Previous | Next

Spring 2002 · Vol. 31 No. 1 · pp. 101–108 

Recommended Reading

On Ministry to Youth, Spirituality, and Christian Counterculture

Wendell Loewen and Douglas B. Miller

Ministry to Youth

Bibby, Reginald W. Canada’s Teens: Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow. Toronto, ON: Stoddart, 2001.

Based on polls conducted with Canadian teens seeking to answer questions such as the following: What’s important to teens today? What do they value, enjoy, and worry about? How do they feel about the people in their lives—family, friends, and others? What are their views and experiences concerning violence, sexuality, drugs, culture, and spirituality? How are they going to turn out? Bibby also compares this generation of teenagers with previous generations.

Borgman, Dean. When Kumbaya Is Not Enough: A Practical Theology of Youth Ministry. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1997.

This book is not a theology of youth, but of youth ministry. Borgman’s view of the theological task is that a viable and effective theology of youth ministry must take the world and culture as seriously as the Scriptures. He also contends that a relevant theology must be done on young people’s turf. Borgman emphasizes that the process must be done with a threefold interpretive task: (1) knowing the Word; (2) your world; and (3) yourself, all done in the context of community. He then thoughtfully explores a practical theology for understanding culture, human development, family and peer relationships, popular culture, humor, modern music, and sexuality.

Dean, Kenda Creasy, and Ron Foster. The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry. Nashville, TN: Upper Room, 1998.

Revisions youth ministry as a ministry of spiritual formation for both youth and the adults who minister to youth. Recognizing what is often the spiritual void within the prevailing models of youth ministry today, the authors seek to remind us and help us reclaim that youth ministry is about people, not about programming.

Dean, Kenda Creasy, Chap Clark, and Dave Rahn, eds. Starting Right: Thinking Theologically About Youth Ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001.

An anthology contributed to by more than twenty leading youth ministry specialists crossing denominational lines. Basic premise: practical theological reflection is reflection that connects what we believe about God with how we live as disciples of Jesus Christ, and that this is the first task of ministry with young people. The book is organized around a spiral which represents the tasks within practical theological reflection, which include understanding what’s going on; reflecting on what is being done currently; detecting and evaluating how well current practices are being done by God’s standards; and projecting ways in which ministry can be done better.

Duerksen, Carol. Building Together: Developing Your Blueprint for Congregational Youth Ministry. Scottdale, PA: Faith and Life, 2001.

A quick read which provides a compelling picture of where youth ministry needs to be headed in the twenty-first century. This work is an Anabaptist vision of youth ministry and in particular is committed to the “congregational youth ministry” model. The congregation is called to provide an alternate and countercultural context, “because the congregation’s business is to provide the environment and support system that enables youth to build their own lives” (41). Duerksen continually calls for adolescents to have an active part in the life of the larger church body.

Ford, Kevin Graham. Jesus for a New Generation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1995.

Born in the 1960s and 1970s, today’s generation of young adult men and women is in crisis. Many grew up in broken homes. They have never known a time not plagued by ethnic strife, rampant crime, and public scandal. Generation X has been bred on skepticism and cynicism. Ford, born in 1965, offers innovative and practical guidance on postmodernism, narrative evangelism, and life in cyberspace, among other topics.

Johnson, David, and Jeff Van Vonderen. The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Authority Within the Church. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1991.

The book has three sections which are devoted to the victims of spiritual abuse, abusive leaders, and recovery from such abuse. “There are spiritual systems in which . . . the members are there to meet the needs of the leaders. . . . These leaders attempt to find fulfillment through the religious performance of the very people whom they are there to serve and build. This is an inversion of the body of Christ. It is spiritual abuse” (23).

Jones, Tony. Postmodern Youth Ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001.

This book reflects the postmodern world of youth ministry, a world in which the rule book is out the window, everything you once believed is suspect, and the future is up for grabs. Jones’ ideas run counter to much of traditional youth ministry. A work that takes both culture and Scripture seriously.

Parks, Sharon Daloz. Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Young Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2000.

Another work on young adults. Insights in both theory and practice concerning those in their twenties from an established educator in Christian nurture of youth.

Raub, John Jacob. Who Told You That You Were Naked? Freedom from Judgment, Guilt and Fear of Punishment. New York: Crossroads, 1992.

An invitation to accept the unconditional love of God. Writing with simplicity about our unbreakable union with God, Raub maintains that it is only because we deny this union that we judge and condemn ourselves—and others. And he shows how it is only our belief in the God who loves us as we are—not as we should be—that brings us freedom from guilt and fear.

Ward, Pete. God at the Mall. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999.

Ward combines theologically-based theory and practical application to encourage youth workers to meet kids where they’re at, befriend them, and then begin to introduce them to Christ. Helpful discussion questions follow each chapter.


Anderson, Keith, and Randy Reese. Spiritual Mentoring. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1999.

Help for both parties in establishing and proceeding with a mentoring relationship. Writers such as Augustine, John of the Cross, and Julian of Norwich are enlisted along with help for putting their teachings into practice.

Curtis, Brent, and John Eldredge. The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997.

The God who saves is also a God who woos the believer to a relationship primarily of the heart. As we draw closer to God, we must choose to let go of other “less-wild lovers,” such as perfectionistic drivenness and self-indulgence. Eldredge and Curtis identify the lies offered by “false loves” and instruct travelers on the journey back to the Lover of their souls. The authors seek to entice the reader to his or her own journey of the heart, promising, “It is possible to recover the lost life of our heart and with it the intimacy, beauty, and adventure of life with God.”

