Without a doubt, this book has become the most important book in youth ministry according to me. Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church by Kenda Creasy Dean is a must read for anyone who is in ministry with youth in a church setting. Creasy Dean is a professor at Princeton and an ordained minister in the Methodist church. She has also founded the Institute for Youth Ministry at Princeton, which really loves youth workers. That all being said the book is not easy. I read the introduction three times just to make sure that I understood what was going on – and it’s not because of the author’s writing skills, it is because of the immense amount of thought that went into this book on youth ministry. For many of us youth minisiters the deepest book we have ever read is “58 games involving vaseline” – this is a far cry from such fodder. Dean also uses a lot of commas, and I love using commas – I really think it’s a sign of the genius to be able to hold more than one thought at a time.
I loved reading a youth ministry book from a methodist view, especially since I am working now in the Evangelical Church of North America and finding myself drawn to Weslyan theology. Further, the book relies heavily on the work of Jurgen Moltman, who is a practial theologian I first encountered through Tony Jones’ blog. Moltman’s writings, at least the parts I understand, resonate with me. I find myself thinking I might be a Wesleyan/Pratical Theologian, but I am as yet unsure of that that means.
Here are some killer quotes, and I’ll try not to break any copyright laws because there are a lot of killer quotes, and some intriguing questions:
p.2 “Adolescents do not want to suffer, but they do desperately want to love something worthy of suffering, and to be so loved.”
p.4 Drawing from the Wesley brothers: “God’s willing vulnerability in the self-giving love of the Incarnation was a divine posture culminating in death on the cross, not synonymus with it.”
p.9 “For youth, ridding faith of radicalness and transcendence amounted to castration, and rendered Christianity impotent for reordering the self. With nothing left ‘to die for’ in Christian teaching, it became increasingly unclear whether or not Chirstianity offered something worth living for. Mainline churches began to lose track of faith’s claim on identity and, consequently, on youth in the process of identity formation. Without a truth capable of transcending lesser commitments of the self, Christianity became just another side dish in the postmodern cafeteria of personal choice.”
Do we “set aside” youth ministry for pragmatism or do we “set apart” youth ministry for holiness?
p.11 Quoting a teen: “Adolescence is, like, you know, the human condition on steroids.”
p. 26 Quoting Bonhoeffer: “The future of the church does not depend on youth but only on Jesus Christ. The task of young people is not reorganization of the church but listening to God’s Word; the church’s task is not the conquest of young people, but the teaching of the Gospel.”
p.48 (note: Mimesis, a greek word, is like imitating, but is more. According to Creasy Dean, mimesis not only imitates from imagination but also enacts, embodies and becomes. It grafts one through imitation?) “Mimesis of Jesus Christ does not create ‘good teenagers’ or ‘wholesome youth programs.’ It creates radicals and prophets – people who reveal the root of cultural deceits with the searchlight of Christ’s love, and who unmask avaice, violence, rivalry, and smallness…”
Are you merely imitating?
p.61 “What is new for postmodern youth is the growing assumption that this fluctuating self is normative; maturity is no longer necessarily a goal of adolescence…(p.85)…There is little doubt that plural selves are a fact of contemporary life, useful for navigating the multiple roles required by postmodern culture.”
p.73 “If it stays it must be true.”
p.105 “The postmodern inclination to conceptualize truth in terms of paradox – ‘both/and’ rather than ‘either/or’ – embraces the three persons of the Trinity as both the source of estatic unity and the source of differentiated identity…
p.141 has a picture depicting the Trinitarian self in light of the plural self expressed by the postmodern worldview. Buy the book and memorize this picture.
p.199 Quoting Will Willimon: ” ‘When we looked at ‘weird,’ remembers Willimon, ‘we wanted to take it apart, figure it out, explain it. When today’s kids look at ‘weird,’ they want to enjoy it.’ ”
p.250 Quoting Sam George: “Ministry [to youth] in terrorculture will call for a radical discipleship.”
p.254 “The adolescent transformed by God’s passion cannot suppress it or ‘tone it down’ without comprimising the estatic reach of the Holy Spirit. This young person discovers that Christ has made her into someone capable of toppling some of society’s most cherished ideals, beyond the Christian community and even with in it…Conformity, therefore, is never the outcome of Christian practice; oddity is the outcome of Christian practice.”