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Toward a Prophetic Youth Ministry: Theory and Praxis in Urban Context Paperback – March 18, 2008
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As a parish priest, my last confirmation class was a class of 16 suburban youth. I was the more prepared and the more tooled to meet their needs because of reading Dr. Arzola's work than I would have been otherwise. I commend this book to priests and youth workers without reservation. Dr. Arzola speaks from where we all wish to go with our youth and the church. (Rev. Jeffrey A. Mackey, O.P., The Living Church, October 5, 2008)
In this pacesetting book he draws on various disciplines--from biology to sociology, from psychology to theology--to guide urban youth workers into an effective and transformational ministry to youth. (Leadership, Fall 2008)
Arzola, who heads up the Urban Family Empowerment Center in the Bronx, writes passionately and succinctly about developing a prophetic style of urban youth ministry. I would suggest, however, that much of what he has to say can be applied to any ministry, youth or otherwise, within the urban context or not. (Frank A. Mills, Urban Paradoxes, May 14, 2008)
. . .a must-read for anyone working in urban youth ministry or anyone from a suburban setting attempting to understand the mindset of urban youth ministry. . .high time that someone wrote a book that specifically addresses youth ministry in the urban context. The book is a very straightforward manual that is surprisingly user-friendly. (C. E. Moore, The Christian Manifesto, April 1, 2008)
"A timely, truly interdisciplinary study that tackles one of the most pressing issues of our times. When urban centers attract the largest segments of our population, and when our youth--urban or otherwise-- counts less with their parents' presence (taken away by an insatiable time-swallowing labor market, in order to make ends meet), or with public resources (sucked away by a frenzy of lowering taxes and privatization), the life-saving role of the churches is back at the center of social life. Arzola's book provides a compass for our churches to face the challenges posed by such a novel predicament of our urban youth--and he does it with both the contributions of his predecessors in mind and a diverse, multiethnic, changing youth and readership in the horizon." (Otto Maduro, Ph.D., professor of world Christianity, Drew University Theological School)
"Finally! A comprehensive analysis of current urban youth ministry models, with a clear presentation of developing a balanced approach for reaching young people in the city." (Dr. Tommy Carrington, D.Min., president, Urban Training Network, and adjunct professor, Trinity International University / Palm Beach Atlantic University)
"Finally! Something new to the field of youth ministry. A must-read for anyone who wants to deal with young people in a comprehensive and holistic manner." (Rev. Raymond Rivera, D.D., founder and president, Latino Pastoral Action Center, Bronx, New York)
"An excellent analysis moving our attention away from the merely programmatic concerns of youth ministry to more foundational ones. Sound theology accompanies thoughtful illustration and evidence of thinking outside the box. Arzola's model descriptions and his thoughtful illustration of what a 'prophetic youth ministry' is, as a paradigm for engaging the rapid, multidimensional and multicultural growth in the urban context, challenges youth ministers and those concerned with youth in general to discern what is vital and essential in their youth ministry leadership in order to contribute meaningfully and constructively to the new communities being formed. While it is a book that is connected to those in urban areas, Arzola clearly articulates a future that will demand greater moral imagination and prophetic will if we are to respect the dignity of every young person that God allows us to impact. I found it to be a pragmatic assessment that actually is quite hopeful. A must-have book in every pastoral library." (Rev. Hiram Rios, pastor, Grace Fellowship Church, Florida, and Rev. Dr. Elizabeth D. Rios, copastor, Grace Fellowship Church, Florida, founder, Center for Emerging Female Leadership, and contributing editor, PRISM magazine)
"Fernando Arzola Jr.'s seminal work is essential reading for all those committed to transformative and prophetic youth ministry both within and outside of cities globally. This is a well-researched volume with wide-ranging theoretical and practical implications for those called to equip youth as prophets for the Christian church and wider society." (Dr. Robert W. Pazmiño, Ed.D., Valeria Stone Professor of Christian Education, Andover Newton Theological School and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)
"Fernando Arzola Jr.'s book is brilliant, insightful and well-written. In the often mysterious world of urban youth culture, Arzola stands out as a thoughtful leader and as a truly prophetic voice. This book is a necessary read for all who practice youth ministry in metro areas across the nation." (Christopher B. Brooks, national coordinator, URBNET)
"An urgent and creative contribution to the all-important field of youth ministry." (Rev. Virgilio Elizondo, founding member, Mexican American Cultural Center, and one of Time magazine's top 100 Innovators/Visionaries for the New Millennium)
"A comprehensive study full of insight for urban youth ministry drawn from many disciplines. Important, challenging, holistic and solidly biblical. Highly recommended!" (Dr. Ronald J. Sider, Ph.D., president, Evangelicals for Social Action, and professor of theology, holistic ministry & public policy, Palmer Theological Seminary, Eastern University)
"Fernando Arzola Jr.'s book, Toward a Prophetic Youth Ministry: Theory and Praxis in Urban Context, is brilliantly and broadly conceived. Holistic in the best sense of the word, informed by theology, theory and praxis, this book lays a solid foundation for effective urban ministry of any kind, but especially youth ministry. I recommend it to those considering working in urban youth ministry, as well as those currently working in this field." (John M. Perkins, president, The John M. Perkins Foundation)
