Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Growing Souls

I recently finished reading Growing Souls, Mark Yaconelli's follow-up to Contemplative Youth Ministry. I have not read the former book, but from what I can gather, CYM is the theory/ideas of contemplative forms of youth ministry and GS is the practice of that theory.

The book tells the story of a variety of churches participating in a study called the Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project (YMSP) started by Yaconelli and some friends. After laying out the basic tenets of their contemplative approach, each chapter is devoted to one church's story through the lens of a contemplative practice (discernment, sabbath, prayer, etc.). A few of the stories are particularly intriguing, especially the story of a church in Washington who scrapped their plans for a contemplative trip and instead decided to go bowling. The book closes with some interviews with youth workers and students who participated in the project, which are also quite interesting.

While the book is an good resource, it hasn't convinced me to whole-heartedly embrace contemplative youth ministry. It seems that this idea is part of a pendulum swing from the "do more activities; play lots of games; keep students busy" methodology to one that is more...well...contemplative. But it seems that the pendulum swings a bit too far. It's much like going from an all-carb diet to an all-protein diet; to be truly healthy, you need both (and more). I've already incorporated aspects of the concept into the junior high ministry I am leading, like taking times of rest and prayer. But we also balance these with times of in-depth study of Scripture, times of extended worship and communion, and times of just being silly and playing games together. Perhaps I've missed the point of what Yaconelli is trying to do, as I'm sure he would say that contemplative youth ministry is balanced.

Overall, I am intrigued enough to read Yaconelli's first book (not sure why I read them in this order...) and incorporate aspects of contemplative youth ministry into my own. I'm curious to see how junior high students respond to contemplative practices!


  1. Joel, just so you know...I'm expecting you to write your own book on youth ministry. Your views always seem to be so realistic and would be really interesting to hear what you would have to say. :)

  2. Hey Kristy,
    I hope to do so some day, when I'm a bit older and wiser. But thank you for the words of encouragement! And glad to hear your new job is going well!

  3. Joel, I would share one thing that Marc stresses is not so much that the contemplative practices are important to teach your youth (though it is great to do so) but it's important to teach them to the adults working with your youth. I have to admit, I have had much more luck getting the youth to take on these practices than I have the adults that work with me in youth ministry.

  4. Brian-
    That puts a lot of the book into perspective, if seen through the lens of "adults doing contemplative practices while ministering to youth." That actually confused me a bit as I was reading. Were the contemplative practices for youth or for adults, or even for both? Some chapters focused on how adults were using the practices; other focused on the students. Perhaps the title is misleading--maybe it should be contemplative church ministry. Thanks for that insight, I'll have to think about it more in those terms.