May 12, 2015

Today at Perry Shaw’s seminar on Transforming Theological Education, we were set the task of developing a case study as a method of theological inquiry. Here’s one outcome:


Following the annual Youth camp, the Vicar of St Inflammatory’s church in Leafy Heights receives this emailfrom some concerned parents…


Dear Vicar James,

We have been coming to St. Inflamatorys for 10 years: Initially stumbling upon your community while searching for a playgroup just after Pedro was born and Sophie was 2, we were quickly loved and drawn into the community, and later came to Christ through the Alpha course in 2008.

We brought  Sophie and Pedro for baptism when we were also baptised, and have raised them in the church. Our children have loved Sunday kids club over the years, where they have learned to follow Jesus, to pray, have been encouraged to read the bible, (which we do as a family), and have come to know and and trust Jesus. They have both been excited to tell their friends about Jesus at school, and invited them to Christmas services and holiday club.

We have been so supported by Cath, the Children’s ministries co-ordinator, who has visited us and  given us great resources for nurturing faith in the home. And we have always valued your wise biblical teaching and encouragement from the pulpit each week to apply the Word of God in our daily lives, helping us raise our children in the faith and seeking to be a witness for the gospel as a family in our community.

This year Sophie has started going to youth group and adores the leaders. We are thrilled that she has great role models in these older teenagers and young adults in the community. St Inflammatory’s has been a true blessing to us and we are so grateful to God for such a wonderful church family.

However, we are concerned with some of the talks that were given by the Youth Pastor Jezza, at the recent Youth Camp. Sophie has come home with an alarming response.

She went to youth camp so excited to finally be in year 7 and part of the youth group. Thinking of herself as a disciple of Jesus, and keen to learn more she became disturbed by Jezza’s message that she is in fact a rebellious sinner, rejected by God and alienated from his love. From Sophie’s point of view, she was already trusting in Jesus and following him.

She was at first upset at this idea, as she has always been sure of Jesus’ love for her and had faith that God heard her prayers and answered. But she now is expressing anger at the message, feeling that Pastor Jezza was saying her ‘faith’ isn’t good enough. She is refusing now to come to church and declaring that she’s not a Christian because Jezza says so.

Of course we are distressed that her faith has been shaken by this experience, rather than strengthened.

We are not looking to find blame, but it has led us to question whether Youth Pastor Jezza and Cath have been appropriately trained, and whether St. Inflammatory’s has a clear and common understanding of the gospel across the ages among all of the staff team?

We assumed that the faith and prayers of Sophie and Pedro were genuine. Perhaps we shouldn’t have encouraged them to pray as children? Or is this just a normal part of teenage faith?

We would very much value your wisdom and counsel on how to help Sophie recover faith and also your advice in parenting Pedro who might have a similar experience in 2 years time when he gets to highschool and transitions to St. Inflammatory’s Youth.

Yours faithfully,

Joe and Karen

What theological and pastoral issues does this case study raise?

What biblical materials would you draw on to help responses to this case study?

What other resources could help here (at any point in the process)?


  1. Great case study!
    One quick suggestion: Include a question along the lines of “If you were Vicar James how would you advise Joe and Karen and why?” This pushes the readers of the case study to enter more personally into the story.

    • Thanks, Perry. I agree that ‘slipping into Vicar James’ shoes’ and entering the scenario personally as a key factor in the learning engagement.
      The reason I didn’t frame the question around Vicar James is because I wondered if we might have ideas other than ‘what should the clergy do?’ when confronted with a theological issue. If I were teaching a large enough cohort, I would divide into three groups and supply three slightly different letters, one to each group – one to the vicar, one to Jezza and one to Cath. This adds another level of engagement to reflection in engaging with roles and relationships.

  2. Yes, indeed. Actually it is sometimes good to place participants into a number of shoes: Maybe Vicar James, then Karen, then an observer on the edge. And what about Jezza? We haven’t heard his side of the story! One of the greatest challenges is getting students to do perspective taking, and placing them in several sets of shoes can help along that path.

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