Baker Academic has a brand new website! Click Here To Visit:

Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker

A Theological Vision for Discipleship and Life Together

Cover Art Request Exam Copy

Where to Purchase


Named a 2014 Jesus Creed Book of the Year (Biography)

Best New Contribution to Bonhoeffer Studies & Best Youth Ministry Book for 2014,
Hearts & Minds Books

The youth ministry focus of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's life is often forgotten or overlooked, even though he did much work with young people and wrote a number of papers, sermons, and addresses about or for the youth of the church. However, youth ministry expert Andrew Root explains that this focus is central to Bonhoeffer's story and thought. Root presents Bonhoeffer as the forefather and model of the growing theological turn in youth ministry. By linking contemporary youth workers with this epic theologian, the author shows the depth of youth ministry work and underscores its importance in the church. He also shows how Bonhoeffer's life and thought impact present-day youth ministry practice.


1. Youth Ministry and Bonhoeffer: Finding a Forefather
Part 1: The History of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Youth Worker
2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Youth Worker
3. The Origins of the Youth Worker
4. The Fracture of the Idyllic: The Death of Walter and the Adolescence of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
5. From a Youth to Doing Youth Ministry: The Theological in Sanctorum Communio
6. Tears for Mr. Wolf: Barcelona and After
7. The Child as Eschatological: Back to Berlin and On to New York
8. Back to Berlin--Again
9. They Killed Their Last Teacher! The Wedding Confirmation Class
10. The Younger Generation and the Führer: Into the Political
11. "Eight Theses on Youth Work": In London Exile
12. Finkenwalde: From Youth Ministry into Intentional Community
13. Back to Youth Ministry
14. Toward a Destiny: From Youth Pastor to Spy
Part 2: A Youth Worker's Guide to Discipleship and Life Together
15. Youth Ministry and Discipleship
16. The Youth Worker and Life Together


"Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker reads like the labor of love that it is, introducing Bonhoeffer as a fellow pastor who shares your passion for young people's journey of faith and your conviction that Christ's church should receive youth without using them. Andrew Root is at his best here, warmly introducing us to an old friend who we didn't know knew us so well."

Kenda Creasy Dean, Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church, and Culture, Princeton Theological Seminary; author of Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church

"I read everything Andy Root writes, and I hope you do the same. Andy sheds new light on one of my theological heroes, illuminating Bonhoeffer's timeless power to shape your understanding of both ministry and our faith itself."

Kara Powell, executive director, Fuller Youth Institute, Faculty member, Fuller Theological Seminary

"I have quite literally never read a youth ministry book anything like this: full of history, story, theological articulation, and implication. Absolutely fascinating."

Mark Oestreicher, partner, The Youth Cartel

"In Andrew Root's first book, he made an intriguing connection between Dietrich Bonhoeffer and youth ministry, and that left a lot of us wanting more. Now Root has given us a great gift by mining that connection deeply and thoroughly. And the result is wonderfully rewarding. This book is a compelling addition to the literature on both youth ministry and Bonhoeffer, and it will be read widely."

Tony Jones, theologian in residence, Solomon's Porch; author of Did God Kill Jesus? (

"Andrew Root argues convincingly that Bonhoeffer scholars have overlooked a significant and animating aspect of his theological formation: his regular interaction with youth and children. In recovering this thread of Bonhoeffer's ministry, Root finds a forefather for the kind of theological youth ministry that he has been promoting, critiques contemporary technological approaches to youth ministry, and weaves together a practical-theological 'place-sharing' approach to youth ministry that engages the concrete and lived experiences of youth. This is an important book."

Benjamin T. Conner, associate professor of Christian discipleship, Western Theological Seminary

The Author

  1. Andrew Root
    Caroline Yang

    Andrew Root

    Andrew Root (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is Carrie Olson Baalson Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the author of more than twenty books, including Faith Formation in a Secular Age, The...

    Continue reading about Andrew Root


Named a 2014 Jesus Creed Book of the Year (Biography)
Best New Contribution to Bonhoeffer Studies & Best Youth Ministry Book for 2014, Hearts & Minds Books

"[Root] shines a light on an under-examined aspect of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's life: his work as a youth pastor. This omission in the literature surprises: up until the Nazis made youth ministry impossible for him, it was central to Bonhoeffer's mission. The Lutheran pastor and theologian thought deeply about the role of youth in church, and his ideas, expressed most succinctly in eight theses, provide a corrective to current youth ministry issues. . . . Using Bonhoeffer's rich and varied work with youth, as well as his books Life Together and Discipleship, Root makes a thoughtful and compelling contribution both to Bonhoeffer studies and youth ministry."

Publishers Weekly

"Root's work offers a distinct approach to understanding Bonhoeffer and is thus a worthwhile contribution to the literature on the subject. Those with an interest in Bonhoeffer or in youth ministry will find this title useful."

