This Luther Seminary Intensive course is open to pastors, lay leaders and parents as part of a John Templeton funded project, Science for Youth Ministry. This year’s children, youth and family contemporary issues class focuses on evolution & the spirituality of children. We will specifically explore if there are ways of thinking about child development and experience of adolescents next to evolution.  To enrich these conversations the class will also attend to evolution more broadly, confronting how we interact, discuss, and think about the scientific perspective next to the formation of faith and questions of young people.

Non Luther Students register here:  Kairos Courses

Luther Students register for CY 4525

We live in age where evolution has been used as ideological religious football.  Many in the younger generations assume that to be a Christian is to be at odds with evolution.  Yet almost every young person in confirmation class will be studying sciences in school that presume evolution.  Many will even be in life sciences or biology classes.  How do we teach scripture and Christian history’s claim of human uniqueness, sinfulness, and creation by the Word of God? The student will receive both an in-depth understanding of evolution and explore ways of integrating the concept into ministry.  To meet this end, every participant in the course will work through a curriculum writing process. Upon leaving the class, each student will have their designed curriculum to use directly in their ministry.

This course will challenge the contention that evolution and faith are opposed to one another.  We will look specifically at research being done in the cognitive sciences (which presume evolution) on children, giving us new ideas and perspectives for ministry.  These studies reveal how, rather than diminishing or reducing of spirituality, some views of evolution open us up to spirituality.

This then will be an ideal course for anyone wrestling with the conversation between evolution and faith, or desiring to be exposed to new cutting edge research on children.

Children, Youth and Family Contemporary Issue Course: Evolution & Theology


Dr. Andy Root and guest lecturers Dr. Rebekah Richert, Dr. Philip Rolnick, and Michael Novelli

Date and Times:

June 11-14, 2018

Luther Seminary, Northwestern Hall, Rm 100

Monday 6-9 pm; Tuesday 8-4; Wednesday 8-8 pm; Thursday 8-11am

Tuition is $35. This reduced tuition is courtesy of the Science for Youth Ministry grant provided by the John Templeton Foundation

Dr. Andy Root will host the course along with our 3 guest presenters:

Professor Rebekah Richert  is an Associate Professor, Department of Psychology Affiliated Faculty, Department of Media & Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside. She received her Doctorate from University of Virginia, was an Honorary Research Fellow at Queens University of Belfast, School of Anthropology and a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University, Graduate School of Education. Dr. Richert teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on psychology, cognitive development, social cognition, psychology of religion, media and child development, and developmental research methods.

The overarching themes of Dr. Richert’s research involve examining how cultural factors and children’s developing social cognition influence their understanding of religion, fantasy, and media. In a current research project funded by a grant from the Social Science Research Council’s New Directions in the Study of Prayer (The Role of Prayer in the Development of Religious Cognition), she is examining how parents’ engagement with their young children in shared religious activities, such as prayer and rituals, structures children’s developing concepts of God and supernatural causality. In a second current research project funded by a NSF REESE Collaborative Large Empirical Research grant (Collaborative Research: Using Educational DVDs to Enhance Preschoolers’ STEM Education), she is examining the role of parasocial relationships with screen characters (televised, avatars) for very young children’s learning of STEM concepts, in particular mathematics and engineering related concepts. A third ongoing line of research examines how children’s developing ability to distinguish fantasy from reality is related to their learning of material presented in fantasy contexts (storybooks, DVDs, etc.).

Professor Philip Rolnick is Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas, and serves as Chair of the Science and Theology Network (STN), a group that promotes public events and faculty research in science and theology in the Twin Cities. He received his doctorate from Duke University, and has also taught at Greensboro College in North Carolina. As the author of many theological books and articles, his three major research areas have been: 1) analogy—how words refer to God; 2) what personhood means for Christian faith; and 3) the relation of science and Christian theology. A fourth, recent interest has been the thought of C. S. Lewis. Philip Rolnick has been the recipient of the Exemplary Teacher Award of Greensboro College and the United Methodist Church; several Templeton Foundation grants; a North Carolina Humanities Scholar; and the University Scholars Grant, the most prestigious award for scholarship at the University of St. Thomas. He has been a Member of Princeton’s Center of Theological Inquiry and Notre Dame’s seminar on Human Distinctiveness. His latest book, Origins: God, Evolution, and the Question of the Cosmos (Baylor University Press) was published in October, 2015, and has already been nominated for three national awards.

Guest curriculum design specialist Michael Novelli is an educator, content designer and community advocate. He has a M.Ed. in Integrated Learning from Endicott College, and is an instructor at North Park University, specializing in curriculum and teaching methods. Michael coaches authors, and has created and edited numerous resources for Zondervan, Tyndale, Group, Sparkhouse, Abingdon and other publishers. He is also a trainer-mentor with the Youth Leadership Academy, an organization empowering under resourced teens and families toward lives of significance and service. Michael, his wife Michele, and children, Angelo and Abrielle, live in Elgin, Illinois.