Over the last few years as I struggled with my Dysphoria I found myself unable to handle reading very much and staying focused. Whether it was fiction, non fiction, theology, or really any book… I could not focus. Luckily I have had more luck as of recent. One of the most recent books I have finished is Bonhoeffer as a Youth Worker by Andrew Root . Today I want to talk about this wonderful book.
I found this book to be incredibly educational, but also incredibly encouraging.
You see, having grown up in Evangelical and Pentecostal Churches, and having the biggest youth group in my home town be one hosted out of a 3,000 member church… I had a very specific picture of what Youth Ministry looked like. It involved: fancy music, special services, sermons about “teen” issues like abstinence and purity, altar calls, and “getting youth on fire for Jesus” (for those who are not familiar with this brand of Christianity, no actual fires are involved). Looking back, I went to these services, and felt like it was important. In reality though it was not these Youth Groups that encouraged me to stay a Christian in the long run. These Youth Groups were raw, unsustainable, emotion. Some could even say they have very cult like symptoms.
What made a difference in my youth were the pastors at the Christian Reformed Church who got to know me as a person and helped me wrestle with the big theological questions.
But even when I went off to Bible school and Seminary, the individuals going into Youth Ministry were major extroverts. I liked youth a lot, but I did not seem to be anything like the others I knew heading down that path. I am an INFJ, and often have called myself a talkative Introvert. I need my space to recharge, and get drained having to meet a bunch of new people and talk to them all.
So imagine my surprise when God called me to being a High School Youth Director.
It is so hard to not compare myself to all of the extroverts I knew. And even harder to look at my Youth Groups from growing up and not compare what I am doing to those groups. Why do I not have 300 high schoolers all pouring over every word of my lessons? Am I doing something wrong.
That is why this book was so encouraging. There was a lot of discussion about how Bonhoeffer worked in the nitty gritty of Youth Ministry. He ran groups that had no one show up. But at the same time he was a Youth Worker that changed the lives of the youth he worked with.
It was also educational in providing a lot of tools and wisdom about leaving the American model of Youth Ministry that I was raised with, and instead moving towards what Andrew Root calls the “theological turn in youth ministry”. This to me means that we meet the youth where they are, and draw them into the Church community. Many people almost worship the idea of youthful energy, but that is a false idol. The goal of youth ministry is to be with these youth and be a presence for God in these young peoples lives. Our goal should not be to indoctrinate, but rather to help them struggle with the tough questions- because usually we are still struggling through them too. Do the work of theology with them, instead of simply telling them they have to believe such and such doctrines. Our ministries should also not be simply factories for churning out youth attendance to Church, that will then cause them to leave the Church once they are done with high school.
I loved this book, and have about 80 spots book marked to go back and copy quotes from. It was amazing and I would recommend it to Pastors of any type, not just Youth Workers. It provides a lot of relevant thoughts for the Church.
And Andrew Root, if you ever stumble upon my blog, know that your book gave me great encouragement.
Have a great Monday everyone