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Young people’s experiences of sacred moments and spaces | Springtide Research


Dr. Kari Koshiol and her colleagues, Jacqueline Daorty and Hannah Evans, discuss the research conducted at Springtide and share insights from their experiences working with young people. They highlight the importance of engaging with young individuals, particularly in exploring their views on religion, spirituality, and sacred moments. Jacqueline and Hannah express their enthusiasm for conducting interviews and discovering new insights that challenge stereotypes about young people’s spiritual and religious beliefs.

The discussion also delves into specific findings from their research, such as young people’s experiences of sacred moments, which often revolve around their connections with friends and family, nature, and personal relationships. The team emphasizes the significance of understanding and facilitating these types of experiences, especially as they relate to young people’s spiritual and emotional well-being. Additionally, the ethical considerations in conducting research with young individuals are highlighted, including the involvement of the Institutional Review Board, language sensitivity, compensation, and parental awareness.

The team also shares upcoming projects, including the launch of the “My Sacred Space Gallery,” featuring visual representations and descriptions of spaces considered sacred by young people. They also discuss an upcoming report that focuses on how race shapes experiences of the sacred, using data collected for the current report. Furthermore, they invite listeners to engage with their podcast, which features responses from young people to questions similar to those asked in the research interviews. Finally, Dr. Koishel emphasizes the importance of receiving reactions and feedback from the audience, expressing a genuine interest in how the research impacts their work with young individuals.


Hi, everyone. Welcome. We are so excited that you can join us today. I’m here with a couple of my colleagues, and we’re going to just talk about research that we do at Springtide, answer some common questions that we get from you all so that we can just share a little bit more about research and what it’s like to do the research that we do at Springtide. But first, couple of introductions. My name is Dr. Kari Koshiol. I obviously work at Springtide. Mostly, I’m working with our client research division, so I am helping to make sure clients get everything they need when they come to us for a client project. I’m the Senior Project Manager. Jacqueline, why don’t you introduce yourself?

Yeah. Hi, everyone. My name is Jacqueline Daorty. I am a research associate at Springtide. I also work on the client side of our projects. But then I also am doing work with our own research that we’ll be talking about today.

Awesome. And Hannah.

My name is Hannah Evans. I’m also a research assistant to it along with Jacqueline. Similar to Jacqueline, I do both our client projects and then also our internal research projects.

Awesome. I’m going to be leading the discussion today, just asking questions, questions that I personally have, as well as questions that we’ve gotten from various people who have connected with Springtide and asked us just different things about research. I’m going to start, easy softball, and frankly, something that I want to know because I don’t think I know this yet. Jacqueline and Hannah, what are your favorite parts of conducting research with young people?

Yeah. So I’ve been with Springtide for a couple of years now, so I’ve had a good amount of experience, I think, working with young people so far. And I think one of my favorite parts is doing interviews with them. So I really like getting to talk with them and engage with them maybe in ways that otherwise I wouldn’t be able to or just wouldn’t happen naturally in the world. And I think that when society thinks about young people, we don’t often think about religion. We don’t often think about sacred moments, right? So I think it’s really cool to be in those conversations with them and engage with them. I think we’ve been talking to them directly about those topics, because just being in the world generally, you might not ask a young person how they feel about religion or what’s sacred to them. And having those deep conversations about what they’re thinking and feeling and experiencing in the world has been really cool.

That’s awesome. Hannah, how about you?

I think my favorite thing, it can be qualitative, it can also be quantitative, but I just feel really excited and energized whenever we’re learning something that I feel like is new or in conversation with or even in disagreement with some of the stereotypes when we think about young people, whether that’s them being more religious than we expect or more spiritual than we expect, or even just the ways that they’re thinking about the relationships to spiritual and religious institutions and how they think about what it means to have sacred experiences with other people. I think young people are so thoughtful and have such really interesting, kind things to say and are very reflective about what spirituality means to them. Whenever we get to see that both broadly and in the quantitative data, but then also in the interviews, which I also love, I think it’s just really energizing for me to see something that I’m like, Oh, this is so fun to put it in contrast with what adults think about young people.

That brings up a good point, Hannah. I guess I’m wondering, is there any interview specifically, Jacqueline, I guess, or Hannah? But is there any data point interview that’s really resonated with you that you’re thinking like, Oh, this finding, maybe especially from this new report, I guess overall that you’re like, Oh, I want to highlight this for folks before I guess they get this new report.

