In January 2011, Dr. Ritva Williams was awarded a grant from the Louisville Institute to study the concept of purity throughout the Bible. She embarked on a five-month study which sought to address this question: How can we use biblical teachings about purity to teach positive values to adolescents and teens?

For many Christians the word “purity” is equated with sexual abstinence. Yet biblical purity teachings address a broader range of human concerns. Dr. Williams’ study aimed to redefine and expand the current understanding of purity and articulate these findings in ways that are accessible to young people. She explored questions like:

  • How can biblical concerns about temporary contact with vital fluids emitted by bodies be related to personal health and hygiene?
  • How can biblical concerns about ingesting impurity help connect with healthy diet and body image?
  • What is the role of the community in establishing purity rules?

When her research was completed, Dr. Williams partnered with Jake Bouma and Erik Ullestad to shape her work into a youth-friendly curriculum. The trio spent a year writing, testing, teaching, and tweaking these materials for maximum effectiveness. Wholeness & Holiness has been tested in a variety of settings – junior high retreats, high school youth groups, young adult meetings, and men’s Bible study groups. Erik, Jake, and Ritva are pleased to share Wholeness & Holiness with youth leaders, parents, and students.

The Collaborators

Jake Bouma (right) is Director of Youth and Family Ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Clive, IA. He graduated from Luther College in 2007 and is pursuing a M.A. in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Jake tweets, occasionally blogs, and enjoys spending time with his wife, Libby, and their two cats.

Erik Ullestad (left) is Family Life & Youth Director at Windsor Heights Lutheran Church in Des Moines, IA. He is a 2001 graduate from Wartburg College. Erik received youth and family ministry certification from Wartburg Seminary in 2002. He also blogs and tweets when he’s not hanging out with his wife, three children, and large dog.

Ritva Williams (center) is Pastor of St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Cedar Rapids, IA. She holds a Ph.D. in New Testament and Christian Origins (University of Ottawa, 1997). She taught at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL for twelve years, and has published some scholarly books, articles, and essays. Ritva enjoys relaxing with her husband and Skyping with her grandkids when she’s not reading or writing