John Jaeger,

Library Journal

"Reading and discussing Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker will be fruitful in a number of teaching and learning settings. Certainly, it will make a fine text for practical theology courses in an undergraduate or graduate program. . . . The book is definitely worth reading. Bonhoeffer scholars and youth workers will both find value in Root's significant contribution to these fields. Scholars and theologians will benefit from the well-documented reminder that the theology books by Bonhoeffer that we cherish absolutely cannot be separated from the lived ministry with youth that precipitated them, and that Bonhoeffer's challenge for us today is to not merely be converted intellectually, but to commit our whole life, even unto death, to communio. Likewise, youth workers . . . need the reminder that a successful youth program is not simply about building a program for a large group of sex-free, drug-free and alcohol-free youth, but about nurturing radical discipleship that is equipped to resist cultural tides and embodies counter-cultural Christian community."

Andy Brubacher Kaethler,

Journal of Youth Ministry

"Expanding the work that he began in Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry, Andrew Root offers a strong argument for the influence of youth work on the theology and praxis of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's ministry and life. Bonhoeffer as Youthworker is thus a project of love encompassing years of time and interest. As a pastor, theologian, and youth worker currently residing in Germany, I delved into this book about one of the most admired theologians of the twentieth-century with keen interest. . . . The life, work, and theology of Bonhoeffer have consistently shaped the lives of Christian disciples and the church. Now, through the work of Root, Bonhoeffer can be considered a hero of youth workers everywhere."

Gretchen Schoon Tanis,

Journal of Youth and Theology

"Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker proves to be a much-needed work, especially for those in the field of youth ministry. Not only does it elucidate a key aspect of Bonhoeffer's life that has been largely overlooked, but it successfully connects those biographical points in ways that make his theological work have even more depth. Combine that with an in-depth look at Discipleship and Life Together, based on the backdrop of his life as a youth worker, and the insights into the work and theology of youth ministry regularly jump off the page. Needless to say, this book should be regular reading for any who wish to work and think more like Bonhoeffer in our call to be with youth in their ongoing journey with God."

Jason Lanker,

Christian Education Journal

"Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker is first and foremost a significant contribution to the field of youth ministry. . . . Secondly, [Root] gifts Bonhoeffer scholars with a lens for seeing an aspect of Bonhoeffer 'often glossed over' or completely missed: the significance of young people in shaping Bonhoeffer's theological orientation. . . . Those involved in youth ministry will benefit immensely from a deeper theological approach to their work. . . . Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker would be a wonderful gift for any youth director or person committed to youth ministry. While not light reading, this book is well worth any commitment of time and energy, as Root's labors of love--for youth and for Bonhoeffer--are here combined."

John W. Matthews,

Word & World

"Root is among the top rank of theologians working in youth ministry today. . . . Root has long studied Bonhoeffer. . . . Now Root has looked directly at Bonhoeffer's legacy as a youth worker. It turns out that Bonhoeffer's work with children and youth was more important to his development as a theologian than many realized."

Tony Jones,

Theoblogy blog

"Root makes the case that Bonhoeffer is the forefather of the 'theological turn in youth ministry.'. . . Root makes several vital contributions to youth ministry and Bonhoeffer scholarship. . . . Root has succeeded in showing how Bonhoeffer did youth ministry theologically; and for that we are indebted to him. I heartily recommend that youth workers and other students and scholars of Bonhoeffer read this book."

Mark S. Brocker,

Lutheran Quarterly

"Root makes the case in Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker that not only was youth ministry central to Bonhoeffer's ministry and theological development, but he was also the forefather of a particular approach to youth ministry. . . . Well-written, engaging, and insightful. Recommended to youth pastors and volunteers and to Bonhoeffer enthusiasts."

David Mundt,

CBA Retailers + Resources

"Alongside Bonhoeffer, [Root] writes that youth ministry is church-community; unconnected from the larger church it is not community. This conviction of connectedness across age in the Body of Christ is not just a caution to energetic youth programs that would go their own way; it also is provocation for the larger church to receive with thanksgiving the present lived realities and spiritual gifts of the young."

Colleen Windham-Hughes,


"A worthwhile read even if only as a refresher course in the remarkable life and ministry of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. To dismiss it as only that would be to miss the heart of the book completely and to overlook a decades-old call for age-level ministry to relearn its place within the family of faith--or more specifically, for the church as a whole to embrace place-sharing with its children. . . . Bonhoeffer as Youthworker stands as a terrific resource not just for youthworkers but for all in ministry or church life concerned with the future of the place of family within the body of the church."

Kevin Alton,

United Methodist Reporter

"Root shows the particular connection Bonhoeffer had with youth ministry. . . . Root focuses on Bonhoeffer's ministry with children and it is a helpful reminder that though it can sometimes be devalued, it is actually one of the most important ministries of all."

Shelby Etheridge,

Presbyterian Outlook

"Root has added a new insight into Bonhoeffer that has never been well explored, and has developed his research with such far-reaching implications that it simply has become a 'must read' for many of us. . . . This studies the years in which Bonhoeffer was a youth pastor, his regular interest in the role of children, and in reporting much about those practices, [Root] draws implications for the changing world of youth ministry in our time. In a way, this is a great introduction to Bonhoeffer, and a great reforming proposal for youth ministry. Fantastic!"

Byron Borger,

Hearts & Minds Books blog