This will be the final installment of the Youth Cartel Book Reviews. (Although from the looks of it, there will be more books to review coming this fall!) This was one of the best books and the most recent read. Enjoy!
Just a reminder, here is the outline for the book reviews:
Intro– Where was I as I read this book, context, life, etc.
Summary– Trying my best to be short and sweet to summarize the book as a whole (we’ll see how long this gets).
Quote– I’ll pull a couple of different quotes and expound on them.
Conclusion– This will be different than the summary as I will reflect on why this book should be read.
This book was delivered to me around the time I was in transition to my new position. In fact I believe I was in my first week or month at First Lutheran when I started to read it. It came at the perfect time as I was engaging with how to set up a ministry and connect it with my own desire to connect the gifts and beauty of each youth in a unique way with their faith. This book has framed much of my conversations with parents and families regarding the ongoing process of faith formation, specifically through our ministries with Confirmation.
In a nutshell, this book takes a look at desire, specifically the desires our youth have and connecting them in meaningful ways to their faith. This really does flip the script on how we approach youth ministry! Instead of looking at the desires of our youth to do good in sports, or classes, or other extra curricular activities, Schmidt attempts to look at these as blessings to our ministries as a way to connect teenagers’ abilities, activities and desires to the uniqueness of how God created them and continues to give them desires uniquely their own. Instead of finding faith and uniqueness in only one way, we can open up the beauty of God given abilities and desires and connect them to faith!
The origin of all sin is doubting that we are made in the image of God, and not trusting that we are good enough just the way we are. All sin is a distortion of good desire.
The human condition isn’t that we are evil; it’s that we are terrified–either we fear we aren’t good enough, or we fear there will never be enough goodness for us.
This is what the kingdom of heaven is all about. The kingdom is any place where good desires reign supreme, where things are the way they’re meant to be. We talk about it as God’s presence, or heaven on earth, or wow.
The world is full of brokeness, and evil is a problem. It’s just not our problem in the sense that we are evil. We’re good.
Chapter 2- Who Told You That You Were Nake? Or, A Theology of Desire
These quotes all come from the same chapter, so I’m counting them as one large quote… Schmidt does a great job of laying the foundation of looking at original sin differently than I have in the past. She uses the story of Creation and Adam & Eve to expound on this notion that the world did not go to hell in a hand basket when they ate the fruit. Sin entered in, but it wasn’t because they were trying to be sneaky and become gods, but it was their desire to become more like God, similar to our children. They look up to us as parents/guardians, they want to be like us and desire to be like us, they admire us. Sometimes this process goes well, and other times not so well. But the desire itself is not bad, the process of how it is done could be bad. I like this chapter a lot. It lays the foundation to open ourselves up to the good desires God has given to all humanity and leaves the opportunity for God to act through those desires and to bring heaven to earth.
I would rather my students become whole humans than good Christians. This is the work of discipleship and spiritual formation. If we can help young people tune in to the goodness of their desires, I trust they will be drawn into the presence of God–whether they know it or not.
If we can help students see God at work in whatever they desire that is good, true, beautiful, loving, and alive, then they will always be able to find and follow God.
If they (students) know there is room in God’s kingdom for the things they care about most, it becomes much less likely that they’ll look for salvation elsewhere. The opposite is true. If it seems as though the church has no room for what students believe is good, they will leave and find good news someplace else.
Chapter 4- Becoming a Person Instead of a Christian
This chapter is of some importance for the church as a whole. I think youth are leaving the church because what they desire or are passionate about has been talked about as being opposed to their faith life. Whether it is sports, weekend commitments or other things youth are involved with, the church has done a poor job at recognizing these things as gifts given by God. The gift of being involved with a community on a soccer or basketball team cannot compare to what they experience at a weekly youth meeting. The playing together in a band or orchestra and the gift of talents, cannot compare to the disconnectedness youth can experience at a worship where no one approaches them or talks to them about their lives. Why would we not give the space for youth to enjoy their talents and affirm their desires to play sports, or an instrument, even if that means they are missing worship, or youth group or confirmation? I feel as if it opens a door for more interaction, instead of slamming the door closed because they chose the other instead of God…
I’ve written a lot already, so the following quotes will be just the quotes to pique your interest in reading more of the book, I’m leaving out my commentary on purpose!
Rather than being the prime season of life to indoctrinate students, adolescence is the developmental sweet spot for teens to figure out how they wish to see themselves and the world around them.
pg 97- Chapter 5- Wired to Desire
We pay attention to what our students love because we love them. Then we connect what they love with who God is because we hope they will find it is good news to follow the way of Jesus.
pg 118- Chapter 6- Kingdom Imagination
Most of what we learn our whole lives happens in the context of relationships, dialogue, and interaction with others instead of in formal learning environments.
pg 132- Chapter 7- Youth Pastors Are Pastors Too
In conclusion…read this book. I have ran out of space for the rest of the book, but you will not regret reading more. Schmidt goes on to write about how the Spirit is part of the process of desire and how this connects us with God and is the “job” of the Spirit. It is really theologically rich and great for framing where youth ministry is going. This whole book can reframe our preconceived ideas surrounding what youth ministry “should be” and will challenge you to think about youth ministry differently. We can no longer ignore the desires of teenagers, regardless if they “line-up” with our desires or the churches. We need to live into the reality that God is at work everywhere in the world around us, regardless of whether or not we, or others, acknowledge the presence. God is working through the desires of all people to bring God’s kingdom here, let’s jump on board with our teenagers and do amazing things!
What are your thoughts on the theology of sin as good desires gone bad that Schmidt brings up in Chapter 2? Have you ever thought about evil as good desires gone bad?