"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Should Eastern Christian Parishes Have "Youth Ministries"?

Eerdmans, which has done so much to make Russian Orthodox thinkers such as Sergius Bulgakov accessible to anglophone audiences, just sent me their most recent catalogue. In it is a book with a striking title raising an important question for those Eastern Christian parishes and dioceses fretting over their lack of "youth ministry" programs and comparing themselves unfavorably to Catholic and Protestant parishes and programs: Thomas E. Bergler, The Juvenilization of American Christianity (Eerdmans, 2012), 276pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Pop worship music. Falling in love with Jesus. Mission trips. Wearing jeans and T-shirts to church. Spiritual searching and church hopping. Faith-based political activism. Seeker-sensitive outreach. These now-commonplace elements of American church life all began as innovative ways to reach young people, yet they have gradually become accepted as important parts of a spiritual ideal for all ages. What on earth has happened? 
In The Juvenilization of American Christianity Thomas Bergler traces the way in which, over seventy-five years, youth ministries have breathed new vitality into four major American church traditions — African American, Evangelical, Mainline Protestant, and Roman Catholic. Bergler shows too how this “juvenilization” of churches has led to widespread spiritual immaturity, consumerism, and self-centeredness, popularizing a feel-good faith with neither intergenerational community nor theological literacy. Bergler’s critique further offers constructive suggestions for taming juvenilization.


  1. I can't believe someone has written a book about what I've been thinking for decades. Thank God.

    1. We need to be carful here. I'm a father of 7. I am thankful for youth ministries because children get to associate with other children with common values and discover valuable lessons about their faith. I highly respect adults that are courageous enough to lead these types of ministries. It takes effort and creativity to inspire young minds. There is always a fine balance between teaching them how to live the gospel without these groups becoming merely clubs with a religious theme. Not all youth ministries are the same and we need to be careful not to generalize. Youth programs might be a product of our time and culture but take them out and you will see our youth turn to the fallen world. Let's not forget that our God came down to our level to raise us up-youth ministry is no different.


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