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Andrew Root on What is Youth Ministry For?

In this episode, Andy Root explores how narrative and joy spark the imagination and provide a framework to minister in Christ and for young people in deeply formative ways.

See all episodes in Season 3

Episode Transcript:

Host 00:01

Welcome to Public Worship and the Christian Life, a podcast by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. In this series of conversations, we invite you to explore connections between the public worship practices of congregations and the dynamics of Christian life and witness in a variety of contexts. Our conversation partners represent many areas of expertise and a range of Christian traditions offering insights to challenge us as we discern the shape of faithful worship and witness in our own communities. In season three, we focus on congregational ministry with and among youth by exploring five themes: youth agency, theological questions, the role of families and parents, intergenerational community, and multiple pathways for youth. 

Kristen Verhulst 01:04

Andy, thanks so much for joining me today on the podcast. I’m delighted to welcome you, and for our listeners, you are a professor and the Carrie Olson Baalson Chair of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. So welcome to you. 

Andrew Root 01:23

Thanks. It's great to be with you. Thanks for having me. 

Kristen Verhulst 01:25

I am delighted to talk with you today about a recent book. You're the author of many, but this one came out about a year ago: The End of Youth Ministry?: Why Parents Don't Really Care About Youth Groups and What Youth Workers Should Do About It. So I wonder, before we jump into there, why don't you tell us just a little bit about yourself, a little more about who you are and what you teach and do there at Luther Seminary? 

Andrew Root 01:53

I think before we were recording I told you I've been here sixteen years, and it always gets caught in my throat when I say that because I think of myself as a very young man. I think, “How could a 24-year-old have been teaching for sixteen years?” But I've been here for a while now—and I'm not 24, just so your listeners aren’t freaking out Googling. I'm closer to double that. So I'm seasoned now. So we have a pretty big what we call a children, youth, and family program here that I've been overseeing for more than a decade, teaching and writing on the convergence of theology and ministry and always having an advocacy and a focus on young people. I think young people are really obviously important to reflect on and to honor, but also I think it's a place where people doing ministry with young people are really open to thinking big thoughts and think creatively. So it's been a really nice little laboratory to try to think big questions around ministry and theology and cultural philosophy and things like that. So it's been a good place to be. It's allowed me to reach across a number of disciplines and have the space to try to think. So yeah, it's been great. 

Kristen Verhulst 03:19

Wonderful. So tell us the story behind this book. Why did you write it? 

Andrew Root 03:25

Well, most books I write, the story behind them is, I'm a masochist, is usually why. I usually tell people—and my wife can confirm this—I'm miserable when I'm working on a project, but I'm more miserable when I'm not, so I just keep writing. But this one I think of all the books I've written is an outlier because it was an assignment, for the most part. It was part of Yale Divinity School and their Center for Faith and Culture, a big Templeton grant that they had on human flourishing and joy in human flourishing, and there was because of really talented and passionate people that were part of that grant—particularly Skip Masback, who has had a major advocacy for young people and has been on the board at Yale Divinity School and has kind of helped fundraise and just been a real advocate for the center there, and Skip's always had a real interest in young people—a big piece of that grant was focused on young people and trying to think about joy and what malforms joy in young people. And so I was part of that group as well as a steering committee of a larger part of that group. And so one of the outputs of that grant, as you well know, working on mini-grants, one of the things you tell the foundation you're going to do is to write a book. And then I was told at one meeting that I would be the one who would write the book. So it started as a kind of adoption, if you will, or maybe a better way to say it is it was a prearranged marriage or a prearranged partnership. And eventually I fell in love with it. And so it wasn't just getting the assignment done at the end, it was something that was born out of a deep passion, and I feel like I really own it. But originally I was told, you'll be doing this. And I have a hard time saying no to Skip, so I said yes. 

Kristen Verhulst 05:22

So an assignment, but it's a very unique style. So I wonder if you could just say a bit about that, especially for those who haven’t picked the book up yet.

