Monday, February 20, 2012

Wholeness & Holiness

Some you are aware that I'm working on a "purity curriculum" project with Ritva Williams and Jake Bouma.  Our collective foray into the land of self-publishing has been a fascinating process.  Our product unofficially launched at the 2012 ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza in New Orleans in early February.  Though we are still a few months away from unleashing the finished product, I was able to share Wholeness & Holiness samples, images, and concepts with youth ministers and pastors throughout this event.  (Jake was supposed to attend, but he had to stay home.)

The key image of the Wholeness & Holiness curriculum is a body outline.  Throughout each session, students draw an image on a "body map" as a way to reinforce the gist of the lesson.

Wholeness & Holiness had a table in the exhibit area...which was, essentially, a narthex near the large gathering space for general sessions.  It was fun to visit with people about how they approach conversations about sexuality, marriage, and purity in their congregations.  

Most people expressed dissatisfaction with traditional purity resources, indicating they were (a) too narrow in their interpretation of Scripture, (b) too awkward in how it approached the topic with teens, (c) judgmental and legalistic in their tone, or (d) used a cherry-picked small collection of verses to fit a particular worldview.

For these, and other, reasons, many people initially kept their distance from the Wholeness & Holiness booth.  My interpretation is that people saw "purity curriculum" in the promotional materials and didn't want anything to do with their pre-conceived notions of what that meant.  Over the course of the five days, people began stopping by the booth to ask questions about materials or to add their input to the question "When you see or hear 'purity' what comes to mind?"

By Day 3 there was a steady stream of people who were excited about resources that offered a more comprehensive approach to the topics of sex, Bible, and purity. One of the things that I became most excited about was the idea of using Wholeness & Holiness beyond confirmation or youth group settings.  What if adults spent eight weeks discussing what the Bible really says about the various understandings of purity?  Furthermore, how might the word "purity" be reclaimed in Christian circles to be more than "don't have sex until you're married" and explore the dozens of other Biblical texts that pertain to how people interact with each other and with God.

I'm grateful for the work of my collaborators, and for my friends -- Ellen, Megan, Anne, Mark, Eric, and Todd -- who went out of their way to help set up the booth and promote these resources at the Extravaganza.

If you'd like to learn more about the upcoming release of Wholeness & Holiness, or you're interested in having conversations about biblical purity, feel free to connect in these ways:


  1. I'm grateful for your work on this stuff, Erik, Jake and Ritva. I think the mainline churches in general (and the Lutheran church in particular) have largely abandoned efforts at creating resources and curriculum around these kind of hot-button topics. The void has been filled by the more evaangelical/fundamentalist resource providers who (well-intentioned as they are) don't necessarily represent our theological world-view.

    Thanks for re-claiming! I didn't get much time at the E to look at the material, but I will!

  2. Again and again in the congregational setting I hear that we're not giving our youth enough intellectual meat to sink their teeth into. We treat them and the topics that matter to them (and their parents, pastors and youth ministry leaders) like they can be giggled about instead of taken seriously.

    Wholeness and Holiness takes very seriously issues that matter to kids and those who care about them! So excited that people I respect are doing this and that they aren't waiting for the rest of us to catch up! Courageous and timely!

    I have already written this material into my plan for next year! Can't wait to see the finished product!



Thank you for taking the time to be a part of "koinonia"