Review: Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry

Four Stars

I think I’ve found a youth ministry soul mate in Andrew Root. He is profound. His writing is extensively theoretical and his tone highly academic. Clearly, my youth ministry geekdom has come to its full realization in my deep affection for his book, Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry.

Root sets out clearly in the opening pages that he seeks to stretch the reader in the development of their relationships with youth and also to professionalize the study of youth ministry. These aren’t easy tasks when they stand alone, yet he seems to have accomplished them both quite well. His in-depth theological, historical, and sociological gander at youth ministry, specifically relational youth ministry, brings a heightened level of academic quality to the youth ministry shelf. Certainly, his text is not for every youth worker everywhere. Yet, for the youth worker who takes their profession as a serious area of study, this book brings challenges and insights that will keep the mind buzzing at wholly inappropriate times (the middle of the night, staff meetings, pastor’s sermons…).

Don’t be fooled. Academic quality does not mean dry, boring, and inapplicable. Au contraire. In the case of Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry, academic quality means an intriguing historical overview of the concept of relationships in youth ministry, a briefing on the sociological state of American Evangelicalism as studied and reported by Christian Smith (known in youth ministry circles for his book Soul Searching, but who has also authored several other sociological studies on American Evangelicalism) and a theological/relational proposal based on the teachings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He pushes the youth ministry “industry” not simply to view youth ministry resources as a series of how-to manuals, but as a method to contemplate motivations and outcomes in youth ministry.

His method of relational youth ministry seeks to answer three questions:

Who is Jesus Christ?

Where is Jesus Christ?

What then shall we do?

Through his examination of youth ministry methods under these questions, he brings the reader to his model of place-sharing, or “standing so close to the other that his or her reality becomes my own, his or her suffering becomes mine” (page 127). When was the last time you stood so close to a youth that their suffering was your suffering?

Root isn’t just talking about the major crises that are bound to hit our ministries. He’s talking about the day-to-day suffering that plagues us all with deep slow wounds: neglectful parenting, embittered friendships, poor self-concepts. Our youth are fighting silent battles and deserve a partner in the battle. A partner that has compassion, that feels deeply their joy and their sorrow, that is willing to be transformed by the relationship. When were you open to your own transformation in your relationships with youth?

Andrew Root presents a convincing plea to youth workers to end their use of relationships as a tool for conversion. Relationships are far too great a gift to minimize as a tool. They are not a means of conversion, but an end in and of themselves. You might find that you fundamentally disagree with him, or you might find yourself stretched and evaluating your style of relational ministry at new heights.

Published October 3, 2008

About the author

View more from Alaina

Related Resources

Why Build Resilient Youth in Youth Ministry?

Why Build Resilient Youth in Youth Ministry?

What is a resilient identity in Christ and why is it important for a healthy youth ministry? Check out this blog from the Seven Practices of Healthy Youth Ministry to find out more.

The Habits That We Make – Fundraising

The Habits That We Make – Fundraising

Should youth ministry, or any other ministry for that matter, rely on fundraising to significantly support their ministry functions? Sometimes the habits of fundraising get youth ministry into trouble. This article is designed to help you think more strategically about fundraising.

The Habits That We Make: Parents

The Habits That We Make: Parents

We all have harmful habits, even in our churches. This article helps us think about how we might have habits where parents are not growing in their own Biblical education or even expecting the church and its workers to be the primary teachers of the Christian faith for their children. By identifying these kinds of habits, we can see how we might change them.

The COVID-19 Pandemic: Change or Experience?

The COVID-19 Pandemic: Change or Experience?

As youth workers, we need to remember that this cohort that experienced the COVID pandemic during their younger years experienced it differently than adults. Through research, Dr. Tina Berg has been able to identify key learnings that can help us care for young people, particularly confirmands, in the wake of the pandemic.

The Habits That We Make – Isolation

The Habits That We Make – Isolation

We all have habits, some intentionally developed and others not. Knowing our habits in ministry can be important. For example, we may tend to isolate kids and/or youth from the rest of the congregation. This article talks about how to identify this habit and push against it.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How do I know if our youth ministry program is healthy and properly caring for our teens?

Discover how you can enhance your youth ministry and serve the youth in your church with Seven Practices of Healthy Youth Ministry.

Share This