Relational youth ministry, also known as incarnational ministry, can feel like a vicious cycle of guilt: "I should be spending time with kids, but I just don't want to." The burden becomes heavy to bear because it is never over; adolescents always seem to need more relational bonds, and once one group graduates there is a new group of adolescents who need relational contact.
It may be that the reason these relationships have become burdensome is that they have become something youth workers do, rather than something that youth workers enter into.
In Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry, Andrew Root explores the origins of a dominant ministry model for evangelicals, showing how American culture has influenced our understanding of the incarnation. Drawing from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose work with German youth in troubled times shaped his own understanding of how Jesus intersects our relationships, Root recasts relational ministry as an opportunity not to influence the influencers but to stand with and for those in need. True relational youth ministry shaped by the incarnation is a commitment to enter into the suffering of all, to offer all those in high school or junior high the solidarity of the church.
"In Andrew Root's debut, he has produced a book that every youth worker (and every sponsor, volunteer, parent and pastor) should read. With incisive thinking and articulate writing, Root argues that relationships are not a means to a goal--they are the goal. He treats history fairly, develops a compelling Christology and shows how Christ is present within human relationships. Without hyperbole, I predict this book will change the face of Christian youth ministry."
"In this groundbreaking book, Andrew Root explodes the myth that those involved with youth ministry can be excused from being theologians and that theologians can be exempted from writing a theology for youth ministry. Drawing upon the incarnational and transformational theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, among others, Root argues for a relational ministry that is incarnational rather than merely instrumental. He presents Jesus as a living person rather than merely providing a pattern for incarnational ministry, and shows us how a relational ministry can go beyond merely connecting with others to create and inhabit a transforming space. Andy knows how to enter and interpret the culture of adolescence and youth, and shares this wisdom with us. His case studies and creative scenarios put faces on his facts and lend dramatic life to his theories. The book provides the course on theology of ministry that most youth leaders and pastors never got in Bible school or seminary, and the one indispensable text that professors of youth ministry have been longing for."
"Andy Root has unveiled the most significant challenge in youth ministry today--unconditional relationships. Too often we use relationships to achieve our goals and in the process abandon teenagers when those goals are not achieved. Andy has brilliantly laid before us an essential course correction for relational youth ministry that is faithful to the incarnation of Jesus."
"Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry establishes Andrew Root as a seminal voice in a new generation of youth ministry scholars. Fresh, wise and disciplined, Root exposes the sand on which much 'relational youth ministry' of the late twentieth century has been based, and recasts the church's ministry with young people in the Christology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In so doing, Root injects youth ministry with both a needed missional direction and a welcome theological humility. Drawing on 'real life' relational ministries, Root offers concrete practices that reestablish youth ministry's footing in the suffering love of God in Jesus Christ. Andrew Root is poised to lead the field in rethinking youth ministry as a practical theological discipline, and this book is a breathtaking step in the right direction."
"Andrew Root combines biblical studies, history, sociology and theology in a well-researched mix that, I hope, will drive our youth ministry thought and practice. In a day and age when every youth ministry practitioner owes it to the One who first modeled incarnational ministry and to the kids we serve to be thoughtful about what we do, this is a book that will get you thinking about what you're doing."
. . . The theological and philosophical ideas provide the groundwork for anyone seeking to develop a healthy congregational youth program.
Root's book is a valuable asset to the field of youth ministry. In calling for an incarnational perspective of relational ministry, Root provides a biblical and theological foundation from which youth leaders can establish meaningful relationships with young people.
Root has established himself as a leader in a theological renewal for the practice of youth ministry. Engagement with this book will prove fruitful in rethinking your ministry with young people wherever it is. It already has for me.
Root urges readers to adopt a "being with" ministry to students, encouraging them to stand with people in need. Put this on your "buy now" list.
Root challenges youth pastors to go beyond doing mere jobs and live the incarnation of Christ with youth.
Too often we abandon teenagers when our relationship does not produce our predetermined results. Thankfully, Andy Root has brilliantly laid before us an essential course correction for relational ministry that is faithful to the incarnation of Jesus.
1 The Historical Ascent of Relational Ministry: The Early Twentieth Century
2 The Historical Ascent of Relational Ministry: The Late Twentieth Century
3 Our Relational Motivations: A Sociological Examination
4 Who Is Jesus Christ? The One Who Is Incarnate and Much More
5 Where Is Jesus Christ? Relational Ministry as Participation in God?s Presence
6 What Then Shall We Do? A Ministry of Place-Sharing
7 Person and Culture: How Place-Sharing Works
8 Picturing Relational Transformation: Transcendence Revelation
9 Rules of Art for Place-Sharing in Community
Appendix: Bonhoeffer as a Minister to Young People