Andrew Root 05:32

Yeah, it's an insane style, to be completely honest. The elevator speech of what this book is about or how it was going to be written, I think people did think that I had fallen on ice in Minnesota and concussed myself, or that I was just insane. In a larger frame, what I try to do with my work is I always strive towards the concrete in some way. And so there's a lot of different ways practical theologians do that or people who really care about addressing context and maybe doing more than just looking at historical realities or looking at history of doctrine or something of that, but people who really want to focus on concrete realities. There's multiple ways to do that, to do empirical research and to do interviews and things like that. But I've kind of taken on this genre, I suppose, and I don't know if it's smart or not, to be honest, where I often from conversations with people and particularly interviews, though my interviewing, I would say, isn’t scientific like a social scientist. It's more like a screenwriter who went on a drive-along with a police officer to write Training Day or something. So I did interview parents for this, but ultimately, the style is a kind of what I call a Kierkegaardian parable. So it's a story, and it even gets more insane than that because I tell it through flashbacks, so there's not a linear frame of time within this. So I think at least for coherence’s sake, it worked. I don't know how much people like it or not, but for coherence’s sake, I think it worked. But it could have been an utter dumpster fire of incoherence. So it's written as a story, so there's a story of a youth pastor who kind of has an awakening, and develops this story. And again, it's all based in real life, but I've kind of spun it for myself. So I think—you can remind me, but I think the youth pastor's name is J, right? So Kierkegaard has this parable where he has someone whose name is A, and so originally in the first draft it was A to kind of be a callback to Kierkegaard. And then my editor was like, “That is so confusing, because when you start the sentence with A we don't know if it's “A dog” or “A” person, so we just changed it to J.” But that was the idea. Kierkegaard uses these weird parables, and I don't know if it worked or not. 

Kristen Verhulst 08:08

It did work. It was very engaging. What have you been learning from your readers? What has been the feedback? 

Andrew Root 08:15

I think this book tries to cover a lot of ground. First of all, the title is very clickbaity, very much so. And I have to say that it wasn't my title, The End of Youth Ministry. It was the marketing team at Baker who came up with this great title. But I will say that my contribution was the question mark at the end because I didn't want anyone mad at me. So I could be like, Well, maybe it's the end of youth ministry; maybe it's not. So I'm hiding behind the question mark a little bit, but then the subtitle, I feel a little worried about it offering more direct, practical help than it probably does. And so the book is covering a lot of ground around thinking about cultural philosophy on the front end and how are parents making decisions about what a good life is, and why does it feel like those who are overseeing youth ministries, or really just church ministry in general, why do they feel like everything's more important than religious involvement, than church involvement? So the first half of the book is really trying to explore that, and the second half is trying to dive into a theology of joy, which you can see that the grant is on, but it’s really looking at how identity is formed and trying to get into some elements of that and how faith formation happens in that way. So what I'm getting from my readers, or what I talk about most with readers and others, is the first half of the book and really thinking about why everything is more important than church and trying to try to name that and frame that. And we're able to get to some of the heavier theological lifting that happens later in the book. But it feels like right now in a larger zeitgeist and particularly coming off of a pandemic that I think all pastors, all ministers, all Christian leaders have a deep fear of what's going to happen as things are fully open. I think in some places we’re there, but others we’re not. And what happens six months, eight months after the pandemic is really in our rearview mirror? So those questions become really fertile ones. And in the book did come out in March or April 2020, so it was prophetic, and we didn't think the title was going to be prophetic, but literally in most places around the world, youth ministry ended when the book came out, so I felt like if I could have, I would have gotten on the plane and flown to Vegas and bet a lot of money because somehow I picked the exact time of this book really is when the youth ministry would end, and it did end for for a lot of people, for three, four, five months. . . . And while I think some other ministries in the church could keep going through more online ways, the youth group particularly, I think, was really difficult. Between March and October, November of the next fall, 2020 was not a good year for youth ministry. 

