Regarding Christian Bible study in both Roman Catholic and Protestant settings, lectio divina is being applied in youth group settings. Through repeated readings of a Biblical text, youth are encouraged to listen to their own hearts and the voice of the Spirit speaking through the passage. When practiced in a group setting, sharing takes place in an atmosphere of quiet attentiveness. The goal is to cultivate a spirit of contemplative reflection and awareness in each person, as opposed to teaching a preconceived lesson to the group.
Journal writing is another classical form of spiritual reflection that has gained a measure of acceptance among youth. Whether in a blog (an online journal that others are invited to read and even respond to by posting reactions) or a more traditional paper journal, contemporary youth seem comfortable with examining their daily experience as an act of spiritual exploration. This also corresponds with the postmodern emphasis on sharing one's narrative as an act of selfexpression and truth sharing.
Not all contemporary Biblical exercises for youth hearken back to classical sources for their inspiration. Versions of the New Testament that are packaged in youth-oriented, magazine-style format are popular among older youth and teenagers. These modernlanguage Bibles focus on questions that are culturally relevant (such as how to get along with one's parents, dating Godly partners, and beauty secrets). If lectio divina seeks to foster the soul's desire to discern God's subtle presence, trendy texts for teens respond to the youthful need to respond to the loud and insistent voice of contemporary culture.
PARTICIPATING IN RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES AND SERVICES
Religious rites and ceremonies for children are characteristic of most religions. Hindu rituals are related to the conception, birth, naming, first feeding of the newborn child, and later on in childhood, his or her religious initiation (for boys born into the Brahmin caste, for example, at age 8), while Yoruba Muslims living in West Africa practice naming ceremonies for children upon their birth (see Carmody & Carmody). The Jewish practices of circumcision for male infants and the bar/bat mitzvah for teenagers are well-known rites of passage. In Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and some Protestant denominations, infant baptism and confirmation are analogous to Jewish practices. In Protestant denominations that reserve baptism for those consciously embracing their faith, child/parent dedication ceremonies are now commonplace.
Many children and youth prefer to be active participants in the intergenerational religious ceremonies and worship experiences that their faith community offers. To be sure, there has always been a place for youth participation in the past (e.g., children's messages), but the current generation of youth desire to be leaders as well as congregants. They want to impact others and not just receive instruction. Inclusion and partnership with adults rather than passivity characterize their understanding of their place in worship services.
With the rise of contemporary praise worship in Protestant churches, youth can help direct worship service experiences by being part of the praise and worship team (which leads the singing) or the instrumental praise band. Variations on this theme include youth bell choirs and puppet ministries. Youth are involved in such innovative areas as liturgical dance and religious drama. In some settings, the traditional acolyte team is being retooled to include more youth in worship leadership roles (candle lighting, public Scripture reading, leading of responsive readings, and prayers). The rising use of multimedia presentations is also an acknowledgment that youthful expressions of devotion are informing the worship experiences of all generations.