As the current church year winds down (all that’s really left is General Assembly), I’m beginning to think about the three big projects I’ve committed myself to work on next year. I plan on writing about each of them this summer to help clarify my thoughts, but right now the one that’s on my mind is creating a Youth Spirituality & Service Program for congregations to use in Prairie Star. It’s on my mind because I’ve started reading The Handbook of Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence (edited by Eugene C. Roehlkepartain and others) as part of my research for the project, and it seems that coming up with a working definition of “spirituality” will be crucial for success. Here’s a couple that I’ve found in the first chapter of the book:

Spirituality can be defined as a search for the sacred, a process through which people seek to discourse, hold onto and, when necessary, transform whatever they hold sacred in their lives [the sacred includes the concept of God, divinity, transcendence, and ultimate reality].

Spiritual development is the process of growing the intrinsic human capacity for self-transcendence, in which the self is embedded in something greater than the self, including the sacred. It is the developmental “engine” that propels the search for connectedness, meaning, purpose and contribution. It is shaped both within and outside of religious traditions, beliefs and practices.

I like these definitions because they leave room to go beyond God and divinity when talking about the sacred, and because they recognize that spiritual development can occur “both within and outside of religious traditions.” This embraces both seekers (those who remain ambivalent about committing to a particular religious tradition) and dwellers (those who are willing call themselves Unitarian Universalists). Our job, as I see it, is to create a program for dwellers that is also welcoming to seekers.

By the way, I’ve just discover a terrific new resource: The Center for Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence. Check it out!