Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Youth Ministry

Today I wish to direct your attention to a post from Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed.  His starting point is what happens when ministry turns from the “phraseological” to the “real”, that is, when ministry turns from pastor as teacher/dispenser of information and wisdom and the congregation as empty minds waiting to be filled, to pastor as guide/mentor for the congregation to discover God at work in their lives and theology as distinctly tied to real life as lived by the congregation.

McKnight zeroes in on the specific case of youth ministry.  Quoting liberally from Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker by Andrew Root, he looks at how Bonhoeffer’s approach to youth ministry during his time as a Sunday school teacher at Abyssinian Baptist in New York City moved youth ministry from the “phraseological” to the “real”.  He then moves on to quote Bonhoeffer’s theses on youth work and the Church.  These are prophetic words which a youth-obsessed modern evangelicalism would do very well to heed.  Here are some of the big-money quotes:

…the spirit of youth is not the Holy Spirit and that the future of he church is not youth itself but rather the Lord Jesus Christ alone. It is the task of youth not to reshape the church, but rather to listen to the word of God; it is the task of the church not to capture the youth, but to teach and proclaim the word of God.


Youth enjoys no special privilege in the church-community. It is to serve the church-community by hearing, learning, and practicing the word. God’s spirit in the church has nothing to do with youthful criticism of the church, the radical nature of God’s claim on human beings nothing to do with youthful radicalism, and the commandment for sanctification nothing to do with youthful impulse to better the world. “Christian” [and] “youth’ is a rather harsh and not very credible word combination. The issue is not ‘modern” or “old fashioned,” but rather solely our thinking concerning and from the perspective of the church.

Read “What Happens to Church Ministry When…?” by Scot McKnight