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The End of Youth Ministry?

Why Parents Don’t Really Care about Youth Groups and What Youth Workers Should Do about It

series: Theology for the Life of the World

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What is youth ministry actually for? And does it have a future? Andrew Root, a leading scholar in youth ministry and practical theology, went on a one-year journey to answer these questions. In this book, Root weaves together an innovative first-person fictional narrative to diagnose the challenges facing the church today and to offer a new vision for youth ministry in the 21st century.

Informed by interviews that Root conducted with parents, this book explores how parents' perspectives of what constitutes a good life are affecting youth ministry. In today's culture, youth ministry can't compete with sports, test prep, and the myriad other activities in which young people participate. Through a unique parable-style story, Root offers a new way to think about the purpose of youth ministry: not happiness, but joy. Joy is a sense of experiencing the good. For youth ministry to be about joy, it must move beyond the youth group model and rework the assumptions of how identity and happiness are imagined by parents in American society.

Warning for the Reader! (Read before Using)
1. Toward a Journey to Joy
Late March
2. Don't Waste Your Life: Youth Ministry and the Good Life
3. Are the Kids OK? Goods and Youth Ministry
4. Three Sets of Parents: Things and Happiness Emerge
Late October
5. Identity, Part 1: A Dance Party, Demi Lovato, and the Internal Quest
Late October
6. Transformation in Youth Ministry
Late March
7. Identity, Part 2: Romance, Recognition, and Resentment
Late October
8. Happiness, Part 1: Powerball, Endgames, and Sheryl Crow versus Taylor Swift
From Winter to Spring Break
9. When Goods Become the Good
Late March
10. Happiness, Part 2: Holiness, Virtue, and Luther's Freak-Out
The End of Spring Break
11. Joy and the Custodian: What Youth Ministry Is For
Late March
12. Borne Burdens: Youth Ministry and Stories of Joy
Late March
13. Open Takes and Closed Spins: Youth Ministry and Transcendence
Late March
14. An Identity Event: How Youth Ministry Affects Identity
15. Holding Vigil: Youth Ministry and Cruciform Practices
Conclusion: Friendship and DQ


"After half a century of advice books on the 'what' and 'how' of youth ministry, Root is the first practical theologian to seriously tackle the 'why' of youth ministry--why even do youth ministry in the first place? Using a Kierkegaardian fable as his foil, Root explores deficient ways we justify youth ministry, and then dives headlong into joy as the reason it matters. Root has made a career out of challenging the youth ministry industry, but this is his most important youth ministry book to date. The end of youth ministry? Hardly. This is where it starts."

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 and coauthor of Delighted: What Te

"Andy Root takes us on a historic and self-reflective tour to demonstrate how youth ministries reveal what motivates parents and church leaders. I saw myself among those unknowingly promoting a new hedonism: helping young people find their 'thing' in order to feel happy. Andy frames our preoccupation with faith formation as part of this quest, which ultimately supplants faith's true end--an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. As we hope he would, Andy calls us back to the cross by inviting young people to identify with Christ's death and thus experience 'God's action' in their lives. Rather than busyness, silence and humility make way for gratitude, and genuine joy erupts. Andy reminds us that it is at the cross where young people--and our communities--find themselves transformed."

Sharon Galgay Ketcham, professor of theology and Christian ministries, Gordon College; author of Reciprocal Church

"Sometimes the riskiest questions we ask return us to the most basic ones. Andy's quest to answer 'What is youth ministry for?' invites us to join his own journey of theological and self-reflection. He is a trustworthy guide for any youth minister who is fatigued by the expectations placed upon them to be programmers of fun or spiritual marketers vying for space in an oversaturated world of extracurricular activities. This book dares us to reorient our youth ministry approaches away from cultivating happiness and toward Christ crucified. It speaks to new youth ministers who want to start their ministry right and to youth ministry veterans craving realignment."

Steven Argue, associate professor of youth, family, and culture, Fuller Theological Seminary

"There are nagging questions in youth ministry, many of which we hesitate to name out loud. 'Does what I'm doing matter?' 'Is any of this making a difference?' In The End of Youth Ministry?, Andrew Root manages to put his finger on these concerns and bring them into the light. He doesn't just name these questions, he explores them at length and then returns them to the youth worker in such a way that the questions become gifts. What Root has produced here is a page-turning look at the theological foundations of youth ministry. He has provided a way forward--one we can grow into, all the while pointing us in the direction of the good life."

Amanda Hontz Drury, author of Saying Is Believing: The Necessity of Testimony in Adolescent Spiritual Development

"Andy Root is among the finest theologians working in the area of youth ministry today. His many books evince a learned and sustained engagement with some of the most important thinkers in biblical studies, theology, philosophy, social theory, and more. His latest work, The End of Youth Ministry?, is no different, though its methodology is refreshingly new. Here he tells the story of a young man named Andrew on a journey to answer the question, 'What is youth ministry for?' The conversations at each stop along the way serve as a kind of Socratic method. Questions are asked, potential answers are put forth and found wanting, and the journey continues until finally--resolution. So what is the end of youth ministry? Read this book and Andy Root will show you the way."

Bryan C. Hollon, professor of theology, Malone University

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...

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