- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: IVP Books; unknown edition (September 18, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0830838252
- ISBN-13: 978-0830838257
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #928,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry Paperback – September 18, 2011
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"This book has much to commend itself. It both offers fresh approaches to issues the church has thought about often, and addresses new areas about which the church has not thought enough. . . . Having read this book and absorbed the depth and vision the authors present, I find myself hopeful. . . . If youth ministry is the research and development department to the church, then this product is ready to launch for the sake of the world." (Philip L. Ruge-Jones, Word & World, 33/3, Summer 2013)
"It is time to turn to theological substance and faith formation. This book talks about why this is true, and more important, it demonstrates how it may be done. The closing postscript on youth ministry as practical theology is worth the price of admission." (The Christian Century, October 17, 2012)
"Andrew Root and Kenda Creasy Dean invite you to envision youth ministries full of practical theologians, addressing the deep questions of life with a wonderfully adolescent mix of idealism, cynicism, and prophetic intolerance for hypocrisy." (Youth & Discipleship Leadership, Summer 2012)
"Root and Dean invite readers to envision youth ministries full of practical theologians, addressing the deep questions of life with a wonderfully adolescent mix of idealism, cynicism, and prophetic intolerance for hypocrisy." (YouthWorker Journal, July/August 2011)
"The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry is a practical theology winner. Newcomers to practical theology will applaud its interplay of experience, reflection and action. Veterans to the field will give its masterful synergy of breadth and depth a standing ovation." (Kara Powell, executive director, Fuller Youth Institute, Fuller Theological Seminary)
"I am euphoric over Kenda Creasy Dean and Andrew Root's book, The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry. We have been perplexed by decades of accumulating and overwhelming data indicating that the Christian church in North America is failing to form disciples among adolescents who stay connected to their churches. Root and Dean skillfully illustrate the essential role practical theology plays as an imperative correction toward authentic Christian formation of young people. The authors describe and advocate for a theological turn that will not only prove to be a key factor in transforming the way we engage youth ministry but also result in widespread ecclesial change. Today's young adults are eager to engage in deep theological reflection that allows them to wrestle with the issues that can truly bring meaning to their lives. The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry is a seminal work that will stir up the prophetic imagination of youth workers." (Mike King, president of Youthfront and author of Presence-Centered Youth Ministry)
"An important step in the right direction. Who says teenagers can't understand the theological thrust of, say, Karl Barth? They can and they must." (Christian Smith, University of Notre Dame, author of Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers)
About the Author
Andrew Root (Ph.D., Princeton Theological Seminary) is in the Baalson Olson Chair as associate professor of youth and family ministry at Luther Seminary (St. Paul, MN). A former Young Life staffworker, he has served in churches and social service agencies as a youth outreach associate and a gang prevention counselor.
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As Kenda Creasy Dean, co-author of The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry notes, the turn in youth ministry is "...an era in which theological reflection is becoming the norm in youth ministry instead of the exception... it [youth ministry] has not always been concerned with theological reflection. This is not to say that theology wasn't happening, or that youth workers didn't care about theology. But it is to say that youth workers' actions and self-conceptions were rarely informed by significant theological reflection." Theological reflection is "becoming the norm?" This undoubtedly is a positive marker in the progress of youth ministry, isn't it? It's a rhetorical question.
Although The Theological Turn... reflects a different faith tradition than the school I teach at, it still offers valuable points for consideration. It is divided into two parts, with Part I, "Theological Starting Points," addressing the question, "What does theology have to do with youth ministry?" This section invites the reader to envision "practical" theology (over-and-against systematic or historical theology) as an integrative imperative for youth ministry practice. In this respect the authors emphasize the roles that experience, reflection, and action play in the outworking of youth ministry programs. They challenge academics and practitioners alike, "... that by seeing youth ministry as a theological task, theory and practice are held together. It is too often assumed that youth ministry is for doers and not for thinkers. Yet good doing demands good thinking."