Kristen Verhulst 11:24

I'd like to move now your book alongside the work we're doing here at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, and especially in the area of youth and young people. And we're asking a lot of questions about five key themes. So I wonder if we could start with this theme of youth agency. I wonder, as you worked your way through this book, but also the overall research and scholarship that you do, what are you learning about the agency in youth to form their faith or to grapple with the church? 

Andrew Root 12:03

Well, I think there's kind of two elements that come up in this book that I do think is more of the heavy theological lifting or maybe other than the kind of cultural interpretation, which I hope is helpful for people, the more constructive edge that comes around agency is one, to say that we have a certain overwhelming sense of young people's agency that I think is misinformed, particularly in our cultural context, that we think 11- or 12-year-olds, maybe 10-year-olds, can just choose their own identities, that they somehow look internally and have a sense of what they feel like they are. Maybe they watch some YouTube videos or something, but at some point they broadcast, they take the active agency of broadcasting to the world in one way or another, This is me. And we think the origin of that assertion, even that proclamation, comes almost completely and fully internally in that it's felt that way. And this book is placed within a much larger work I've been doing around Charles Taylor and Taylor's articulation that we live in an age of authenticity where the highest good is for people to find their most authentic way of being human. That comes up in this book as well. And I do think it's really hard, particularly for parents, particularly for middle-class parents, which is the kind of focus of this book, how do you pass on values? How do you pass on character? How does your own agency as a parent engage the agency of your child when if you push too hard you violate the age of authenticity? And I think there's a deep sense of maybe the most immoral thing you can do to your child is to impose your own will on their will or particularly, impose your identity and their identity, or not give them the freedom to really stretch their wings or reach for whatever identity they want to have. Particularly in mainline churches I do see a little bit of this misinformed sense of agency, which is that we just need to listen to young people and then respond to whatever they say, which in some ways just takes on a certain kind of flavor of consumerist response to the market to make sure you win affiliation over. But I do think there's another form of agency that is more helpful, and this whole book is really making an articulation through Taylor that our identities are always based in narratives and stories. And so I do think that the church has to be really clear on what we mean by agency, and I do think every human being—and I think these are the good elements at the age of authenticity—that every human being has a right to articulate the narrative they live inside of and find that narrative and press it into their own being and become part of their own life. So I don't want to give young people the idea that agency works in a vacuum, and they're not given something. But I do think at some point that story has to find its way into their own being, into their own way of understanding themselves, into their own, as Taylor calls it, strong evaluations, the way they evaluate what's good in their life. I do think that's one of the interesting things about middle-class families that maybe the pandemic revealed is that we do a lot of stuff, and we never really know why we do it, like a lot of different sports, a lot of different musical instruments. There's just a lot of different activities or things, as I call it in the book. There's a lot of different things that they're involved in, but there's very rarely an opportunity for someone to invite a certain form of agency that's a storytelling that says, Why is this important to you? How is this connected to what you think the good life is, or having your kids involved in an advanced basketball team that plays nine months a year and is going to play a hundred games this year: how is that connected to the good life? Or to ask young people, Why is basketball such an important part of your life? There's a certain way where we don't provide the kind of spaces necessary to have those conversations, and I think that's the kind of narrative-based agency that has a certain direction toward what is good and what does it mean to live well. That is, I think, what I learned most from this book. 

Kristen Verhulst 16:46

You anticipated my next question, which is, have you seen examples of congregations or worshiping communities that have created spaces or ways of being with young people where they really guided a desire to ask deep theological questions that help get into these questions of identity and formation? You said “spaces.” . . . How can we be with young people so they really want to ask deep questions? 

