Quick Book Review: Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker

bonhoefferyouthworkerTitle: Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker: A Theological Vision for Discipleship and Life Together

Author: Andrew Root

Bibliographic info: 222 pp.

Publisher: Baker Academic, 2014.

Buy the book at Amazon.

With thanks to Baker Academic for the review copy.

The author of this short volume, Andrew Root, is the Olson Baalson Associate Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary.

The topic being explored in this short volume is Bonhoeffer’s ministry with children and young adults, with a focus on what Bonhoeffer’s theological vision can offer for contemporary youth ministry. The book is divided into two main sections. The first section is a theological biography in which the author discusses Bonhoeffer’s life and times, acknowledging figures and ideas that influenced him, as well as his early experiences in youth ministry. Then in the second section the author unpacks the implications of Bonhoeffer’s thought in regards to contemporary youth workers. The overall thrust of this book is that for those involved in youth ministry, Bonhoeffer is “the first theological youth worker”, and is the “forefather” of the “theological turn in youth ministry.”

The final two chapters is where the author discusses the thought in Bonhoeffer’s two most popular works: Life Together and Discipleship. This is a practical commentary on these works, discussing the realist understanding of community in Life Together and the difference between cheap and costly grace in Discipleship. Root reads Bonhoeffer as showing that youth ministry isn’t about cramming kids full of theological trivia and Bible verses, or even about making them good young Christian boys and girls, but is about ministry that “seeks to share in the concrete and lived experience of young people as the very place to share in the act and being of God.”

Bonhoeffer is one of the most hijacked theologians I have come across. By this I mean that everybody tries to claim him as their own, for whatever theological or ideological purpose they desire. I think the author is cognizant of this phenomenon and is only trying to honor the legacy of Bonhoeffer by highlighting the impact that his ministry has for youth. In fact, in reading this book I was surprised at how little I really knew about his involvement with youth. I would recommend this (inexpensive) book for anyone interested in Bonhoeffer studies or in youth ministry.

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