Consider the Ditch Lilies: Erosion Control and Rural Teen Spiritual Formation
Abstract: Ditch lilies, found on country roads throughout the United States, are often used to prevent erosion while providing a pop of color. These flowers have strong roots and a long history in the rural United States. A different erosion impacts many rural communities in the early twenty-first century. Rural communities face economic and population erosion due to socio-economic factors. Along with this, a spiritual erosion occurs as faith scatters in rural communities. Members of the community often retreat, disconnected from their present lives. This paper proposes a spiritual formation modeled after ditch lilies. It utilizes rural education research, place-based educational models, and mission-oriented faith formation methods to sow the groundwork for a rural teen spiritual formation. This rural spiritual formation with teenagers requires a rootedness in faith, place, and heritage that nourishes a creative hope, which allows teens to thrive in whatever place they call home.
Jonathan LeMaster-Smith, Interim Director of Connectional Ministries Oak Hill United Methodist Church, Affiliate Faculty Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and Sioux Falls Seminary.