I think one of the things that stuck out to me with these interviews is how many of the young people talked about their meaningful experiences being with other people who they love and care about. There was one interview in particular where a young person in high school talked about how their sacred moment that first came to mind was just sitting with their best friend and just being together and not necessarily having a conversation, although that was part of it, but just the sacredness of being with somebody who knows you really well and can both have fun together and also be quiet together and the intimacy of that. I thought that was really beautiful and definitely resonates with my own experiences of what it means to have connection with other people and be a part of something bigger than yourself, which is a huge part.

Of spirituality.

I love the way you described that, Hannah, because we’ve got a sacred moment happening that connects to belonging, which is something Spring Tide is always talking about. It also is a sacred moment that does connect to the sacred. Connecting to something bigger than yourself when you can be in those moments of peace and silence.

Yeah. So many of the young people talked about friendships or family and how being known and feeling emotionally connected to those people was a type of sacred, spiritual moment for them. I love the way that young people are thinking about interpersonal relationships as having a spiritual element to them. I think that’s really beautiful.

That’s lovely. Jacqueline, how about you?

Yeah. I think along the same lines, there’s this idea that when we think about sacred things, we think about religion, and we think about God and church, all of these things that did come up in our interviews and in our survey, but there were also so many other things that young people considered to be sacred, which was really amazing. I remember doing the interviews, and I felt like, Okay, we’re going to ask about sacred moments. We did define that for them broadly, but I was like, It might be hard for them. It might be hard just for people in general to separate that from religion, which it doesn’t have to be. But we were thinking about sacred moments in a broad way, especially with young people and knowing trends from past reports about how they’re engaging or not engaging with traditional religious things. We expected that there might be some broader conceptualizations of what is sacred. But at the same time, I was like, maybe it would be difficult to take that out. They might say, Oh, well, I don’t really have a sacred moment because I don’t go to church or I don’t practice a religion.

And some people did happen in a couple of my interviews, at least.


By and large, it was really easy for them to think about things that are sacred. And they’re like, Oh, yeah, being with my friends or going to this concert or being in nature, that one came up a ton. And it comes up a lot in our research as well. Just thinking about how important and connected to nature young people seem to be and seems to come up a lot for them, but especially when we were talking about sacred moments, just being the calm, relaxed space, being in that space in nature was really meaningful for them.

I think- Go ahead.

Go ahead. No, you.

Got it. I was just going to say that ties into one of the other things we’ve been talking about, which is not a lot of their answers were about being in church or being in youth group. It’s not that I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I think instead people can be asking questions of what does it look like to facilitate the opportunity to process and think through the experiences they’ve had in those settings, as opposed to assuming that they’re going to have sacred experiences in those settings. Just rethinking what is the role of organizations like youth groups and stuff for young people if the main sacred moments they experience aren’t happening in those spaces, they’re happening out in nature or with their friends and family? What does it look like to cultivate a certain type of way of thinking about and processing those experiences.

Yeah. I know that in the report, we talk about helping young people develop a sense of a sacred sensibility. That ability to find the sacred all over the place, which is wonderful, especially because what you two are both saying is that it sounds like young people, at least the ones we’ve talked to, are a bit predisposed to finding the sacred anywhere, which is also really exciting to know that there’s that ability to tap into it, especially because, and this is one of my favorite findings from the report, that sacred sensibility turns out to be really healthy. When you can find the sacred, it turns out that that correlates with all sorts of positive benefits for young people. It’s really exciting to know that there’s a lot of places that they can find the sacred and that they are finding the sacred.

That’s awesome.

One of the things we talked about when I was talking with some of the writers who were working on the report was this cyclical relationship between sacred moments and belonging and how having a sacred moment with somebody develops and strengthens that belonging, and then the belonging creates more space for sacred moments to happen. It’s this cyclical relationship. There’s this give and take of both dynamics where it’s like you can’t necessarily parse one from the other. It’s hard to know what came first, but just knowing that they’re in conversation with each other and reinforcing each other is really neat.

Super cool. I think the next thing, though, that’s really important to ask, and this is a question we get asked all the time, and that I’d love the two of you to speak to, is we’re talking to young people, right? We’re talking to young people as young as 13. I’m wondering what safeguards we have in place here at Springtide for really making sure that research is ethical as we go about conducting it? Yeah.

One of the things that we do is we have IRB applications, so the Institutional Review Board. When we’re doing our spring tide research, we come up with our methodology and what we want to ask young people and how we want to do that, how we want to recruit them, all of those different details about the study. Then we send that to this review board that goes through each of those things and basically approves it from an ethical standpoint. Maybe if there are some things that we could improve upon in some ways or some things we might want to do slightly differently, they’re really helpful in that process to make sure that we’re doing this research and we really care about young people and want to support them, but also the act of doing that research. We want to make sure that we are enacting that support in those spaces as well and making sure that everything that we’re doing is following these ethical standards and guidelines as well.

