Thursday, July 27, 2006

New Link

In light of Walt's gracious interaction with me regarding his book, I thought it only fair to give his website a plug/link. Regardless of my issues with the book, the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding does provide a staggering array of pop culture interaction that youth leaders should avail themselves of.

Monday, July 24, 2006

M.A. in Youth Ministry in a Box

Rather than a listmania on amazon or something, here is the start of my list (conveniently 10) of books that I think that every youth worker should read. I'm not saying that you can get all of the benefits of an M.A. from just reading books, but this is a close as I could get it. These are in no particular order except the first two which I'm heavily biased towards. A further list will follow with books that don't necessarily focus on youth ministry.

Practicing Passion by Kenda Dean

This book has set the agenda for all youth ministry thought for the next decade at least. Not for the faint of heart because of its depth of theological engagement or for the parochial because of the breadth of its scope, this book attempts to connect Christ's Passion to adolescent passion through the practices of the church. Disclaimer: I worked on parts of this book and so this is partly self promotion.

The Godbearing Life by Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster

Less academic than Practicing but no less wise. Places youth ministry in a theological context that honours the minister, youth and the church. Was eye and heart opening the first time I read it and one of the reasons that I'm still invovled in youth ministry.
Postmodern Youth Ministry by Tony Jones

I find the layout irritating and some of the sidebar comments silly but still, this is the best primer available written by a youth minister for the youth ministry community about postmodernism. Jones knows his stuff and like him or hate him, he has many, many interesting things to say.Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church by Mark H. Senter III (general editor), Wesley Black, Chap Clark, Malan Nel

There are likely few more important questions to struggle with than ecclesiology when it comes to youth ministry. How you understand the church has implications for all kinds of things that you do. These four offer viable but very different answers to the question that they engage.
Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Christian Smith with Melinda Lundquist Denton

Smith et. al. put hard numbers and soft faces to how and what teens really believe. We can give as many opinions as we want but Smith has taken the most accurate and comprehensive snapshot of adolescent spirituality ever. Although not Canadian, still worthwhile reading.

Passing on the Faith: A Radical New Model for Youth and Family Ministry by Merton Strommen and Dick Hardel

You might not buy into their 'scientific' model of ministry which does at times veer towards reductionism, but you can't argue that they offer some amazing guidance when it comes to putting together a wholistic ministry.Starting Right: Thinking Theologically about Youth Ministry by Kenda Creasy Dean, Chap Clark & Dave Rahn

Hit and miss articles but with more hits than misses. The importance of this book is its methodology and way of treating youth ministry as a theological enterprise. Various chapters follow the methodology, the hits, and others don't, the misses.

Contemplative Youth Ministry by Mark Yaconelli

See my review on another post.Purpose Driven Youth Ministry by Doug Fields

Placed here for two reasons. First, be contemplative before driven (see Yaconelli). Two, be thoughtful so that the elements that are good here, and there are some, stand out and the elements which are rubbish, and there are lots, can be dismissed.Youth Ministry Management Tools by Ginny Olson

This is not a seminary textbook because it has the theological depth of a petri dish. However, no youth minister who wants to keep their ministry afloat should be without this book. I don't like the software, but the book is great.

Not Engaging the Postmodern Soul

I picked up Walt Mueller’s Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture: Bridging Teen Worldviews and Christian Truth because I teach a class called Canadian Youth Culture at Tyndale. I’m always on the hunt for new text books because I’m not sure that my selection last time was perfect (Gordon Lynch’s Understanding Theology and Popular Culture, Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture and Adams Fire and Ice; the Lynch was good, the Niebuhr ok but the Adams didn't work the way I wanted it to). I needed something more evangelical. I needed something that was more directly related to youth culture and youth ministry in particular.

Mueller's latest doesn't exactly fit the bill either. It certainly is evangelical and Mueller is perhaps strongest when he is gracefully dealing with what he describes as the "bunker" mentality found in many evangelical/fundamentalist circles. I came across some of this bunker mentality in my class and I think that Mueller's response is both Biblical and helpful so I may assign that chapter near the start of the class. At the same time as Mueller's evangelicalism is a strength, he also has some of the weaknesses as well. He never develops a systematic theology but rather relies on some amorphous "Biblical worldview" as his touchstone for the Eternal Truth of the Gospel. I'm never sure what author's mean when they say a "Biblical worldview." The Bible does not present on particular worldview having been written over a thousand years in various places and in various genres. To reconcile Paul's epistles with the Deuteronimistic history and the prophets is very difficult if not impossible. What I think Mueller means by "Biblical worldview" are some very strongly held orthodox theological beliefs. That is, a "Biblical worldview" is really the Evangelical interpretation of the Bible but that interpretation is never given systematic definition.

This becomes a bigger problem when Mueller begins to interact with postmodernity. Correction Mueller doesn't actually interact with postmodernity. He interacts with postmodernity's evangelical detractors with a few supporters thrown in for good measure. If IVP, Zondervan, Eerdman's and a handful of other Christian presses disappeared (say in the rapture?), Mueller would have no one to quote. The 3 1/2 page bibliography contains about half a dozen books not published by a Christian press. Middleton and Walsh get some quote-time as does Stanley Grenz but unlike Mueller, these scholars actually engage primary postmodern sources. Not once that I could find does Mueller quote a postmodern philosopher or theologian, evangelical or otherwise. The irony is that Mueller puts forth Paul in Acts 17 as the prototype for cultural engagement but misses that Paul engaged with the philosophies of Athens not with the folk culture of Athens. I am quite glad that Mueller and his oft promoted Center for Parent/Youth Understanding know popular culture but I do not think that he can mistake Marilyn Manson for Derrida or Hoobastank for Stanley Grenz and John Franke. How can Mueller call the culture that youth grow up in today "postmodern" but never engage in serious debate with the sources of postmodern thought?

I'm still waiting to find a book that combines the best of cultural studies with a thorough going evangelical theological position. If there are any suggestions out there, feel free to post them.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Had my laptop stolen on Sunday. Besides the massive inconvenience of having to get a new one and get everything back to normal, I feel violated. I keep all kinds of things on my laptop, none of which are criminal or anything but many which are personal and private. I can only hope that the thief is dumb and uses up the battery time (they didn't get the recharger) before they find a printer or a disk. Luckily I had backed everything up on Saturday so I'm feeling pretty good about that. Still, not sure if I like to control my thoughts and writings, not someone else.