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2015 Youth Ministry Book of The Year

January 2, 2016

Now that 2015 is in the rear view mirror it is time to look back over the past year and select a youth ministry book of the year based on the way that it impacted the broad field of youth ministry and sparked discussion about time honored assumptions. The clear winner for 2015 was IN SEARCH OF ADOLESCENCE: A NEW LOOK AT AN OLD IDEA by Crystal Kirgiss (2015, Youth Cartel). In this lean 140 page book Dr. Kirgiss who teaches at Purdue University as well as serving in the trenches of youth ministry presents her extensive research about adolescence before the year 1800. In recent years books like Teen 2.0 by Robert Epstein have espoused a view that “adolescence is a modern plague, but there is a cure”.(p.18) The view argues that the idea of a period of time between childhood and adulthood is a recent failed idea tracing its development to the industrialized age and a slew of ideas around 1900. Before this time the argument goes people were fully functioning adults at puberty and all we need to do to eliminate the host of problems in young people 13-25 is treat them like the adults they truly are and always have been if we will only acknowledge it.

Chapter 1 In Search of Adolescence tells the story of how Chaucer s’ Canterbury Tails raised questions in the prevailing view. Chapters 2, 3 & 4 explore how a closer view of Thinkers, Creators (Artists) and Preachers have observed the period of life and cognitive development which we identify as adolescence has been described for centuries in all disciplines. The book includes wonderful historical illustrations as well as a detailed bibliography for further research.

For the past years I must confess to having taught the prevailing view of adolescence. After reading the book and checking out many of the sources listed in the bibliography I am convinced I was wrong and now I teach the outline  and conclusions of the book in my youth ministry curriculum at Colorado Christian University.

Regardless of what perspective you now have on adolescence this book is must reading because it will set the agenda for the ongoing discussion for years to come. That as well as its solid writing, readability and research make it my choice for 2015 Youth Ministry book of the year!

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