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Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  503 ratings  ·  80 reviews
Based on the National Study of Youth and Religion--the same invaluable data as its predecessor, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers--Kenda Creasy Dean's compelling new book, Almost Christian, investigates why American teenagers are at once so positive about Christianity and at the same time so apathetic about genuine religious practice. ...more
Hardcover, 254 pages
Published July 15th 2010 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published June 12th 2010)
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Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry by Doug FieldsThe Godbearing Life by Kenda Creasy DeanSoul Searching by Christian SmithHurt by Chap ClarkAlmost Christian by Kenda Creasy Dean
Best Youth Ministry Books
5th out of 21 books — 9 voters
Worship and Mission After Christendom by Alan KreiderWorking the Angles by Eugene H. PetersonCeltic Daily Prayer by The Northumbria CommunityThe Missio Dei Breviary by Mark Van SteenwykThe Power of All by Stuart Murray-Williams
Practicing Church
17th out of 25 books — 1 voter

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Community Reviews

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"Almost Christian" is a provocatively titled book that analyzes the results of the National Study of Youth and Religion. It is very intelligently written, so I'd suggest getting the Kindle version to help define some of the words Dean uses while reading. But in a season where a lot of people are throwing youth ministry under the bus, Dean proposes the simple notion that adolescent faith is more a product of the apathy in adults' lives than in the programs of youth ministry. "Almost Christian" ta ...more
Recommended by Schmiddy.

Almost Christian paints a bleak picture of the faith of young Americans, but the book is not wihtout hope. It offers inspiration and direction if we are to reverse the current state of faith dubbed "Benign Whateverism." The problem is that majority of "believing" young people are not overly eager about their faith. The vast majority see God as a sort of divine therapist who helps them be happy and get along with other people. Sadly, sin, the need for a saviour, and overco
I admit I read this because of the "Mormon Envy" chapter. I was very interested in what qualities of Mormonism translated to the NYSR (National Study of Youth and Religion) finding that Mormon teenagers are faring best in meaningful and practical application and understanding of their religion. To quote, "In nearly every area, using a variety of measures, Mormon teenagers were consistently the most positive, the most healthy, the most hopeful, and the most self-aware teenagers in the study."

from page 3- "Here is the gist of what you are about to read: American young people are, theoretically, fine with religious faith-but it does not concern them very much, and it is not durable enough to survive long after they graduate from high school.
One more thing: we're responsible."

No matter your faith, this book will have you asking, "am I highly devoted to the faith"
It seems most Americans (not just youth) have a faith in a God who just wants us to be nice. And we can call on him if we ar
Andy Goodrich
I loved the first few chapters of this book and then found it wanting. The first few chapters were full of insight into our youth culture and the church as a whole but then in the final 2/3 of the book the researched backed, black and white clarity of the first portion of this book became clouded by a fog of intellectual church talk as the author tried to offer a solution. All in all the book as many good things to offer but by and large I felt that the author is just where everyone else is she ...more
Nathan Schneider
Almost Christian should be read by every pastor, youth worker, and parent. The church has been asking about the condition of our ministries to youth for some time and Kenda Creasy Dean exposes what may be the root issue, Moral Therapeutic Deism. Students hear and see a feel good faith in those around them and that's exactly what they're embracing. The is hope and it's in Jesus.
This book looks at the results of a recent survey on American teenagers and religious faith, and seeks to make sense of the results. The author's conclusion is that teenagers' lukewarm religious faith mirrors similar attributes in their parents' faith, that most teenagers take after their parents (and other important adults in their lives) in terms of their beliefs, and that a multi-generational, vibrant church is the best place to raise spiritually committed teenagers. The author makes some goo ...more
Sean Post
Dean builds from the research data on teenage spirituality in the US (initially reflected on by Christian Smith in "Soul Searching"). Moving beyond hand-wringing, Dean urges her readers towards the cultivation of "missional imagination" and even into specific practices. She also turns the finger-pointing at Moralistic Therapeutic Deistic teens into a reflective exercise for the church and for parents. What if teens have not misheard the gospel due to our poor communication? What if we have actua ...more
Jonathan Beigle
This is my first 1-star book on Goodreads. I didn't like it. Almost Christian was not understandable and I'm not sure I ever got the point of the book. I think the point was that the church is rampant with Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and it shows through our teenagers. By the time I got to the 3rd chapter (out of 9), I was already thinking about quitting and starting another book, but I really don't like I stuck it out. By the time I got to chapter 4 or 5, I couldn't wait to be do ...more
Jay Miklovic
I liked this book. The beginning was pretty repetitive, and as I said in one of my status updates, benign. It did get better though.

