I just kicked in a 3rd (and because I'm a mod, binding) close vote for this question:

How to reach parents of religious education students who do not come to church?

However, I have some sympathies for it. It's highly subjective, but there are good and bad kinds of subjective. It's the kind of things where everybody and their grandmother is going to have an opinion on and want to chip in. At the same time, some experienced voices could bring some clarity to what the issues involved actually are.

I am inclined to think that there are two problems that must be addressed before it could be workable.

  1. It needs to target a tradition. Even if answerers and their experience don't have to be from that tradition, they must at least not run contrary to it. There are plenty of traditions that would see it as inappropriately invasive to even consider that sort of thing, and other that consider it the wrong end of the stick to be evangelizing kids without having reached their parents in the first place.

  2. There needs to be some kind of guideline for what answers are permissible. How would you deal with a flood of parents ranting about how awful it was of you to even want to indoctrinate their children? At what point (other than agreeing or disagreeing with content) do you say an answer belongs or doesn't belong?

If those get addressed somehow, it seems like the kind of subjective question that Parenting.SE deals with successfully but that we haven't yet worked out how we will approach.

Whats the communities take on this? What would it take to make questions of this vein constructive and on-topic? Is there a direction we can send them or is it a lost cause for now?

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Glad you mentioned Parenting because that's exactly what I was thinking (also how Role-playing Games deals with GM advice and sys-rec questions as well, talk from experience, or back it up with sources) –  wax eagle Sep 26 '12 at 12:34
    
I've put out an appeal to Parenting for input on this issue. Any advice for C.SE on handling questions seeking subjective how-to material? I don't know the first thing about Role-playing Games, @waxeagle maybe you could do the same there? –  Caleb Sep 26 '12 at 12:50
    
Well, I think we just took the cues from parenting so their advice is probably best :) –  wax eagle Sep 26 '12 at 12:52
    
OK, I was searching for my other questions I asked in reference to religious-education and I see there's no precedent for asking what I asked last night, those were more or less appeals to doctrine. –  Peter Turner Sep 26 '12 at 13:10
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@PeterTurner: Ya the only questions of this catagory that have come through so far have been so far out there on the "anybody with an opinion would chime in" line that we've just ditched them. If we do decide to try this route, this question will be the precedent we set -- hence my decision to bring it to meta! –  Caleb Sep 26 '12 at 13:14
    
@caleb, I'd go ahead and delete it, but maybe we should keep it to set a negative precedent. I'm sure I can talk about what I want to talk about with some of the other folks who do youth ministry on chat. –  Peter Turner Sep 26 '12 at 13:18
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@PeterTurner: Naw I'd let it stand closed for a little while until it gets discussed. If we decide to tweak it some direction and open it, great, otherwise we can delete it when we have community consensus that it's not a direction we're going. –  Caleb Sep 26 '12 at 13:20
    
So, am I seeing consensus here that "Good Subjective" is on topic, Bad subjective isn't? –  Affable Geek Oct 1 '12 at 14:50
    
@AffableGeek Yes, but I'm also seeing that roughly the same contingent that thinks some subject stuff is on topic also things imposing guidelines specific to subjective stuff is a good idea. What I'm not seeing yet is good consensus on what those need to be. Time for a new meta question? –  Caleb Oct 1 '12 at 15:20
    
See also: The follow up to this discussion that has our actual guidelines for handling subjective questions. –  Caleb Oct 17 '12 at 6:54
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3 Answers

Our policy on parenting.se is "opinions shared here should be backed up either with a reference, or experiences that happened to you personally".

In practice, this rule is not referenced very often. It occasionally comes up when an extreme stance or blanket statement is made without any obvious or intuitive support (e.g. "all kids study harder when they play soccer every week"), and is usually more to reign in topics that seem to be getting derailed into subjective personal opinion.

We also have a second policy that is closely tied with the reference or personal experience rule: "posts that primarily exist to push a specific agenda (propaganda), and soap-boxing, are not welcome".

This one gets cited a bit more frequently, and is used to put the brakes onto any topic that is in serious danger of turning into a full-blown argument.

