.
What are known as “immersion trips” are gaining popularity as an alternative to traditional mission trips. In immersion trips, participants focus on humbly listening, learning about the local people and culture, and accepting hospitality with a goal of changing their own perspectives by immersing themselves in the daily reality of someone else’s life. That’s a big difference from traditional missions, where participants travel to work on a specific project with the main goal of helping people and/or sharing faith.
Debates focus on whether immersion trips fulfill a biblical mandate if they don’t involve aid or sharing faith. Supporters counter that short-term mission trips can miss their goal by catering too much to participants’ needs and desires, sometimes even complicating the lives of those they’re trying to help. Others question how often traditional short-term mission trips inspire lasting change in individuals.
Explore how mission trips are increasing and evolving as you report on the many youth and adults whose faith and values are sending them across the country or across the world. Below are some national experts who can comment on trends in mission trips, but the best way to report on this topic is to talk to the people who are organizing and traveling on mission trips about why they chose the kind of trip they did and what kind of impact the trip had on people – the participants as well as those who hosted them.
• Dana Robert is professor of world Christianity and history of mission and director of the Center for Global Christianity and Mission at Boston University School of Theology. She is the editor of African Christian Outreach, Vol. 2: Mission Churches (Southern African Missiological Society, 2003) and co-editor of Frontiers of African Christianity (Unisa Press, 2003).
Joseph Cistone is CEO of International Partners in Mission, which offers immersion trips. The organization is based in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. He is a board member of a number of national and international organizations including the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Case Western Reserve University.
Shawn Daggett is director of the Center for World Missions at Harding University in Searcy, Ark. Shawn served as a missionary to Bergamo, Italy, for ten years before teaching at Harding University. His focus is on missions history, anthropology and the New Testament.
David Livermore is executive director of the Global Learning Center at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Mich. He is author of Leading with Cultural Intelligence (2011) among other books.
Orval Gingerich is director of the Center for Global Education at Augsburg College in Minneapolis and has created and led experiential study abroad semesters as part of EMU’s Global Village Curriculum.
Todd M. Johnson
Todd M. Johnson is director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass. The rise of Pentecostalism has been a major focus of the program. He is also an expert on international religious demography and he edits the World Christian Database and is co-editor of the World Religion Database.
Global Awareness Through Experience
Global Awareness Through Experience offers immersion trips to invite individuals to explore solidarity and compassion through giving. It’s based in La Crosse, Wis.
“Despite Benefits, Few Americans Have Experienced Short-Term Mission Trips”
See an October 2008 Barna Group survey about mission trips.
“Church work took her abroad on mission trips”
Read a May 17, 2013, article by the Orlando Sentinel about one women’s religious mission trips with youth groups.
15. Sacred hearth: decorating with devotion
Home is a popular space to entertain in during the relaxed days of summer, and hospitality is a practice with spiritual and religious meaning. With the cultural mainstreaming of evangelical Christianity come Christian takes on a variety of lifestyle topics, and interior decorating is one. Beautiful Places, Spiritual Spaces: The Art of Stress-Free Interior Design by Sharon Hanby-Robie and Deb Strubel, to be published in July, combines a decorating guide with Christian devotional that Northfield/Moody Publishers touts as an alternative to the use of feng shui in decorating. Decorator Laurie Smith from the popular Trading Spaces cable TV show is a speaker at a number of Women of Faith conferences this year. Even the artsy decorating magazine, Nest, gives a tongue-in-cheek nod in its spring issue to traditional Christian symbolism in the home.
- Contact interior decorators. Are they getting special requests from Christian clients or clients of other faiths?
- Contact local Christian home and family life groups. What kinds of resources are they using for home decorating? How important is their faith and its symbols in the look of their homes?
- Interior designer Sharon Hanby-Robie says she gets many requests to design prayer closets for her clients.
- Read a story posted by ChristianityToday.com about Trading Spaces decorator Laurie Smith in the November-December 2003 Today’s Christian Woman.
- Georgia-based decorator Terry Willits is the author of a number of decorating books and a contributor to Marriage Partnership magazine.
- Brenda Gay Shumaker of Danville, Pa., is an interior designer and author of Decorating Your Heart and Home (Harvest House Publishers, 2001). She hosts the syndicated radio show Designs for Living.