As the authors discuss what is required for "good thinking" to take place, they exhort youth ministers to return to a reformed "representative" theological tradition, pointing students to a shared experience of suffering--suffering common to all humanity--ultimately redeemed through Christ's sacrifice on the cross. This representative perspective, according to the authors, provides a way to hold a correct theology of humanity's need and Christ's atoning work together, connecting Jesus' identity as a shared representative with His work of redemption. The authors note, "Youth intuit that salvation lies in finding someone who loves them enough to die for them, and the whole of adolescence is directed toward this end." Thus, the theological starting point for the turn in youth ministry begins with practical theology, which will begin to slide the center of youth ministry thought toward a historical and deeply traditional Christian understanding of shared suffering.
The second half of Part I offers suggestions as to how to initiate this kind of theological thinking. The language, however, can tend to be heavy with academic and theological jargon (e.g., historical dogmatics, kerygma, Bultmann's existentialism, via negative hermeneutics) unfamiliar to many youth workers. It may even be overwhelming. And while the authors "raise the bar" by motivating youth ministers to think theologically, my concern with this section has more to do with wording which may not speak to all Christian faith traditions. The specific historical theological language advocated by the authors may detract from the importance of the message, and its implications for broad theological contexts of youth ministry.
Part II, "Theology Enacted," focuses on the pragmatic side of youth ministry, providing methodological examples built on theoretical concepts addressed in Part I. This is the more easily digestible section of the book, as both authors demonstrate how theological considerations can be integrated into specific ministry contexts.Topics include:
* A biblical understanding of the miraculous: how the miraculous works within the meaning of suffering.
* Sin v. sinning: how to talk with students about the doctrine of sin.
* A theological perspective on adolescent hormones, desire, and sexuality.
* An eschatological way of viewing camps, retreats, and conferences.
* Outdoor trips: experiencing God and facing the crisis of reality.
* Service and mission trips: global tourism, or seeking the suffering vagabond?
* A catechetical model for confirmation: a suggested curriculum.
* Merging eschatology and hope into the here-and-now.
Each of these chapters provides rich dialogue, mixed with practical implications for specific ministry programs. The authors draw on current hot topics within youth ministry, providing exactly the kind of integrative approach encouraged throughout the rest of book. The authors do an exceptional job demonstrating the rich theological thinking required and necessary for contemporary youth ministry.
I found particularly helpful the second part where youth ministry practices and topics are interpreted and evaluated through a theological lens. The authors address how we speak to teens about Jesus and sin, as well deepen our theological understanding of events such as summer camp, missions trips, wilderness adventures, and confirmation.
Anyone interested in how to take teens deeper into God's Word should read this book!
Over the last ten years youth ministry has been gaining in street credibility among those in professional ministry. There is finally a critical mass of people who see youth ministry as a legitimate ministry calling, deserving of a proper education, salary, and in some cases even a pension.
Seminaries like Fuller have had a long tradition of elevating student ministry and seeking to educate those people who have chosen to pour their lives into adolescents. Their youth ministry blog is one of my favorite, thoughtful resources.
Because of the hard work by many before us, we are now in a time of legitimate writing and education for those of us in youth ministry. Andrew Root and Kenda Creasy Dean are on the forefront of this theological discussion around the context and practice of youth ministry. And this is exactly the topic they address in their recent book, The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry.
This book is not for the faint at heart or the casual reader. Root and Dean have put together a seminary-level textbook on practical theology, and approaching it as anything less would leave the reader in the dust. So if you are ready to go swimming in the deep end, pour yourself some coffee, find a nice quiet place that inspires learning, (like a library), and jump in!
Worth The Read:
The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry is the best deal on the internet. If you were to take this class at Princeton Seminary it would cost well over $1000, yet this book can be yours on amazon.com for $11.02. Seriously, that is the cheapest street cred ever for your library. But more than just a great deal, it is a thick book, deserving a thoughtful reading; it's compelling, challenging, and sometimes even frustrating.
