Friday, November 17, 2006

A Review of Deep Ministry in a Shallow World

It was about two months ago when I first saw this book on and realized that I had to read it. When I began studying to be a youth minister and became familiar with status of professional youth ministry (I had never even met a full-time youth minister until I went to college), it seemed to me that youth ministry was portrayed, often rightly, as shallow - definitely more shallow than the "other" ministries of the church. In my studies and writing, I have set out to take my youth ministry, and hopefully encourage other youth minsters to take their minisries, deeper. Thus, a book on deep ministry seemed like the perfect fit for my interest.

Written by one of the foremost thinkers in youth ministry, Chap Clark, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, there was little chance this would not be worth the effort. I was not disappointed.

In their book, Chap Clark and Kara Powell address the perennial problem that exists in churches - we strive for different results by doing the same thing over and over. They present a model for addressing specific aspects of one's local youth ministry.

1. Step 1 of their process is to ask the question, "Now?" What is the current state of my youth ministry? What are the strengths and what are the weaknesses? In taking an honest look at your youth ministry, you then pinpoint areas that need addressed. The rest of the process is aimed at improving these areas. This is the discernment phase of the process.

2. Step 2 of their process is to look for (new?) help from others. What new research is out there? What new insights can I find in Scripture as it pertains to this particular issue? This is the reflection phase of the process, reflecting on insights from others.

3. Step 3 takes a further look at other's insight. It asks the question, "Who?" as in who can I find that is using this new information and putting it into practice. This may be someone you can actually talk to or read about. There is no direct process that can be copied and pasted from one setting to another, but there may be great advantage in seeing it played out in another setting.

4. Step 4 of the process is the final step that brings it back home and asks how? How would I go about instituting this in my own setting. This is the always-difficult application phase of taking what you've learned and putting it into action.

While these four steps may seem simple and rather obvious, they represent a great outline in guiding us to deeper ministry (particularly youth ministry). They have taken theory and philosphy from disciplines that are often seen as purely academic and removed from practicality (ie. practical theology - quite the paradox, sociology, psychology and others) and puts them into a very useable and simple practice.

Once the theory is presented, the authors then address particular issues and show how this system can be employed. They lay out approaches to mentoring, dealing with parents, communicating with children, mission projects, worship, personal concerns, and focus groups and address how each can be taken deeper. Each chapter is filled with specific examples and an interview with a youth ministry veteran fulfilling the third step of the process.

The four step process weaves its way around the symbol for infinity illustrating that this is a process that never ends. You never "arrive" in a deep youth ministry. There are always deeper seas to explore and once we've taken one step, the next is before us waiting.

This was a pleasant read and an encouraging step in the right direction in youth ministry. More youth ministry professionals must continue on in the pursuit of a deep and meaningful youth ministry that equips teenagers for a lifetime of faith struggles and trials.

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