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Dordt College News

Lief and hoekstra earn doctorates

June 23, 2014

Jason Lief
Theology Professor Jason Lief’s doctoral dissertation joins a growing list of publications trying to understand why young people are leaving the church. Building on and responding to scholars such as Notre Dame’s Christian Smith (Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood) and McGill University’s Charles Taylor (A Secular Age), Lief suggests that young people are not so much abandoning faith as replacing Christianity with something they see as less archaic and more reasonable, an evolved form of market capitalism that has been called techno-capitalism. His thesis, titled “Poetic Youth Ministry: A Christological Approach to Young People Leaving the Church,” was done at Luther Seminary.U

nlike traditional capitalism where power comes through control of materials, this newer worldview flattens power structures, placing the highest value on creativity and knowledge, technological invention and innovation, Lief says. Power changes hands as people and institutions become more and less creative and knowledgeable, more and less desirable. 

For many, science and economics seem better able to solve problems and make sense of things; a faith that can’t account for science or doesn’t speak to economics does not. Striving to be desirable leads people to set unreachable ideals, somewhat parallel to trying to live a santified life. But as they try to become better at what they do/be more holy, anxiety and fear of failure set in.

Youth ministry programs often emphasize moral and doctrinal processes that young people feel they need to follow if they are to become better Christians. Instead, Lief believes, churches should help them learn how to embrace the world in love and authentically grapple with what it means to be open to God and neighbor, to be creaturely and live responsibly.

“Our goal shouldn’t be to keep young people in church—though we certainly hope we do,” says Lief. “The church exists for the world. Our task, as Christian community, is to enter into the lives of young people as they try to make sense of the world. In doing so, we may also keep them in the church.”

Brian Hoekstra
Business Professor Brian Hoekstra chose to focus on Global Training and Development for his recently completed doctoral program at North Central University. He studied the effect of training on adult and distance education. Hoekstra, who teaches management and human resources courses in Dordt’s business department, looked more specifically at the effect of training on job satisfaction levels of faculty who teach online courses.

Hoekstra has been teaching at Dordt College since 2008 and has taught an online course at nearby Northwest Iowa Community College for 10 years.

Hoekstra’s program combined theory, research, and practical application of principles related to training and performance improvement. It also connected to his interest in missions.

“I’m amazed at how God led me through this process,” he said. He believes that what he learned could also play a possible role in mission efforts that use online education.

The results Hoekstra compiled based on surveys and his study of faculty training programs gave him helpful classroom strategies and a better understanding of job satisfaction theories and models that will also benefit his management and human resources students.

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