Youth & Vocations Enabler, Church of England Lichfield Diocese
Interested in spiritual development and informal education
Jon worked on Youthscape's local schoolswork team from 2013 to 2016. As SMSC Lead he took particular responsibility for our spiritual development work in schools, including the Fast Track weeks, Developing Spiritually course and pastoral work in schools.Follow @jon_d_white
Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker highlights the role of youth and children's ministry in the life of Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Andrew Root's book is written in a highly accessible and well-paced style highlighting Bonhoeffer's understanding of youth and children's ministry and theological reflection and practice as symbiotic.
In the first part, Root retells Bonhoeffer's story to us, weaving the threads of Bonhoeffer's theological work and the events of his life as a child, student, professor and pastor. Bonhoeffer seemed to never be far from ministry to young people, with whom he shared much of life, choosing to live sacrificially in order to do things for and with them that showed them the love of God. The second part of this work focusses on Bonhoeffer's seminal works Life Together and Discipleship, offering insights into how one might apply these to daily life in youth work.
Roots book is highly compelling for many reasons, but here I highlight just two for the sake of brevity. Firstly, Root is not attempting to call us to use 'the next big thing' in youth ministry - in fact, it is the complete opposite: Bonhoeffer's example does not promise instant 'success' with more attendees at youth group and a bigger budget for more flashy equipment, but instead he calls us to reflect on Bonhoeffer's deep-seated belief that sharing in the lives-the concrete, lived experience-of young people is the key way to 'mutually [share] in the very revelation of God in Jesus Christ' (p.7). Secondly, Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker warns us about the danger of desiring 'the spirit of youth' over Jesus as the primary focus for youth ministry (p.120) - a very timely critique when we are concerned about our dwindling congregations (cf. p119-121 and church attendance figures nationally!) In short, this book should be part of every reflective youth worker's library - there's much to learn from it!
As Richard Foster once wrote “The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” The need to cultivate ‘depth’ in life is easy to intellectually assent to, but difficult to make happen when there’s a buzzing smartphone in your pocket, a face-to-face conversation to have, and a television on in the background.
In an effort to make the journey towards a ‘deep’ life that little bit simpler (though unfortunately no less challenging), Martin Saunders has written an excellent book providing ideas on how to introduce the spiritual disciplines to young people. Based on Richard Foster’s classic work Celebration of Discipline, Martin has created easy-to-use, snappy session outlines to help young people explore prayer, study, meditation, fasting, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, worship and celebration.
The Beautiful Disciplines is an essential book for anyone in youth ministry, but could be the basis for work on spiritual, moral, social and cultural development programmes in High Schools.