A Review: Taking Theology to Youth Ministry – Andrew Root

by James Fawcett June 4, 2014 A

This is the first in the short 4 part series by Andrew Root looking at Youth Ministry and exploring, shaping and developing a theological framework/understanding that helps to locate Youth Ministry within  the Church and wider Christian understanding.

In the preface of this book Root suggests reading this straight through, in one or two sittings. I did it in two and think possibly could have taken a bit longer to reflect on what was being said. It did not feel anything was lost but breaking it up might actually help reflect on the dense content.

The thread of this book follows the story and experience of a mythical youth worker, called Nadia, who works in a church in America. The story develops where Nadia is faced with several questions that require her to sit back, reflect and offer answers. The questions/challenges come from several angles; a fellow churchgoer, parent and church leader/manager. Root does not hold back, exploring some significant and deep theological content. It does feel that she has a fairly extreme experience, and I’m not sure it is completely reflective of a youth workers’ every-day reality, including having the total revelation (a significant theological framework for youth ministry) of Root, 6 months into her first youth work job, after a year’s attendance at Theological Seminary! I wonder if something is lost slightly in translation of experience between America and the United Kingdom, but I don’t think this is problematic in the overall message of the book. Sometimes it feels slightly clumsy and clunky flicking from the story of Nadia to the theology but as I said Root is handling large theological concepts in what is affectively a ‘jumped up’ booklet.

‘…so much theological language surrounding youth ministry has focused on justifying our own activity, and so little has been about articulating how God acts, and who this God of action is.’

(pg43)

The basic premise is that Nadia is asking one question and that is; what am I doing? Root looks at Scripture, in particular the story of Moses and the burning bush, and Abraham and Sarah’s story, to explore the answer to this question. He also breaks the question down a little which is helpful, to ‘what is youth ministry for?’ ‘How youth ministry does theology?’ and ‘What is ministry?’

‘The God of the burning bush reveals Godself out of human impossibility. Sarah is ninety, Abraham is impotent, Moses is a stutterer…the breaking in of God often happens next to human weakness and yearning’

(pg 87)

Root is drawing us to think theologically about what we do with young people and this is helpful. I think this is the most concise book I have read that is claiming to offer such a far reaching theological framework for youth ministry. Root is discussing very complex theological thinking and has made this much more accessible to the masses than I have seen before, he uses repetition well to convey the content well.

‘…then being a youth worker is about reflecting deeply on God’s action next to the lives of young people, while also calling adults to see and be with young people as participation in the action of God’

(pg103)

I would certainly hand this book to someone interested in doing youth ministry or (like quite a few of us) trying to understand youth ministry! Perfect for an interested church member or parent to whom you are faced with expressing what you are actually doing with your time! This book could also form the basis of a conversation between youth workers either in a team or in a small local network – Root provides questions for each chapter that can be discussed. A definite recommend read.

I will also be working my way through the rest of the series in the coming weeks.

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