"Arzola's is a strong voice from within the urban community, providing what only an insider can. He gives an honest tour of the strengths and weaknesses of urban life and its intersection with youth ministry. Arzola offers a resource that flips the script, contributing insight and an urban voice that may also be reinterpreted for suburban contexts. Finally, an urban youth ministry book that is suited for both academic courses and lay readers. It offers an excellent use of research, theory and substance from real-life insight." (Amy Elizabeth Jacober, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Practical Theology/Youth Ministry, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Waco, Texas)
"At last, an ethnic evangelical voice from the city stands on his urban academic platform and calls youth ministry to rethink its mission in the city and beyond. Fernando Arzola's Toward a Prophetic Youth Ministry: Theory and Praxis in Urban Context stands in line with the many urban precedences that have shaped youth ministry as we know it today." (Dr. Mark H. Senter III, Ph.D., Chair of the Educational Ministries Department, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)
"Fernando Arzola's Toward a Prophetic Youth Ministry is a fresh and provocative new voice in youth ministry---a much-needed urban voice in the critical youth ministry dialogue. Arzola's book promises to be a significant contribution to the literature of youth ministry, but more importantly, if its prophetic words are heeded it will bring about a holistic transformation of our youth." (Dr. Eldin Villafañe, Ph.D., professor of Christian social ethics, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)
"Finally someone is writing with a specific and critical eye toward what it means to do holistic youth ministry in urban contexts. Professor Arzola offers a keen and necessary analysis of various paradigms of urban youth ministry. This work is important for at least two reasons: (1) It fills a void. Not many scholars have written with both the city and its youth in focus. (2) It offers a view toward youth ministry that seeks to transform both persons and places. The call of God's prophets was to bring justice through rebuilding lives, restoring cities, caring for orphans, widows, aliens and the displaced. Arzola challenges us to think about what it means to do 'prophetic youth ministry' in the inner city. I highly recommend this book to all who care about being agents of justice in a world plagued with injustice." (Calenthia S. Dowdy, associate professor of youth ministry & culture, Eastern University)
"Rather than trashing folks who see and do ministry differently than he does, Fernando Arzola has discovered the strengths of a wide variety of urban youth ministries and integrated them in a way that will both affirm and challenge all of us who love city kids in the name of Jesus. Here is a book born not only of practical experience and research, but also of deep and careful reflection, which takes seriously both personal discipleship and social justice in the inner city. Pay attention to Fernando Arzola." (Bart Campolo, founder, Mission Year, and founder, The Laundromat Project)
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The book does accomplish to provide a framework. The question then becomes on what basis is that framework developed, and it turns out to be the author’s self-promoted opinion.
Arzola recognizes that in order to develop a proper urban youth ministry, the solution must come from urban youth ministry and not from outside sources. He proposes a prophetic model that incorporates elements of other models-traditional, liberal and activist-but that also cultivates young people who are spiritually mature, emotionally established and are receptive to communal needs. As a result urban ministry becomes a holistic and transformational catalyst in the lives of those involved. Part one describes the different prophetic models involved in youth ministry, and part two details interdisciplinary dimensions and goes into the theological, psychological, biological, and sociological perspectives of youth ministry. Part three deals with urban youth workers.
An example of enthusiasm without fact can be found on page 25: “Prophetic youth ministry is the most effective and holistic paradigm for ministering to urban youth.” Several of such grand assertions appear throughout the text with little or nothing to back them up. Arzola’s book also suffers from a cardinal flaw that all proponents of niche ministry always endure: in catering to the specific needs of a cohort made peripheral to the mainstream, there is inevitably separation in distinction without a clear path for re-integration.
I read Toward a Prophetic Youth Ministry as required by a graduate level seminary course. I expect that anyone ministering to urban youth or developing an urban youth ministry program would derive some value from this book, but I personally would not recommend it.
Arzola claims that most youth groups have an unhealthy bent toward one of the following paradigms: spiritual formation (traditional), personal growth (liberal), or social justice (activist). He contends that a healthy, "prophetic" youth ministry, contains a balance of all three. I agree; however, this just seems obvious - especially in an urban context where the need for spiritual formation, personal growth, and social justice are constantly shoving themselves in your face.
I was also bummed by the overuse of extended quotes (nearly one on every page in some chapters) and redundant charts and graphs.
All that to say, I imagine Arzola is very talented at working with and creating environments where urban students are blessed and flourish. I imagine he could come to Paramount and create a ministry that is at least twice as effective as I will ever be a part of. And that is just the problem. Youth Ministry, especially in an urban context, is very particular and specific. It is a very difficult task to say anything ground breaking to a wide audience of Urban Youth Workers. I applaud Arzola's attempt. I would have done a much worse job, so I won't.