Like an erratic rash that seems to clear up to only return, an old debate has resurfaced once again in discussions of Protestant youth ministry. This debate surrounds the very nature of adolescence. What is it? And where did it come from? The tension is between those that assert that adolescence is a social construction of Western modern societies and those that see it as a universal biological reality. In other words, to put it crudely, the questions of debate consist in these, “Are adolescents created from the forces of culture or the powers of natural biological determinism? Is it industrialization, secondary education, and consumer society that make adolescence? Or is adolescence just the natural stage of an organism that everyone, across time and space, has moved through?” read more
Sometimes our jobs in youth ministry seem close to impossible. Most of us assume we’re given these young people with fragile faith. Someone, somehow, has communicated to us in some indirect way that it is our job to project these delicate balloons. The good youth worker is the person who is able to get young people through high school (and then college) with their balloons of faith intact.
A few months ago a very nice person approached me and thanked me for writing my book The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry. I was moved by their kind words. The person then said, keeping the conversation going, “I was thankful for the book because I’ve been saying for years that we just need to get kids to read Paul Tillich.” I stopped for a second, assuming the person was kidding, but inside the awkward few second of silence it became clear there was no jest in this remark. So I asked, “Why Tillich?” Confidently the person responded, “Because kids need theology!”