Digging deeper into the ministry of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When you think of the great Christian youth ministers through the ages, you might think about names like Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, or George Müller. But there’s one great Christian thinker whose work with the youth of his day largely goes unnoticed.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is probably best known for his outspoken disillusionment with the Nazi Party in 1940’s Germany, his subsequent death after his imprisonment in a concentration camp, and for his book, Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker: A Theological Vision for Discipleship and Life Together.

But author and professor Andrew Root says Bonhoeffer was uniquely gifted in working with young people. So much so, that Bonhoeffer’s writings and thinking on how to disciple youth needs to be re-examined in a more contemporary, theologically-sound light.

Root has written Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, and he joined Dr. Bill Maier Live! to share more about how everyone can develop a new way of thinking about discipling the youth in our churches and communities.

Quoting Bonhoeffer, Dr. Root says the church shouldn’t be preoccupied with simply growing our youth groups and giving them privileged spaces in the church building:

“The problem with the church is [that] we believe more in the youthful spirit than we do in the Holy Spirit.”

Dr. Root goes on,

“We want young people in our churches. We want their spirit in our churches because youthfulness relates to authenticity. If you have young people in your church you have an authentic, vibrant church.

“We end up kind of chasing youthfulness and youth ministries or contemporary services in church become a way of actually getting youthfulness — the youthful spirit into our church. But I think Bonhoeffer would challenge us and say, ‘are we trusting more in youthfulness to maintain the vitality in our churches, or are we trusting the Holy Spirit?'”

Highlight: Holy Spirit vs. youthful spirit

You can hear the full interview at the top of this post.

Andrew Root, PhD (Princeton Theological Seminary) is the Olson Baalson Associate Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary. He is most recently the author of Christopraxis: A Practical Theology of the Cross (Fortress, 2014) and Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker (Baker, 2014). Andy has worked in congregations, parachurch ministries, and social service programs. He lives in St. Paul with his wife Kara, two children, Owen and Maisy, and their two dogs. When not reading, writing, or teaching, Andy spends far too much time watching TV and movies.

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