Andrew Root 17:17

It seems like, well, let's just give them space and let it happen, but it doesn't always really work that way. And I think that's part of the challenge. And so this is a hard piece because I think across our cultural landscape right now, storytelling has become a very hip thing. You can listen to NPR and there's a storytelling session, and we think people telling their story is really . . . it's just become a very hip thing. And so I want to be careful that we go deeper than that. But I do think that the first step with young people, if there is a deep sense— and in the book, I really try to articulate how storytelling becomes really important and maybe how it happens inside a church community—but I think if you just create space and say, “OK, young people, now tell your story, tell us a story,” even if you have a great story prompt, like “Tell us a time when you felt lost without a way forward” or something. I don't even think that's a good prompt, but you get my point, that if you had a good prompt, usually you're going to get a lot of blank stares. And I think particularly with young people, they have to hear a lot of stories before they can tell a lot of stories. And I think that becomes the first move. In the congregations that I've seen that have done a really good job of this, they really see the youth ministry as just exposing young people to stories, to expose them to adults within the congregation and others who are really wrestling with the faith and really trying to think the Christian tradition alongside their direct questions. I find this in the classroom, too, that the only way you can learn to think theologically or to have these narratives start to embed themselves in your own being is to watch someone else do it. And so I partly think in the youth workers, youth pastors that I know who are doing such good work, a big piece of what they see as their job is finding adults within the congregation and calling them into telling young people their stories. And often stories that are right in the process, you know, not stories that have a nice three-point arc that are all wrapped up in “happily ever after,” but are really stories that are right in the middle of people wrestling with sick children or spouses who are struggling with cancer, and they are reading scripture and they're praying and they've had experiences of God's presence within that. And then I think it's good, to go back to your agency question, I think partly it's hearing those stories. And then the real place to ask young people's agency is to say, What do you make of that? What do you make of eighty-two year old Beverly really, truly believed and believes that when she prayed for her husband and said the Apostles’ Creed and prayed the Lord's Prayer that she could feel angels with her in the hospital room as she prayed for her husband. What do you make of that? Do you think that's true? Ask them to interpret that story, and what does it mean for what we think a human life is and how God acts in the world, if this is true or if it isn't true, how do we make sense of that? So the agency not only to hear stories but then interpret them. But I often think we go the other way. We're like, OK, young people, tell your stories. Then no one interprets it, and it just kind of sits there and either is a performative, really meaningful story that gave me all the feels, made me feel something. But I think the movement in the end into formation is to learn to hear stories as much as tell them and then to ask the question, What does this mean? What purchase does this have on our lives? And what does it say about what a human life is? What does it say about who God is? The agency of asking young people to have to start interpreting those stories, I think is really powerful. 

Host 21:35

You are listening to Public Worship and the Christian Life: Conversations for the Journey, a podcast produced by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Check out our website at for resources related to this topic and many other aspects of public worship. 

Kristen Verhulst 22:03

Right in the middle of the book, you have a chapter on three sets of parents. And I think we all know adults are key to the lives of young people, but especially parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, but talk just a bit here about parents. Any particular insights to the parents who really do struggle with knowing . . . who feel like, Oh, my kid is losing their faith, or why isn't my 18-year-old who went off to college, why did they stop going to church? What are you learning about the role of parents and even how parents can navigate these times as their children are growing up, growing older, and into this emerging adult stage? 