I think the second policy would be of less use to your site, since your proposal of sticking within the context of a specific tradition should serve a similar purpose, and possibly more effectively.

If you do decide to go down the route of accepting limited subjective questions, I would suggest implementing some restrictions as clearly defined rules, mostly as a means of ensuring that you have a good and clearly documented guideline for establishing when things are getting out of hand.

For the first policy, perhaps you could extend it to "you must provide a specific example from where your experiences to support your advice"? This type of rule would be problematic on parenting, due to the sheer volume of hypothetical and subjective issues, but since this seems to be a small subset on Christiantiy.se, perhaps some variation of it would work for you.

One thing to keep in mind is that by allowing these types of questions, even with specific provisions and restrictions, you may find that it will be fairly common for people to miss those provisions and restrictions. Many of those will likely provide quality content, though. I would suggest that you go into it with the understanding that the rules would be enforced when things got out of hand, rather than for every instance, simply because not everyone will research the specific topics on meta, or even your faq, before posting.

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I would argue this falls squarely under "church management / administration." We had a discussion here: Broaden scope to include Church management? I'd argue that while we never had any consensus, the few church admin type questions we had got shot down.

As such, I'd kind of like to resolve this, and I'd stick my vote for this should be on-topic

Our site is Christianity.StackExchange. I know there was a question Should the site be re-named "Christian Doctrine" (not the url)? but frankly I think the answer is no. We aren't just Christian Doctrine. We are, if anything, Christian Doctrine and Practice, and questions about the practical practice of Christianity are highly important. They are the subject of many, many books - even classes in seminary - How does one "do church?"

If we restrict ourselves to doctrine and claim that practice is off-topic, we run the risk of becoming scholastics, "forever debating how many angels can dance the head of a pin." Like Parenting, Christianity is something we do as much as something we think about. I say, bring it on!

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+1. Christianity is fundamentally a religion of action and practice, and we are explicitly told to live by the principles of the Gospel and not just to hear them. Matthew 7:24-27 Refusing to discuss practical questions would cripple the site. –  Mason Wheeler Sep 26 '12 at 20:48
    
What rules / limits / guidelines would you propose for dealing with these kind of questions? How would you suggest keeping these topics from being discussion threads stuffed into a different box shape? –  Caleb Sep 26 '12 at 20:49
    
Please note the issue I raised here wasn't whether practical issues were on or off topic, but what guidelines we would need to follow to make subjective issues into constructive questions. I suggested a few issues/resolutions and asked for feedback. I don't see this as an issue of a binary vote for on or off topic. –  Caleb Sep 26 '12 at 21:04
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I would posit we use the "Good subjective, bad subjective criteria," just like I suppose parenting does. What techniques would help me break through the 70-member limit? - good, "should we change the color of the carpet?" bad. I would argue "too localized" means it is too specific to a single situation, but if several pastors are likely to deal with the same issue, it's ok... –  Affable Geek Sep 27 '12 at 0:25
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After being called out for a similiar problem for a question I recently posed and the lessons I learned from that, I would have to say I agree with your points. The question is excellent but needs to be re-worked to prevent lousy answers.

I don't think we should allow answers on experience only, or opinion that is not referenced from either a scriptural basis with quotes (according to a given biblical tradition), or a tradition on its own right that might not have a scriptural basis.

For example, one might ask for a general basis, like Protestant or Catholic, and expect reference quotes from either. Or one may ask for a doctrinal basis with reference quotes from the scripture as understood by the same traditions.

The question is excellent but the more subjective the answers could be, the more necessary objective quotes along a doctrinal or church tradition becomes important. This is necessary in order to keep this site clear from a bunch of wild quasi-religious physiological babble. The danger is that answers that are opinion free-for-all without being referenced to (or easily supported by) a published work, might not provide any value for many people.

This means the question needs to spell out a discipline required to provide a quality answer, that goes beyond mere subjective thoughts or experience. Any doctrinal or church tradition can be used to ensure the answers are as good as the question itself.

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