Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry: From a Strategy of Influence to a Theology of Incarnation
by Andrew Root
Relational youth ministry, also known as incarnational ministry, can feel like a vicious cycle of guilt: "I should be spending time with kids, but I just don't want to." The burden becomes heavy to bear because it is never over; adolescents always seem to need more relational bonds, and once one group graduates there is a new group of adolescents who need relational contact.
It may be that the reason these relationships have become burdensome is that they have become something youth workers do, rather than something that youth workers enter into.
In Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry, Andrew Root explores the origins of a dominant ministry model for evangelicals, showing how American culture has influenced our understanding of the incarnation. Drawing from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose work with German youth in troubled times shaped his own understanding of how Jesus intersects our relationships, Root recasts relational ministry as an opportunity not to influence the influencers but to stand with and for those in need. True relational youth ministry shaped by the incarnation is a commitment to enter into the suffering of all, to offer all those in high school or junior high the solidarity of the church.