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The Fire and Light at the Heart of Youth Ministry

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image of Journal of Youth and Theology

Once scholarly reflection on youth ministry was limited to relatively few research tools, but recently scholars have employed a growing range of modes of analysis. In part, the expanding landscape of research is due to its having been relegated as a form of practical theology, concerned with the contexts of ministry. While this new complexity has undoubtedly advanced the level of critical reflection on youth ministry, the field risks losing its center—the very object of faith. This paper represents a challenge to those theorising youth ministry, not to abandon contextual analysis, but to focus anew on the Christ image as the source of our ministry. A return to a focus on revelation suggests, among other things, attending to theological aesthetics.

Affiliations: 1: C. Ellis Nelson Professor of Christian Education and Methodist Studies, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary,


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1. Bentley-Hart David. The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of the Christian Truth. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.
2. Coleman Lyman. Serendipity: A Mini Course in Personal Relationships. Waco: Creative Resources, 1971.
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8. Smith Christian,, Christoffersen Kari,, Davidson Hilary,, Herzog Patricia Snel. Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood . New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
9. Smith James K.A., "Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-secular Theology". Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004.
10. Stone J. David. Complete Youth Ministries Handbook . Nashville, Abingdon, 1980.
11. Taylor Charles. A Secular Age . World: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 2007.
12. Urs von Balthasar Hans. "The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, Vol. 1 – Seeing the Form". E.t. Edinburgh and San Francisco: 1982–89.
13. Weil Simone,. Waiting for God . Trans. Craufurd Emma,, introd. Fiedler Leslie A.. New York: Harper & Row, 1951.

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