Book Write-Up: Reciprocal Church, by Sharon Galgay Ketcham

Sharon Galgay Ketcham. Reciprocal Church: Becoming a Community Where Faith Flourishes Beyond High School. IVP Books, 2018. See here to purchase the book.

Sharon Galgay Ketcham has a Ph.D. from Boston College and is a practical theologian at Gordon College. She has decades of experience in ministry.

This book discusses the problem of young people leaving the church, and in some cases the Christian faith, after they leave high school.

Some points that Ketcham makes:

—-Contemporary Christianity is largely consumerist. Christian community is treated as non-essential. Worship songs have a lot of “I” in them rather than “we.” The importance of Christian community is emphasized throughout this book. Young people are looking for something real, and they see that when Christians exercise the fruit of the Spirit towards each other. In the New Testament, the fruit of the Spirit and Christian maturity concern how Christians interact with each other in community. That is where the Spirit does for people what they cannot do for themselves. Ketcham acknowledges that community is difficult and offers suggestions as to what can facilitate the Spirit’s work in encouraging community: Christians remembering that they have Christ in common, attempting to understand where people are coming from, fasting (from food or technology) as a form of self-denial, and picturing Christ standing between them and the Christian who has offended them. Ketcham also talks about communal memory and how that can tie people to the faith.

—-Unfortunately, young people are often seen as a problem, when they have much to offer churches. They can provide zeal, while the older people provide experience and wisdom.

This was a difficult book for me to read. The prose was clear and the book had its share of stories. It is easy, though, to become demoralized with communities: to be disappointed with others, and to wonder if one has a deep enough well of love to show people. Ketcham tried to address these concerns, and that is commendable. I just wonder how the Spirit works in the midst of so much hurt and dysfunction.

Then there is another side. There are plenty of friendly churches, where people serve one another and others. Yet, they struggle to hold on to young people. What are they doing wrong? Some of the case studies Ketcham talks about were in a Christian community, before they left. Obviously, being around other Christians is not necessarily a panacea, as important as it may be. Ketcham refers to some secular studies, but perhaps more would have enhanced the book. What are churches with numerical growth doing that is working, in terms of gaining and keeping young people?

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.


About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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