Andrew Root 22:57

The one thing that was overwhelming (and again, my sample of people I talk to is not representative in any way)—I'm really clear on this in the book that I'm really talking about middle-class phenomena, and one of the reasons I'm talking about that is often youth groups are embedded in middle-class churches. So that's part of the reason. The other reason is that Protestant youth ministry as we know it is a middle-class phenomenon. It's a post-World War II middle-class phenomenon. And so that means that it needs to be critiqued in some ways. And I'm hopeful that critiquing the middle-class phenomena also opens up space for us to learn from folks who are outside the middle class. And yet so often there's just a kind of unthought assertion that youth ministry equals this kind of multi-staffed, big-enough-budget-to-have-a-youth-room kind of ministry, which then means all those experiences of people who are classically outside the suburbs of the middle class are . . . that's not really youth ministry, and I'm trying to crack that open and say, Well, let's look at this, and we just do need to be more explicit about how much Protestant post-World War II congregational-based youth ministry is a kind of middle-class phenomenon for some good and for a lot of ill. But one of the elements that I picked up from a more social scientific perspective—I think there's a footnote in the book, but she probably deserved a deeper conversation—is Annette Lareau's work called Unequal Childhoods, where she looks at the difference in parenting style between middle-class and and working-class parents, and calls middle-class parenting “concerted cultivation,” that there's this concerted effort to cultivate something in your kid, where working-class parents in her framework tend to use more natural consequences. And you just go out in the world and you figure it out, and I support you in certain ways, but you figure it out; you're not going before and trying to cultivate things—“Do you like this sport or that sport? Will this sport get you where you want to go?”, being there every step of the way. And I think what I learned from talking to parents is that there is just an overwhelming—and it really goes across any religious affiliation, from really conservative evangelicals to mainliners, who are committed to a confirmation program but also really committed to just traveling together and hunting with their family, to no religious affiliation at all and haven't been in the church in a decade, these three sets of parents in many ways from a faith perspective, I mean, they were all I guess in some ways Protestant, but they were really different on that Protestant continuum. And yet they all use the same language of trying to help their kids find their thing. What is our kids’ thing? How do we help them figure that out? And there was a deep sense that it was their job to have a concerted effort to cultivate that in their kid. So one of the issues becomes, well, where does the church fit into that, and where does the youth ministry fit into that? And usually among a kind of catalog of other activities, other things that you are cultivating for your kid, whether that's driver's ed or that's violin or it's lacrosse, they're also thrown in the mix. It's a thing among other things, is the youth group. There are all these activities that cost some energy, that take some time, that you think are good, that you actually think are quite good. In some ways, we'd be better off if parents didn't think that they were good. Then you at least get to say “Why?” when now they're just assumed to be good. But when there becomes a conflict of time, like volleyball tryouts or ninth grade confirmation retreat? Well, we’ve got to do volleyball. I mean, it just becomes obvious that it's volleyball tryouts. And usually there's this sense in churches that it's really clear that the youth ministry falls down the scale of that catalog of other activities, other things, and that parents are cultivating a concerted effort to be involved in these things. How would we kind of shine up our youth ministry or our church involvement so it was just as important as swimming or, for goodness gracious, just as important as driver’s ed. How could we do that? And I guess I just feel like that's a losing proposition. And . . . I think that there's a deep phenomenon here, but one of the reasons that young people become disaffiliated when they go to college is that the youth ministry was a thing amongst other things, usually something that parents really thought was worth, even though it was down the list, being part of your life as a concerted way to keep you a good kid or just to add some kind of religious literacy to your life. But it was never really an ingrained story of why life is good and why it's necessary and what is a human life and how we do need something outside of us and more transcendent to make life meaningful. And so there is a certain danger that the better these Protestant youth ministries are—and by “better” I mean, the kind of shinier they are, the more they look like a thing that can compete with other things—the more that they actually are quite poisonous on the inside. I mean, that's a really dramatic way of saying it, but I think we keep on wondering, like, oh my gosh, I took my kid to the best youth ministry in the whole county, and then this doesn't matter when they're 19 or 20. And again, there's a lot of different reasons for that, and some of the anxieties maybe shouldn't be directed to where they're directed. But there's also a sense that—I don't want to be too dramatic, but there's a little Trojan horse here too, to kind of compete for the concerted cultivating objectives of middle-class parents that you actually take on a ministry that has, to quote Charles Taylor, a close spin embedded into it, has a sense of closing the world down and not inviting a generation of people to be seekers to search and to wonder and to think that there may be real visions and invitations in the tradition and in a worshiping community and in sacred texts to seek for something really significant. 

