Review: Taking the Cross to Youth Ministry, Andrew Root

by James Fawcett June 30, 2014 A

This is a review of the second instalment of Root’s quartet of books which offer a theology of youth ministry. The review of the first book is here.

Too often in youth ministry, we have stayed on the surface, lacking the theological imagination or desire to think beyond simple functionality of the cross

pg 75

Root continues to follow Nadia, the fictional youth worker, working in a church in America. In this book she is writing a talk for a local youth camp. Her subject is the cross. As with the first book it does take a while to get to the ‘meat’ of the book and we spend the first half this book in Nadia’s mind and in her fictional youth group. Another difficulty is that Root conveys a large volume of theology, thought and doctrine through Nadia, and so she becomes unbelievably knowledgeable, and I’m afraid a little irritating! If you can ignore this, the device still aids the reader in grasping some relatively  complex thinking. 

Root offers some thought provoking insightful comment on the theology of the cross and it application in working with young people, his basic premise is that we continue to separate what Root identifies as the 2 main purposes of the cross:  justification and revelation. Root argues that those in youth ministry, rarely talk about or even acknowledge the 2nd element, that is that God reveals God’s self to us through the cross.

In youth ministry we tend to see the cross about justification. Jesus takes our sin to the cross, so that we might be forgiven… This focus on justification has led us to practices like having kids write their sins on index cards and then nail them to a wooden cross… Such illustrations seem to ignore the doctrine of revelation, which concerns how and where God makes Godself known in our world… When we don’t talk enough about how the cross reveals who God is and where and how God acts, it becomes a masochistic incident that in some abstract way forgives kids for all the bad things they’ve done…

Pg 70, 71

He goes on explain the attraction of focusing on justification over revelation:

…it makes sense that youth ministry would historically be drawn to this kind of atonement theory, since we too have often assumed that the primary goal of youth ministry is making kids moral so they will behave like good (Christian) kids.

Pg 100

Root concludes by looking at what and how we might help young people to engage with the revelation of God through the cross and what this revelation says to their understanding of God, and themselves. As with the first book the themes of honesty and reflection run through: honest questions and struggles are where you meet God in his struggle, on the cross.

Her job wasn’t to bring kids to the cross of Christ, but instead to recognize how the cross was already present through their brokenness and yearning

Pg 119

Overall I think Root proves himself again as a mater of explaining  complex and deep theology in an accessible and relevant way. Root again suggests reading this in one or two sittings, if I was reading this again I would take more time over the second half, Root gives us plenty of food for thought.

It will be interesting to read the 3rd, and I’ll be back here to tell you what I thought in a few weeks. In the meantime tell us what you thought of this book, or any others you would recommend on the Concrete site.