There were a lot of things to take away from the book. Personally I found the idea of cultivating language 'behind the walls' in order that Christians would be able to communicate on and outside of the walls to be helpful. In other words the book actually seemed to speak in support of Christianese, something that most books addressing the future of the Church tend t
Cole J. Banning
Aug 22, 2012 Cole J. Banning rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Cole J. Banning by: Tony Jones
I blame Rod Dreher.

Rod Dreher was a blogger at, where he consistently provided a voice which was theologically, politically, and culturally conservative. Dreher was the sort of guy I would read in order to stay fluent in the best arguments in favor of those positions with which I disagreed, in service of trying to be someone who was a) generally well-read and b) intellectually honest. I didn't read his blog religiously, but I would stop by sometimes when I was in a particularly st
Hansen Wendlandt
Almost Christian is carefully written, often with striking precision for theologians, sociologists and other heady church professionals, sometimes with evocative prose for the hearts engaged in youth ministry. Creasy Dean offers a good analysis of the NSYR, although one could ask for comparison with a few other studies about current or past teenage religiosity, and perhaps more proof of how churches and parents are at fault for kids’ bad ideas about God, rather than society in general. Her descr ...more
Jan 21, 2012 Free rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Youth Pastors
I can't say enough great things about this book. This is a book written as a result of real interview questions on faith with youth from all over the world ages 13-18. The results from the answers is overwhelming to say the least, but not too surprising.

If you are a Pastor, Youth Pastor, Youth Leader or a parent with kids this is a book for you. Specifically Youth Pastors and Youth Leaders, I would go as far to say next to the Bible it is imperative that you read this book.

I am currently a yout
Very interesting and even inspiring in parts. I loved the first two chapters about how too many American Christian teenagers are actually adopting a worldly philosophy the author labels "Moralistic Theurapeutic Deism," or "Benign Whateverism." It demands nothing and is not transformative, but it vaguely asks people to follow the Golden Rule and not judge others and leaves teens with a vague positive impression of religion. God is called on when needed and thought of as a "Spiritual Counselor" or ...more
Jonathan Brooker
As many others have said, this book starts so well. Dean does a great job of setting the stage for the problem in the American church and culture today. Without any big fanfare Moral Therapeutic Deism has crept in and stollen the hearts and minds of many of our teens and adults in our churches. Don't know what MTD is? Read this book.
But I can only really recommend reading the first few chapters. After she makes the turn to talking about Mormon envy it goes downhill quickly and severely. The read
An interpretation of the National Study of Youth and Religion by one of the interviewing researchers, Almost Christian explores how the Church has replaced Christianity with "niceness." Richard Neibuhr's characterization of liberal Christianity offering, "A God without wrath" bringing "men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross," helps define this "niceness," which ends up being too weak to keep people in the Church. Creasy Dean's work h ...more
In Almost Christian, Dean attempts to answer this question left hanging in Christian Smith and Melinda Denton’s Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teens (Oxford University Press, 2005): Why do so many church kids abandon religious practice as young adults? Dean blames the church, including parents, for not challenging young people with a content-rich faith that reaches out in service to the world around us. Despite the historic doctrines of our churches, we have failed ...more
Fantastic book on modern American adolescent Christianity; should be required reading for every church youth group leader. Dean discusses moralistic therapeutic deism and how it has lead to a bunch of really nice teens who, as nice as they are, don't really have Christ in their hearts. He proposes some solutions to helping this reverse itself, but also some interesting research on why moralistic therapeutic deism is a problem in the first place.

My one complaint is the praise he gives Mormons. I
Jeff Raymond
I don't know why I find books about people's relationships with religion so appealing, but I do. Maybe it's because my relationship with religion, before withering away and dying completely, was so strange for me, and I get a lot of enjoyment finding out other people's roads to where they're at.

This is not a book directed to people who have left/abandoned/lost God, but a book directed to people who are trying to keep God. It's focused on teenagers and their relationships with the religion they'r
I found this book interesting and engaging, though it took me awhile to get through it (social science often takes me awhile. It just doesn't capture my attention the same way that, say, fiction does.)
In the book, Creasy Dean (a PTS prof) explores the results of the National Study of Youth and Religion. One of the major findings of this study - a point she returns to throughout the book - is that many American teenagers espouse an outlook called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Her discussion of th
Kenda Dean reflects theologically upon the National Study of Youth and Religion, which among other discoveries gave us the phrase "moralistic therapeutic deism" to describe the generic, default faith of the youth in our country (and, anecdotally, many adults as well).

