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The Juvenilization of American Christianity Paperback – April 20, 2012
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-- 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."
-- 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."
"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."
-- 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."
Journal of American History
“Historians, especially those of children and youth, will find this book a valuable resource on how the rapidly changing youth culture of the twentieth century affected the lives of religious youth as adult Christians attempted to spare them from the perceived moral decline in American society.”
“Bergler argues that American Christianity of the 1930s and ‘40s faced the dilemma of a rapidly changing youth culture that chose to adapt to the new culture rather than risk losing her young people. Bergler suggests that in doing so, the church has paid the high price for Christian vibrancy. The price has been a tradeoff of obligation for consumption.”
“Bergler pushes hard to the church to move from the emotive back to something like the doctrinal, from feelings to tradition and commitment. . . . This book makes a case for adults and youth leaders to claim their adulthood, recognizing that what young people need most is not tour guides into entertaining emotive fun, but ways to articulate the presence and absence of God in their lives. . . . This book does a wonderful job of giving us a vision of a disease affecting the church.”
“The Juvenilization of American Christianity and From Here to Maturity will richly repay every Christian leader who takes the time to read them.”
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As a work of history, "Juvenilization" is very good and very thorough, charting all the influences - both from the culture and from within the church - that steered a... Read morePublished 14 months ago by J. Barringer
I was told it was a good book by several people. Haven't had a chance to read it myself until the person I gave it as a gift to that requested it - finishes it herself. Read morePublished 16 months ago by TJT
Great book on the history of the Christian youth movement in evangelical Christianity in America along with its good and bad effects for
future generations concerning... Read more
Excellent book on how the Church became what it is today in America. Author traces the historical progression from the 1930's up to today and how we have viewed youth. Read morePublished 16 months ago by John D. Orris
I thought this book was quite insightful. It is descriptive of the shallow state of Christian formation in America and the trend continues.Published 20 months ago by Steve DeGangi
The book came on time and is in very good shape. I have no complains. I enjoyed shopping with your company and I will recommend it to others.Published on June 29, 2014 by tigerr
It was very enlightening to see how the 30s through the 70s radically changed the church and brought vitality or decline. It was very insightful. Read morePublished on March 16, 2014 by James
My husband and I found this book very well written and really appreciated the research and insight of our current problems. Think he hit a home run.Published on March 9, 2014 by VP