The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry  -     By: Andrew Root, Kenda Creasy Dean
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The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry

InterVarsity Press / 2011 / Paperback

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Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 240
Vendor: InterVarsity Press
Publication Date: 2011
Dimensions: 9.00 X 6.00 (inches)
ISBN: 0830838252
ISBN-13: 9780830838257

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Publisher's Description

2012 Christianity Today Book Award of Merit winner! What haunts your youth group? So often we avoid talking about doubts and fears because we feel inadequately equipped to address them in any meaningful way. The crisis of existence can't be answered with pat Sunday school formulas or a few Bible verses, let alone another relay race. The questions our youth have are often the same ones that perplexed the great theologians, driving them to search for God in the places God didn't appear to be--places of brokenness, suffering and confusion. What if we let these questions drive our search for God too? 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. Follow them into reflection on your own practice of theology, and learn how to share that theology through rich, compassionate conversation and purposeful experience.

Author Bio

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. Kenda Creasy Dean is an ordained elder in the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference (United Methodist) and professor of youth, church and culture at Princeton Theological Seminary, where she works closely with the Institute for Youth Ministry. She is the author of several books, including and

Editorial Reviews

" 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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."

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  1. Salem, OR
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Theologically Rich & Practical Too
    January 25, 2013
    Sam Baker
    Salem, OR
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Here's a simple challenge. This coming Sunday carefully and cautiously approach the youth pastor in your church and ask, "What is your theology of ministry?" If he stares at you like you're from the former planet known as Pluto, don't be surprised. Unfortunately, it's the response of most youth pastors today. If, however, you're met with a well-crafted, carefully articulated response, one which makes sense both in theological and practical terms, consider yourself lucky.

    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.
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