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When God Shows Up: A History of Protestant Youth Ministry In America

June 11, 2013

There is no better scholar than Dr. Mark H. Senter III from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School to undertake the enormous task of writing When God Shows Up: the history of Protestant youth ministry in America. The work is part of the Youth, Family, and Culture Series edited by Chap Clark (Baker Academic, 2010) and at 363 pages including the well written index it is not “light reading”. Dr. Senter uses the theme of jazz and pop cultural references in the chapter introductions to cover almost 200 years of trends, movements and personalities. The work begins however with an essential “context” section dealing with the diversity of experiences of “youth” in America, the background and develepment of both the term and reality behind “adolescence”, cycles in history and changing spirituality in the arena of youth ministry. The chronological development of youth ministry trends are then explored, Associations (1824-75), Societies (1881-1925), Relational Outreach (1933-89) and closing with Fusion (1990-Beyond). If you have wondered how the practices of youth ministry developed over the years to what we do every Wednesday night or if you have ever wondered about interconnections between “famous youth workers” or youth ministry organizations or if you know that the only way to really be able to gaze in the future of youth ministry is to explore its past then this book is must reading for you as it was for me. I attacked this book differently than most other I have read recently in that I went straight through to the excellent index and read piecemeal the references to friends that were mentioned, organizations I am/have been a served with, or events I have been a part of. Then having satisfied my basic curiosity I went back to the beginning and read limiting myself to 15 pages a day so I could really reflect and process what I read. Having finished the book I am now taking a fellow youth minister I am involved in mentoring through the book again a section at a time. How impressed am I with this book? Next semester I plan on teaching a YTM 497 Special topics class on the History of Youth Ministry just so I can use the book as the centerpiece of the course. It is fantastic for upper division undergraduate youth ministry students and in my opinion absolutely mandatory reading for students in a graduate youth ministry program. Thanks Mark for first doing the research for your dissertation and then crafting it into such a worthwhile book for us all to share now and in the future!

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