Root and Dean did not back off one bit from their theological lexicon of $10,000 words. I had to dust off some books from my seminary days and bookmark wikipedia just too keep my head above water. While the terminology in this book could be a turn-off for many practitioners of youth ministry, wrestling with this subject and this format is important for us to do.
Many youth workers want all the upside of the rising professionalism associated with youth ministry. But this professionalism isn't just bestowed on people, it's earned when youth workers behave like professionals, and take their education and theological training seriously. Wrestling through this book is the sort of work that educates us, expands our worldview, deepens our theology, and equips us to do our jobs with more purpose.
Many youth workers have an amazing gift of intuition. In their guts they "know" students and understand their felt needs. Their passion for Jesus and their ability to connect allows them to go quite far. But for the long haul, youth workers must have a theological worldview and understanding that informs their decisions, their choices, their conversations, and their programs.
This book gives the theological underpinnings for what many of us do in youth ministry intuitively. By giving it theological language we now enter into a conversation that is deep and enriching. Even while struggling with the vocabulary, I was encouraged by the larger story of the gospel and the vital place student ministry has within it.
It is such a gift to have theological language to address many of the felt needs in student ministry. Dean's chapter on identity, and the fear adolescents have of disappearing, provides a completely new window into the lives of my students, along with tools to address that fear through a broader picture of the Gospel. Dean also writes a chapter on the theological significance of summer camps that is one of the best, most useful and instructive chapters of the entire book.
Root and Dean set out to place student ministry firmly in the stream of practical theology, and they accomplish this goal. Student ministry is the very definition of practical theology, and if we are going to do our jobs better then we must understand how theology shapes our ministry.
We Are Already Impressed:
While I enjoyed reading this book and was challenged intellectually and spiritually, I realized that most of my positive response to this book was because I wanted to be able to respond positively. Root and Dean are two of the leading theological voices in student ministry and are single-handedly elevating the conversation. It is because of their work that student ministry is gaining credibility in seminary circles and elevating the calling of those who work with students. I wanted to be on this side of the discussion.
But as I have reflected on the book over the weekend, there were a couple of issues that kept coming to the surface for me.
One is that there were too many big words. I know I have self-deprectated my way through most of my life and most of this blog, but the truth is that I am not dumb, and this book made me feel like I am. I understand many of the issues and topics that are being raised, but the language used is over the top. I know that the vocabulary terms in this book are staples in the seminary community, but they have zero touch points in the world of practical ministry.
I understand the need to elevate the conversation and to educate youth ministry leaders, but it felt a little like youth workers are either chubby bunny experts who thrive on the four spiritual laws, or those ready for some meaty discussion. But the truth is, no one uses the terminology used in this book. Not senior pastors, not adults in church, not those ready for meaty discussions-nobody.
Every chapter is chock-full of deep, deep theology and philosophy. It's too bad, but much of what's discussed will be left on the page, because there is little to no attempt at placing these ideas in a real ministry context. It would have been helpful to include a bridging section to each chapter to give these theological concepts a home in the real world.
Most people who are in vocational, pastoral ministry are people all about practical theology. It is what we do naturally. Those of us who are practical theologians need the help of academic theologians to sharpen us as we strive to do the thing God's called us to do in our unique context. Root and Dean try really hard to lift up the practical side of theology, but there seems to be a patronizing undercurrent for the actual practice of youth ministry. I hope as they continue to grow in respect and influence-and rightfully so-they won't stay so cloistered in the seminary world as to lose the ability to communicate effectively with, and understand the work of those of us in the practical theological world. We need their respect, their voice and support.
Youth workers are some of the most spiritually and intellectually deep people I know. We love that there are theologically strenuous books to challenge us. Root and Dean are two of the most respected thinkers and writers out there, and I m thankful for this book and for the ways it pushed me to think better. I look forward to more of my friends reading this book and for the conversations that will surely follow.
Don't be a cheapskate. Buy the book, and let's wrestle together.
review posted on averageyouthministry.com