Harris, Mark. Companions for Your Spiritual Journey: Discovering the Disciplines of the Saints. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1999.

The author presents the wisdom of such classic writers as John Bunyan, Origen, Evelyn Underhill, and the Desert Fathers to instruct about life with God. Harris focuses on difficult issues and shows what to do (or what not do) during times of spiritual dryness, prayerlessness, temptation, and discouragement.

Johnson, Susanne. Christian Spiritual Formation in the Church and Classroom. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1989.

Johnson challenges the way some Christians approach spiritual formation, including a critique of faith-development theories. She advocates a corporate rather than individual approach, the church as context for Christian nurture. The book includes a chapter on the importance of story. Currently out of print.

The Prayer Path: A Christ-Centered Labyrinth Experience. Loveland, CO: Group, 2001.

A kit which includes a leader’s guide, devotional guides, CDs, and videos. Participants journey through a labyrinth guided by a CD with narration and music. Eleven stations on the journey invite participants to let go of busyness, hurt, and distractions that can spoil relationships, to center their lives on God, and to reach out to the world with Christ’s love.

Christian Counterculture

Augsburger, Myron S. The Robe of God. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 2000.

Augsburger contends that reconciliation is the central aspect of God’s overarching covenant of grace. It spans both Testaments as a unifying theme and finds its fullest expression in Christ. The major objectives of the book are: (1) to remind the theological world that the Anabaptist tradition offers considerable contributions to the contemporary theological landscape, (2) to influence theological thinking in the global community, and (3) to remind the free-church movement of its core values.

Clapp, Rodney. A Peculiar People. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996.

In our progressively postmodern context the church feels increasingly useless. Clapp rejects the solution of Liberalism to sentimentally capitulate to the way things are. He also spurns the retrenchment of Evangelicalism as an effort to regain power and influence as the sponsor of Western civilization. Rather, Clapp argues that the church should be a “way of life,” a competing social structure that is a public, cultural-creating, visible, and highly political presence in the world which is uniquely lived among the myriad of cultures existing in our world. Clapp engages in historical, theological, and scriptural analysis to decry a primarily individualized and privatized faith.

Green, Joel B. The Way of the Cross: Following Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. Nashville, TN: Discipleship Resources, 1991.

Jesus has always invited and challenged his disciples to follow him in the way of redemptive suffering, the way of the cross. This, according to Joel Green, is the very heart of Mark’s Gospel and also the heart of discipleship today. Green shows how Mark unfolds the drama of Jesus’ mission to suffer for others; how this mission was not initially understood by the first disciples; and how all of this can transform our own understanding of the call to follow. Each chapter concludes with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion.

Hauerwas, Stanley, and William H. Willimon, Resident Aliens. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1989.

Offers a vision of the church as a colony, a holy nation, a people, and a family—in each case an alternative to an eroding society, offering hope of a new and viable way of living for education, worship, and mission.

Kraybill, Donald B. The Upside-Down Kingdom. Rev. ed. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1990.

Analyzing the teachings of Jesus and examining the culture in which he ministered, Kraybill contends that Jesus calls us to foster an upside-down kingdom favoring those suffering at society’s margins. The king is Jesus, who wins by serving and triumphs by losing. Employs a sociological method, accessible to college students and educated adults.

Lederach, Paul M. A Third Way. Waterloo, ON: Herald, 1980.

Sets forth in simple terms some of the key affirmations of the Mennonite faith. Lederach contrasts Anabaptist/Mennonite views with other theological streams, both historical and current. He presents the departure Mennonite faith takes from commonly held notions about Jesus, the nature of the kingdom, the church, and salvation.

Sine, Tom. Mustard Seed vs. McWorld. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1999.

Culture critic Sine is convinced that our faith calls for a value-centered change of lifestyle. If we are racing for the top, we need to stop and ask ourselves why winning feels so empty. Includes practical recommendations for ways congregations and individuals can help those who are at the bottom of the economic ladder. Each chapter has study questions; good for groups.

Shenk, Wilbert R. Write the Vision: The Church Renewed. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity, 1995.

Shenk, Professor of Mission History and Contemporary Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, writes of his concern that the American church has lost its ability to challenge its surrounding culture. A call to renewal of the integrity of the church and its missional character.

The following are important articles for youth ministry:

Driedger, Leo, and Abe Bergen. “Roots and Wings: The Emergence of Mennonite Teens.” Journal of Mennonite Studies 13 (1995): 147-64. Sociological factors shaping and influencing Mennonite youth.

Driscoll, Mark, and Chris Seay. “A Second Reformation Is at Hand,” Youthworker, January/February 2000, 34-39. Critiques a dozen assumptions and practices of Evangelical Christianity and proposes ways to engage postmodern youth.

Erb, Peter C. “Anabaptist Spirituality.” In Protestant Spiritual Traditions. Ed. Frank C. Senn, 80-124. New York: Paulist, 1986. A good resource for what its title indicates: spirituality among the early Anabaptists.

Yaconelli, Mark. “Ancient-Future Youth Ministry.” Group 25 (July/August 1999): 32-39. Yaconelli, the director of the Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project at San Francisco Theological Seminary, shows how ancient practices can bring life to youth ministry.

Yaconelli, Mark. “Youth Ministry: A Contemplative Approach,” Christian Century, 21-28 April 1999, 450-54. Bemoans the low standards in use for employing youth workers in the church, and appeals for the recovery of ancient Christian disciplines to nurture youth and worker alike.

Previous | Next