Book Recap and Review: “Adoptive Youth Ministry”

December 8th, 2016


TITLE: Adoptive Youth Ministry: Integrating Emerging Generations into the Family of Faith (Youth, Family, and Culture)
AUTHOR: Chap Clark
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016, (400 pages).

What is adoption? What does “Adoptive Youth Ministry” mean? How is it different from conventional youth ministries? According to the editor of this book, to be adopted means becoming a full member of a nonbiological family. When applied to youth ministry, it means one, more, or even all of the following “four foundational premises.”

  1. Recognizing that in every Church and organization, there are insiders as well as outsiders.
  2. Reminding that we are adopted into God’s family as a child with other children.
  3. We are vulnerable but Jesus has his eyes on us.
  4. That we as well as outsiders are called to the gathering.

Chap Clark, editor of this book of articles compiled from 20 different contributors, says:

Adoptive ministry is vital because we are witnessing the fact that in Christ God has invited those who ‘believed in his name’ to ‘become children of God’ (John 1:12). This is the message of the good news. Therefore our message—in our lifestyle, service, and word—is adoption.

Why is there a need to change from traditional ways of doing youth ministry? Clark gives three reasons.

  • First, we are losing those who had gone through such youth ministries and if things do not change, it will get worse.
  • Second, many young ones in contemporary culture have written off ‘traditional faith.’ They are changing, but the ministries are not adapting as well.
  • Third, the world we live in is changing and is often painful, confusing, and abandoning. There is a need to win back trust.

There is a need to inculcate hope. A key point from the research in the book Sticky Faith is that young people need to feel they are “known, valued, actively engaged, and proactively loved within a community.” Rather than providing practical steps, this book focuses on strategy and theology to help us plan and implement adoptive youth ministry. The articles are arranged in four parts.

The Context

Part One is about the Context of Adoptive Youth Ministry (AYM). It needs to move from institution to organism. Flexible ideas are more important than rigid institutionalization. Some basic things do not change but the ways of delivery do change frequently. Chap Clark highlights five basic levels to think about.

  • Outreach Level: to people feeling left out
  • Welcoming Level: to those who are willing to participate in some
  • Engaging Level: to those who have expressed interest
  • Diverse Relationships Level: connecting people to a broader relation of faith
  • Adoption Level: Mentorship

One needs to rethink about everything we do (programs, events, structures, practices, etc) in order to help connect people with one another as well as with God. Steve Bonner gives insights on understanding the adolescent journey, and how the journey itself is difficult simply because it is a moving target. Churches can play their part in being places of rest and refuge rather than adult-driven programs for the young. Marv Penner touches on a specialized topic of welcoming wounded and broken adolescents into the family of God. We are to beware of ‘systemic abandonment.’ Bradley Howell gives his inputs regarding the technological world, that we should learn to keep our focus on people rather than technology. Craig Detweiler sees ‘screen time’ as a window to the soul of teens.

The Call

Part Two is about the CALL where seven articles reflect on theology and ways to think about youth ministry. Almeda Wright argues for a youth ministry that is reflective and to make space for disruptive happenings under the love of God. Michael McEntyre looks at the relationship between practical theology and youth ministry and how they lead toward closely knitted communities of faith. Later articles show us some possible trajectories on how to see youth ministry in the long run. David Jia and Jinna Sil look at the rising numbers of Asian Americans and their assimilation into American culture. From that experience, they help us understand some perspectives of second-generation Asian Americans, with insights on globalization and immigration concerns.

The Practice & The Skills

Part Three touches on the PRACTICE of ministry that covers the creating of welcoming spaces, spiritual formation, apologetics, unique middle school perspectives, multiethnic considerations, and Latin concerns. Part Four suggests some SKILLS to adopt if we were to be effective in AYM. Skills like leadership and the appropriate use of power; of communications; of teaching styles; of Church strategies and structures; and so on.

So What?

There is lots of good stuff packed into one book. At one look, it could be very intellectual. For some, it could very well fall into the TLDR category where people do not bother to read beyond the first few paragraphs because of lengthiness. I can understand the perspective of the authors. It is very difficult to squeeze in so much knowledge, experience, and know-how into just a few pages. With the many authors and contributors, something has got to give. It is a tricky balance between ease of reading and the optimal information given. I like to use the metaphor of computer programming. A program that is written in a compact manner is usually more efficient compared to a program written for ease of reading and structure. The former minimizes programming steps for maximum computer efficiency. The latter maximizes readability at the expense of computer power. Due to the brevity of each article, each contributor has to pack a lot of stuff into a limited number of pages. That is why some needed explanations had to be left out. The assumption is that readers will then need to do his/her own homework.

Perhaps, that is the way to go. Get the key ideas from the articles that interest us, and we do our own contextualization and learning. It would be foolhardy to try and replicate exactly what the authors were saying. There is no one way to do youth ministry. Even within the same organization, people and generations change often. What works yesterday may not work today. Use this book as a reference book. Use any article as a launchpad to consider our youth ministries. Not all will be applicable, but it is still helpful to know what is happening elsewhere. It keeps us grounded not only in our own churches but aware of what’s happening elsewhere. This is a good resource to have.

Useful Website Resource: www.youthministry.fuller.edu

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.

conrade-yap-headshotDr. Conrade Yap is an Associate Pastor at Lord’s Peace Chapel on the south side of Vancouver. He received a Masters of Divinity from Regent College and completed his doctoral studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. Yap reviews books for a variety of publishers including, Thomas-Nelson and NavPress. Find more of his work at yapdates.blogspot.com and booksaint.blogspot.com.

This post was originally published by booksaint.blogspot.com. This book was provided to Dr. Yap courtesy of Baker Academic and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are his unless otherwise stated or implied.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.