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The Juvenilization of American Christianity Paperback – April 20, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Larry Eskridge
-- Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals, Wheaton College
"One of the key themes within the American church since the 1930s -- and particularly since the 1960s -- has been the change in how congregations approach youth ministry and youth culture. The Juvenilization of Christianity by Thomas Bergler explores the wide-ranging ramifications of this revolution across the denominational spectrum, examining not only its impact upon young people but also the larger implications -- positive and negative -- for the entire church. Anyone really trying to understand the dynamics of American Christianity must read this book."

George Marsden
-- University of Notre Dame
"The Juvenilization of American Christianity provides a fine history of one of the most significant revolutions in twentieth-century Christianity. . . . Anyone concerned with the church and its ministries can learn from reading this book and reflecting on the changes that Bergler describes."

Rebecca de Schweinitz
-- author of If We Could Change the Word: Young People and America's Long Struggle for Racial Equality
"In exploring previously unexamined relationships between youth, politics, culture, and Christian traditions, Bergler greatly enriches our understanding of Christian youth programs and American religious history."

Publishers Weekly
"A fascinating exploration of the places where Christianity and youth culture have intersected. . . . Will certainly be provocative both for the casual reader and for clergy, who may also appreciate the book's practical suggestions toward a solution."

Walt Mueller
-- Center for Parent/Youth Understanding
"Juvenilization is a long-overdue call to question our means, methods, and message. . . . Bergler shakes us awake and helps us see what's really happening in our youth ministries and churches."

About the Author

Thomas E. Bergleris professor of ministry and missions at Huntington University, Indiana, where he has taught youth ministry courses for eleven years. He has considerable firsthand experience in various youth ministries and serves as senior associate editor for The Journal of Youth Ministry.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 291 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (April 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802866840
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802866844
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #307,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Juvenilization of American Christianity is a must-read for all pastors, concerned laymen, and seminary students and faculty. As an evangelical Protestant, I read it as a diagnosis for much of what ails us in the contemporary church. I've known of Bergler's work in this area for quite some time and am very pleased that Eerdmans had the foresight to publish it.

Tom Bergler is a church historian with a specialization in youth ministry. The book covers the American cultural shift in focus to youth beginning in the 1930's to the present time. His narrative and analysis covers not only conservative evangelicals, but also the African-American church, mainline Protestants, and the Catholic Church. Leaders from all groups would benefit from reading this informative book.

As a history book, this one has the same usual challenges. It is full of pertinent detail (with ample end-notes) and it can feel a bit like work when reading about a stream not related to your own experience. But the narrative comes alive when reading about your own tradition. While it would be certainly enlightening to know the whole story, reading the sections that pertain to one's own religious story is one option for tackling this book. Still, it is not a hard book to read, especially with the author's helpful summaries at the end of each chapter. I found it quite engaging.

Bergler maintains that "juvenilization has kept American Christianity vibrant." I really don't want to agree with him, but he supports his point and I will grant it. At the same time, the author shows how juvenilization has also impoverished (my term; not his) the faith.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's getting harder and harder to find books that stand out as stellar enough to recommend to everybody you know, and this is just as true in the Christian book scene. While good Christian books are not unheard of, it's not that often that a book comes out which ends up being so good that you want to run out and buy a copy for every pastor and youth worker you know.

So when I say that Thomas E. Bergler's new book The Juvenilization of American Christianity is a must-read book for pastors and laymen, I don't make such a statement with light frivolity. This book really does need to be read by pastors and laymen, particularly those involved with a church that is considering a larger push on youth outreach, or perhaps is toying with the idea of switching from a traditional worship service to a more contemporary one. Bergler brings the church face-to-face with its recent history regarding youth programs, and his chronicled account coupled with his own evaluation of today's youth-oriented ministries and churches gives us plenty of material to consider before we run after the latest and greatest fads and trends.

Summary
Beginning with the decade of the nineteen thirties, Bergler examines the youth-oriented movements of four denominations/organizations: the Methodists, the Roman Catholics, the African American Church, and the evangelical movement comprised of elements from the fundamentalist churches. He notes how the tone of the era was one of looking to the youth for the future salvation of the nation with regard to the political and social ways of life, and explains how the four above groups dealt with youth outreach in order to work for this goal.
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This is a key book on a subject that is important to me, how we train the next generation. (I'm the author of a book on a different angle of the subject, Follow Me as I Follow Christ.) I marked my copy up heavily, and learned quite a bit, and agreed with a good deal of it.

However, I think the author gave too much weight to juvenilization being "necessary" in spite of its weaknesses, and too little weight to how we must deal with what Scripture says about church and spiritual training. A huge blind spot in that is the fact that the book deals only with the church and parachurch in spiritual training of youth; it ignores the equal or greater role of parents, or the role of the church in training parents and families as opposed to traning youth separately from families. If parents did a better job in spiritually training their youth (including training them in greater resistance of the lure of pop culture), then "juvenilization" would seem less necessary in churches. This isn't the author's subject, but it is too important to his thesis to be ignored.

The book was also quite repetitive. The summaries at the ends of each chapter would have been better labelled as such or deleted altogether, and much repetition could have been deleted. This aspect of the book did not live up to the usually exceptional standards of Eerdmans.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Thomas E. Bergler has presented a well researched text that provokes awareness, and hopefully a conversation, about the problem of weak Christian belief and practice which will benefit inclined readers from across the denominational and ethnic segments of American Christianity.

My review is a generous four stars with several major points:

* Bergler has appropriately identified major issues in the mid-20th century that have led to the current Christian crisis.
* He has crafted a historical case which includes sociological and cultural influences that are often neglected in certain areas of scholarship.
* The text stays attached to its course and provides a fine perspective for Catholic, mainline, African-American, and evangelical frameworks during this period.
* Our contemporary frustrations with Christianity are helpfully explored.
* However, the limitation of the text is that it is chiefly concerned with the middle part of the twentieth century and ignores the bookends which are helpful in understanding the formation of the problem and its current expression.
* For practitioners the bulk of the text will not be helpful for conversation, though the 8th chapter does wrap things up.
* For academic historians there are a number of gaps in the survey which Bergler presents.

The Juvenilization of American Christianity, by Thomas E. Bergler, presents a historical overview of the conditions in the mid-twentieth century which produced the environment for contemporary expressions of Christianity which lack seriousness, rigor, and depth of intellectualism and spirituality. Bergler's text is part of a larger conversation in contemporary Christianity which has been likened to a sustained season of self-loathing.
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