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Spring 2002 · Vol. 31 No. 1 · pp. 109–10 

Book Review

Building Together: Developing Your Blueprint for Congregational Youth Ministry

Carol Duerksen. Scottdale, PA: Faith and Life, 2001. 97 pages.

Reviewed by Tim Neufeld

Carol Duerksen’s Building Together is written as an update to an earlier work, Blueprint for Congregational Youth Ministry. Author Lavon Welty wrote Blueprint in 1988 in an effort to compile and expand on assorted youth ministry literature of Mennonite and Church of the Brethren congregations. In it Welty made two main points: youth ministry must be integrated into the life of the congregation, and it must be coordinated by a planning team rather than an individual. This model is commonly referred to as Congregational Youth Ministry. In Building Together, Duerksen continues with this holistic approach and provides current relevant examples of how youth ministry might be incorporated in the life of the congregation. Duerksen draws from her experiences as editor of With youth magazine (Faith and Life), author of Bible studies and youth curricula, and a longtime youth sponsor.

Duerksen appropriately understands that culture has changed in the postmodern world. She proposes that youth ministry must also change in light of the new culture. “This book is a blueprint for the remodeling, if you will, of traditional youth ministry” (14). In seeking out a new model for ministry to adolescents, she very naturally gleans from her experience in the Mennonite church, specifically in a congregational setting. She is firmly and passionately committed to Congregational Youth Ministry as an alternate and countercultural form, “because the congregation’s business is to provide the environment and support system that enables youth to build their own lives” (41). She continually calls for adolescents to have an active part in the life of the larger church body.

The book is divided into three main sections. In the first section, Duerksen makes a simple assessment of adolescent culture, exploring concerns, issues, and decisions that are made by teens. Here she provides a brief introduction to the tensions youth face in a postmodern world. In section two of Building Together, the author discusses how the church can contribute to the faith development of teens. She supports her initial thesis well by reiterating the need for churches to empower teens and involve them in every aspect of church life. Finally, Duerksen offers a section of practical ways to construct a congregational ministry. She highlights the importance of developing and implementing a vision statement, and describes eleven settings “where congregations can open the potential for youth ministry to happen” (60). Building Together {110} concludes with a series of appendixes highlighting examples from a variety of churches and ministries.

Congregational Youth Ministry is a very relevant and viable model for a postmodern society and should be strongly considered by churches assessing their youth ministry programs. It is also a model that is gaining exposure across America and Canada. A variation is found in the Family Ministry model, whereby families become the center of adolescent spiritual development. It should be noted, however, that there are many models currently being experimented with in churches throughout North America in an attempt to address issues of postmodernity (e.g., urban ministry, cell groups, mentoring, missions, youth church). While Duerksen seems to suggest that this is the form of ministry we all need to embrace, it remains to be seen which model or models will be most effective in nurturing students.

Postmodernity is a culture of pluralism in which many models will be required to meet the wide variety of needs created by diverse yet specific subgroups of people. An inherent problem with Congregational and Family Ministry models is that they do not always leave room for those students who come from dysfunctional, non-Christian, or unchurched homes.

Building Together is a simple and clear introduction to Congregational Youth Ministry. It will be especially helpful for small churches, rural churches, churches led by volunteers/sponsors, and churches with backgrounds in Anabaptism. It should also be considered by larger churches and churches with full-time youth workers, with special attention to the themes of cross-generational, integrative, and holistic ministry.

Tim Neufeld
Professor of Contemporary Christian Ministries
Fresno Pacific University, Fresno, California

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