Following Bonhoeffer’s “vision for youth ministry, the paid youth worker’s job — her ministry to and for the young of the church — is to remind the church that there is no privileged space for its children; its children must be take into its life. Would the youth go with 20 of their peers to serve on a local mission trip?
We have to do everything we can to instill within them Christlike values…” (so they might remain in the church when they are older). Our instincts told us that in order to keep the youth in church, we ought to treat them like they are special, hire their own staff, feed them curriculum designed specifically for their age groups, and send them to serve in places with only their peers.Bonhoeffer’s eight theses have a lot to teach Christians today, especially as we struggle to help young people hold on to their faith during the transition from adolescence to adulthood.At a time when many are concerned about the “rise of the nones” and young people “drifting away” from faith, Bonhoeffer has much wisdom to offer.Perhaps Bonhoeffer’s theses would get lost in the youth ministry of the 21st century. Or maybe Bonhoeffer’s understanding of youth ministry is just the thing we need.Maybe it is time to follow the opposite of your instincts. from Candler School of Theology, a passion for reading all things by Richard Rohr, and a love for Stranger Things.but rather, What is the church-community and what is the place of youth within it?” If Bonhoeffer were speaking to a group of youth ministers today, I believe he would re-articulate his second thesis with language more akin to George Costanza: whatever your instincts tell you…do the opposite. When we make youth ministry its own thing, apart from the rest of the church, apart from the rest of the body, we are doing more harm than good.There, resting at the end of Volume 12 of the “Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works,” hidden in an appendix, was “Eight Theses on Youth Work.” Nobody knows when Bonhoeffer wrote this short essay, but it was clearly a major part of his most consistent pastoral experience.It’s hard for many to believe, but Bonhoeffer spent his entire pastoral ministry, from 1925 to 1939, with either children or youth. And he wrote these theses toward the end of that period, after years of experience with young people, and writing other theological essays and books.For a while, I thought it was like the Loch Ness monster or Sasquatch.People said it existed, but I’d never seen it, and nobody was able to tell me how I could.