Revisiting Relational Youth review


I will end my review with some excerpts and thoughts that I have found most helpful from his last section entitled “Rules of Art for Place-Sharing in Community”

We need to rethink a few things in order to make this transition into relational youth ministry more effective.

Rethink the youth pastor and adult leader

The youth pastor should have a connection to all adolescents in the congregation but be in a relationship with a few.

I have found this to be true and essential, especially as the size of the church grows. If you only have a few students in your church, make an effort to build relationships with them all. However, if there are hundreds of teens, then they should all know you, but perhaps you might only know a few closely…and that is okay! But make a point to be accessible and available to them and their families.

The youth pastor is the coordinator (or matchmaker) of adult to adolescent bonds.

This will hold especially true for larger youth ministries where the youth pastor cannot possibly get to know all of the students well. And no, this is not some E-harmony thing for youth groups, but an attempt to provide each student with a caring adult/mentor who will walk through life with them together.

Rethink the Youth Ministry

Youth ministry should work to provide all students with meaningful relationships with adults in the church. The ultimate aim should no longer be to build a large and exciting (and often isolated) youth group of adolescent entertainment. Rather, events and activities should be viewed as times and places where adults and teens can encounter one another and have meaningful interactions.

Youth Ministry in the future should:

connect adults with adolescents

be a resource to the family

work with and for the parents

include teens in as many church-wide activities as possible

The youth ministry must be custom-designed around the multiple forces affecting adolescents and families; and the youth ministry should speak (both to adult leaders and adolescents) of sociopolitical issues and the call to responsible action.

Rethink the congregation

The job of the youth pastor is to work at bridging the congregation and its adolescents.

I have found that the longer I serve at my church, the more opportunities and experiences I get to participate in the broader church.  As I slowly earn more respect and trust within the larger church body, I become a much better advocate for our youth ministry. I can also find more ways to help make the church more “teen’ friendly while helping  the youth respect and appreciate the broader church family more.

The youth pastor calls parishioners to see, listen to  and act for the adolescents in the congregation and local community.

Our annual Youth Sundays, Mission Sundays, and mission trips serve as great ways for our church to get to know our students and see what God is doing in and through them. (I also plan them around important church and budget meetings, so the youth are fresh in everyone’s mind!)

The charts and summaries on pages 207, 213, and 216 are worth the price of the book.


Final Analysis

There is much content in Andrew Root’s book. Much of it is deeply rooted in theology and the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (whom I happen to enjoy reading as well).

If you are looking for a quick book on how to better get to know your students…this is not it!

If you are looking for a book on how to get more students to accept Jesus..than this is probably not for you either.

Root does an excellent job balancing the history, theology, and philosophy of youth ministry to argue his one main point, which I will now try to summarize.

Youth Ministry must not be about influencing students toward any one end. Rather, ministry should be about entering wholly and fully into the real lives as teenagers and seeing them as humans and not objects to be won.

While I agree with many who have emailed me that this book didn’t not offer many practical insights or applications, I also tend to think it was not his agenda to do so.

We must take the propositions from this book and bring it into our own context and culture;whether in inner city, camp ministry, suburban youth group, etc…

I came away from this reading highly energized, excited, and challenged to allow students the freedom to be more real and authentic with me. I also have a new-found desire to enter into the messiness of their lives and ask real questions about what is really going on inside them and surrounding them.

Cookie cutter weak answers that I have often given to questions about pain and suffering no longer work. Rather, I must be willing to enter into their pain and suffering with tears, prayers, and hope.

Each time I meet a new student, I now wonder what his or her life is like at home and at school.

What is his or her story?

What kind of parents do they have?

Has their view of God been distorted in any way because of past experiences?

No longer do I simply wonder, “how can I convince this student to raise his or her hand at the end of my talk”?  I would like to think that I have begun the slow and necessary transition from a strategy of influence towards a theology of incarnation; being with and for others.



One thought on “Revisiting Relational Youth review

  1. Another contribution that this books make, to me, is to open up a whole new genre of youth ministry books that legitimizes youth ministry as a branch of practical theology. Kenda Dean is the only other person I know of who has written anything even close to this level of theological youth ministry book.

    To those who want more practical application: What Root does is model for us what it means to think deeply and theologically about a particular subject.

    Youth ministry has worshiped at the altar of practicality for 30 years. It’s time we added a bit of theory and theology to the mix. This book starts that process.

    I agree with your thoughts and hope to see more theological youth ministry books in the future. I have heard Kenda Dean speak but have not yet read any of her books. I think she is at Princeton which is where Andrew Root and Tony Jones did their research and work.

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