Kristen Verhulst 29:51

I love how you talk about breaking open imagination or vision, and one of the key values in our work here in the worshiping community is an idea of an intergenerational worshiping body. And so I wonder if that is just one practice that can break open a more healthy, imaginative vision of the Christian life is when you're worshiping with all the generations rather than saying, OK, youth, you go over there and do your worship; adults, you go there; and kids, we're going to put you in the wonderful children's wing. What have you been learning about intergenerational worship engagement? 

Andrew Root 30:35

Yeah, I think it's absolutely necessary. There's been a big push, I think, for the last decade of youth ministry people particularly thinking that this is really important. And what I would add to it is what's so important is not just that your calendar of your programs has these intergenerational elements to them, but that these intergenerational spaces become invitations for narration and for confession of the Christian story for young people and not-so-young people to be praying together. You know, we usually even think with our intergenerational stuff, well, we really do need older people to pray for young people because they're dealing with all of this that; where I think in some ways it needs to go the other direction too is that we adults need to be prayed for by young people. And what does it mean to create spaces for us to be prayed for by them—and by children, not even just adolescents? How do we invite children to pray for the church, to pray for us? I do think the church is one of the only . . . in late-modern, hyperly consumer society, the church is—this is a little bit of an overstatement, but the church is one of the only collectives in our society that is fundamentally intergenerational and allows for the possibility for those intergenerational connections to be about little more than just being with and for each other in a narrated space, a space where we tell our stories and particularly dwell together on the story of the God of Israel and the God who raises Jesus from the dead. There may be places in sports and things like that where there's intergenerational spaces for people to tell stories, like your coach tells you why working hard at shooting three thousand three-pointers a day will really help you advance in your basketball career, or how having a bad loss can make you a better person or a better father in the future. That's all great, but those collectives are not inherently and fundamentally narratival. They don't have their life in narrative, but the church does. Obviously, the church has its life and the encounter that can only be made sense of their narrative with the living Jesus Christ. And then the continued narratives of the disciples in the community. The community now is trying to make sense of our lives inside of this confession of a living God, inside the reality that we that we live and we love and we suffer and we die, and trying to make sense of life that way. And yet we hope for something more. 

Kristen Verhulst 33:38

I love in my own church the baptism days, when the pastor encourages especially the young kids to come up front so they can see this story up close and personal and watch this introduction to the faith happen and experience together. It's a beautiful moment. So the last chapter is titled “Holding Vigil,” and it struck me that it's an example of this idea of different pathways to offer and expose young people to the life of the worshiping community. And I wonder, are there other unique or surprising examples of these different pathways that you've seen pastors or youth leaders bringing young people along, inviting them to experience? 

Andrew Root 34:39

That last chapter is a thought experiment, and I've seen some of those practices done, but yeah, it's a definite thought experiment, and one of the things I wonder about it, and I would love to have people do it and see how it works, but the way I frame that last chapter is that people put their phones in one of these bags that they use at comedy shows and things like that, and just put their phones away. And there's something about the ritualized process of this and being away from your phones. . . . And we talk about being prayed for by young people, the practice of being prayed for and things like that, and there's just an overall sense of rest and this deep sense of why it's called “Holding Vigil” is this sense of not being too concerned about who isn't there or why they're not there, but just gathering in these practices to remember and pray for those who right now are too busy to be there or have these other things they're invested in, to hold those . . . I do think that this is the individualistic kind of frame here, like, Well, we're trying to load our own kid up with all sorts of things that will produce resources, that will let them live their individual dream, and there are very few links between all the catalog of other activities I've had. Or maybe the church's job is not to be judgmental about those things, but to say that we want to integrate those into the larger story of what we think existence is and how we think God acts in the world. So if you can't come, that's fine. But we're going to hold the space for you. We're going to pray for you, for whatever you're doing, and it'll be great for us to know what you're doing, not so we can be like, why is that more important than church, but so that we can really support and pray for you. I've seen that happen in certain ways where the objective is really just to help young people integrate these larger stories into their lives. It's part of the real challenge, I think, in late modernity; the integration of all this stuff becomes really difficult, which makes even this whole narrative base potentially impossible because how do you even have time to integrate anything because everything is going so fast? 

