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Searching for belonging: an exploration of how recent university graduates seek and find belonging in new church communities

WARD, MATTHEW,ALAN,JAMES (2016) Searching for belonging: an exploration of how recent university graduates seek and find belonging in new church communities. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Young graduates are a group who have much to offer to the life of the church, but there are many who do not make a transition from belonging to a church while students to belonging after graduation. This thesis explores the experiences of recent graduates as they seek out new church communities. In doing so it seeks to build a greater understanding of the challenges they face, the processes by which they search for and find belonging in new church communities, and why some do not succeed in finding a church to which they feel they can belong.
It offers a survey of literature relating to church leaving and, taking an interdisciplinary approach drawing upon material related to theories of social capital and consumer culture, as well as theological perspectives, examines a range of understandings of belonging.
Using a qualitative longitudinal research method it explores the experience of recent graduates. Building on analysis of the data generated, it develops a model that illustrates the process by which those graduates searched for, and moved towards, belonging to new church communities. This model is illustrated through biographies of belonging, formulated for each of the participants.
The thesis offers theological reflection upon three themes that emerge from the data analysis. First, it explores the relationship between consumer approaches to belonging and faith. Secondly, it examines what it means to receive an invitation to contribute to the life of the church community. Thirdly, it reflects upon what it means to dwell with God.
Finally, the thesis draws upon its findings in offering suggestions for the transformation of practice among three groups of people: university chaplains and others who work with Christian students; churches that receive new graduates; and students who are preparing to leave university.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Theology and Ministry
Keywords:belonging; consumer culture; social capital; university chaplaincy; invitation; invitation to contribute;
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:28 Oct 2016 10:52

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