Dean is one of my favorite thinkers on CYF ministry (Children, Youth, Family). She does a wonderful job of showing us the "sign potential" of youth - that as we seek to understand adolescents we end up understanding deep realities a
I've been reading this book for years now. Literally. There's lot of information - it's a report of a study of American youth and their faith lives. I appreciated the author's thoughtful examination of the data and her ability to bring practical experience of working with youth into the book so it becomes a much more practical discussion of raw data. She even offers thoughts for solutions instead of just sitting at the sidelines and wringing her hands. We discussed this at a recent youth workers ...more
Springing from the National Study of Youth and Religion, Dean explores in further detail why religion, Christianity in particular, is so "whatever" among teens. This book is where I came across the term "Moralistic Therapuetic Deism" -- a watered down version of Christianity that instead of having a loving and involved god who promises everything and demands our all, we have what she refers to as a Christian-ish Cult of Nice where god neither demands nor promises much. Therefore, religion become ...more
May 09, 2014 Bill rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: campus ministers
Recommended to Bill by: Jason Clark
The book’s main premise is that our Christian youth today have adopted their theological beliefs (described as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism) by watching the older generation. Evidence shows that young people who live in the midst of a Christian community whose focus is on living out the mission of God experience meaningful faith.

I especially appreciated the section on "translation," which is really a missiological message on incarnation. The author develops excellent thoughts on the importance o
Dean both explores the implications of the NYSR findings - specifically, that American teenage faith is prone to something called Moral Therapeutic Deism - and discusses ways to challenge that way of thinking. Perhaps most importantly, she notes that this (psuedo-)theology so favored by teenagers is not just an indictment of them, but of all of us. That is, teenagers are not Moral Therapeutic Deists because they didn't listen to their parents and faith communities, but precisely because they did ...more
Great book! So that's what moral therapeutic deism is. Well written. Writer can mention theological concepts ideas in an easy conversational tone. Written with passion and conviction and a bit of humor.

Lots of Catholic concepts...though I think writer is Methodist. ( a teens journal entry is shown as an example of reflection, in the spirit if the Ignation general examen).

I recommend it to anyone working with youth ministry, catechists, examples of testimony, examples of good writing regarding f
Very insightful exploration of MTD (Moralistic, Therapeutic, Deism), which is the dominant religious outlook of American Youth and based on a lengthy study called the New Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR), which surveys 13-17 year olds. Dean, herself a youth pastor and Princeton seminary professor, draws out some surprising and disconcerting implications from the data. However, I also found hope in her bleak assessment of Christianity in America. It's good to know what we're up against. As a ca ...more
Allen O'Brien
"Almost Christian" is a fantastic reverse-engineered look at the faith of Christian churches in the United States. Kenda Dean analyzes the work done in several surveys of adolescent faith, then makes the calculated conclusion that the findings (which portrayed a stark deism) merely reflect a truth about the faith of many churches today.

If we dedicate ourselves to overcoming the obstacles between the youth and adults in our churches, but the adults themselves cannot formulate or articulate their
Ryan Michaud
An incredibly introspective read that causes the reader through an evaluation of self, faith, and the role one plays in shaping the faith of youth.
Teen faith most closely mirrors parental faith. No wonder it's so bland. Almost Christian discusses the findings of the National Study of Youth and Religion. Excellent book for those who are called to work with teens or in discipleship ministries. There is a future for the Church and it lies in a creed, a call, a community, and a hope.

I would recommend reading Sticky Faith alongside Almost Christian , for some practical ways to help your family understand the difference between Christianity and
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Kenda Creasy Dean is an ordained elder in the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference (United Methodist) and professor of youth, church, and culture at Princeton Theological Seminary, where she works closely with the Institute for Youth Ministry. A graduate of Wesley Theological Seminary, she served as pastor in suburban Washington DC and as a campus minister at the University of Maryland-College P ...more
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“The essential mark of maturity in Christians—as in peach trees—is generativity. Mature faith bears fruit. Mature Christians are branches on which God’s love is multiplied and offered for the nourishment of others. As Jesus pointed out, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples” (John 15:8). By nurturing and offering the life-giving fruits of the Spirit (e.g., love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control [Gal. 5:22–23]), we become branches of divine grace, vehicles Christ uses to extend himself to others.” 2 likes
“divine grace is a gift, but not one we get to keep. Christ sends us into the world as he was sent: to embody God’s good news as we tell it, to enact the divine plan of salvation in word and deed.” 1 likes
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