Kristen Verhulst 37:13

And to learn this value of being present in the moment. 

Andrew Root 37:18

Yes, absolutely. 

Kristen Verhulst 37:20

And a deep sense of centering yourself now and not always, What's the next thing? And I think that's partly too when we gather to worship, that is what God is calling us to do: be present now in the moment with me. 

Andrew Root 37:41

To actually be where our bodies are, which is something that I think late-modern people have a hard time doing. Our bodies are in one location, but we're thinking, OK, what do I have to do after this? And how do we figure out Monday morning? And am I putting enough money in my retirement? You're always thinking ahead, and that does really compress the present and in some ways makes the present a really inhospitable place. And yet I think the core of worship is you're called to be in this moment, to be present here with your body, to be where your body is. I think we see it in a huge uptick in adolescent depression and anxiety. And part of it is that; part of it is that you are now a performing self who has to be always kind of perfecting a performance. And if you're doing that in such a world of so many contingencies and so many people watching through social media, then you really should be always thinking ahead to make sure you don't get embarrassed and that you don't fail. That's just a lot of anxiety for all of us to bear. 

Kristen Verhulst 38:53

Let's take our conversation back to the beginning and your phrase “What is youth ministry for? Youth Ministry is for joy.” So what would be some closing words you’d give to those who are listening today, especially to pastoral leaders who have a wonderful opportunity to influence and lead young people in their congregations? 

Andrew Root 39:15

To say that youth ministry is for joy, which, this is maybe one of the problems of the book as it goes; it becomes about a lot of stuff. In a lot of ways, it becomes about prayer, and it becomes about holding vigil for each other, and it becomes about the constitution of friendship; it becomes about a lot of things. But ultimately it becomes about joy. But the way I think about joy is I do kind of echo C.S. Lewis being surprised by joy. You can't really control joy. Joy is the emotive expression of what it feels like to discover that there is life after death or there's life through death or that death is overcome with life, or impossibility overcome with a new possibility. The only response to that is joy and gratitude and gratitude as joy. One of the critiques of this book is . . . the parable all revolves around somebody in J's church getting sick and that really upending what she used to think youth ministry is for. So it can feel a little bit like, Well, I'm just supposed to wait around until someone gets sick in my church? And my point is kind of, yeah, you are. I mean, let's hope no one gets sick, but I think a big piece of ministry is to practice, to narrate, and to be together in friendship and joy and trust that there will become moments where we'll be pulled deeply into life for each other. There will be deep moments of confession, deep moments where we encounter the presence of God, often where it seems like God is absent, like in a sick high school student. But that will be an invitation to participate in the cross for the sake of God moving, pointing and witnessing to the resurrection. I guess what I would really say, especially coming out of this pandemic, is it really is just OK to be, and to be together. And it really is OK not to go into this thinking, OK, now I’ve got to come up with a storytelling program that really gets these stories there, but just to create the conditions within the community of friendship and of rest and to know as human beings, as particularly language-animal human beings, that the stories will come. And part of your job is to be in the present enough to recognize that something profound is breaking forth here, that the Spirit is moving, and to be attentive to that. So I think we do have a great restart here with coming out of the pandemic. And I think for youth ministry people it's to maybe slow down a little bit and to try to be more than have. Part of the problem is that youth group has been feeling like, How do we have more families’ time? How do we have more participation? And maybe instead we just need to find ways of being and being together? 

Kristen Verhulst 42:29

Andy Root, thank you so much for talking with me today. 

Andrew Root 42:34

Oh, it was great. Thanks. 

Host 42:37

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