Also, I think just as you were talking, Jacqueline, one of the things I think it’s important to note is that we also do our research with young people on the front end. We have our Spring Tide ambassadors program, and they help advise us in terms of what might be good questions for young people to answer. How can the question best be worded so that a young person is responding to the question we want them to respond to? We all know language shifts, so we want to make sure that we are actually asking the question in the way that we want young people to hear it. I think that’s another piece of making sure that there’s that carefulness to make sure that the research is being done properly. Hannah, is there anything you would add to that or have we covered it?

I can’t really think of anything. I think the emphasis too on that. When we do research, we’re getting a lot out of it, but then we hope that the young people participate would also benefit from it and making sure that they’re compensated for their time and energy and involvement is also an important part of ethical research and making sure their parents are aware also and having them involved in that process is an important part of ethical research with young people.

Definitely. Oh, and I should mention city training. Jack and I are all nodding. For those of you who don’t know, Citi is one of the standards out in the research world for making sure that you, as a researcher, know all the things you need to know about ethical standards of research. And at Springtide, everyone on the team, not just the research team, but everyone. So our marketing director, who is helping to film this right now all the way through, has taken Citi training so that all of us have that background to make sure that we’re doing the best that we can and making sure that we’re keeping high standards when we’re working with young people. Okay, so we’re coming up on time. I don’t want to keep anyone here too long, but I definitely have to ask, what are you both excited about for what’s next? Like, whatever is coming down the pipeline with spring tide?

Yeah, well, I guess really related to this report and to the state of religion that’s coming out very soon that we’ve been talking about today. I’ve recently launched the My Sacred Space Gallery, which is something I think is amazing. We had original photos and descriptions from young people ages 13 to 25, visualizing and talking about spaces that they consider to be sacred. A lot of them were dogs, a lot of them were nature, a lot of them are beaches, but just these places, these objects, these moments that feel sacred to them, and with the idea that people can look through these and think about that sacred sensibility that Carrie was mentioning earlier, there’s all these different places where young people are experiencing the sacred. And here’s a really powerful way that we’ve taken those all together for people to look through and to think about in their own work and experiences and interactions with young people. These sacred moments are everywhere, and we can see them in this really nice page that we’ve launched as well.

Yeah. If you haven’t been there yet, go check it out. Scroll through every single picture you hover over it. It gives you the voice of the young person saying why they chose that space. And it’s just a really beautiful gallery. So yeah, thank you, Jacqueline, for mentioning that.

Hannah? Yeah, I’m excited. Right now, we’re in the process still of working on some research about how race shapes experiences of the sacred and using the data set that we collected for this report. That’s going to be coming out probably early spring. That’ll be really cool just to, I think, put that in conversation with some of the larger trends we’re looking at in this report and looking more closely into how race shapes experiences with nature and particular and stuff like that, and how being socialized in the world with particular identities shapes how young people have spiritual experiences.

Yeah, that’s going to be a great report. And it’s really cool that we’re able to slice the data to look at it through a specific lens. It’s really exciting. I will toss out there, shameless plugs all the time. If you haven’t been to our podcast and listen to that, I highly recommend it. One thing that we do in the podcast is we make sure that we’re asking questions that are similar to the questions that have been asked in the interviews for the report. So this newest season is going to be young people responding to the sorts of questions that we asked when we created the data set for the report itself. So you get to hear what we hear. You get to actually be in those interviews that Hannah and Jacqueline were talking about. Now, it’s not actually our research interviews, so don’t get confused with that. It’s our ambassadors, our Spring Tide Ambassador program folks coming in to talk to us about their experiences with the sacred and sacred spaces and sacred sensibility. And it’s just a really neat opportunity to get to, I don’t know, be in the conversation. And also I just always encourage you to, if you’ve got reactions, ideas, things you’re thinking about when it comes to the new report, please do reach out.

We love to get your questions. We love to get your reactions. Beginning of this conversation, I started by asking, what are Hannah and Jacqueline’s favorite parts of conducting the research? My favorite part is the reactions. I love when we get to talk to people about what they’re learning and why it matters in their space. We welcome you to share with us how this is impacting your work with young people. And we look forward to hearing from you and giving you more research in the future. Thank you so much, everyone, for your time. Have a great rest of the day.


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