The 1997 Princeton Lectures on
Youth, Church, and Culture

“At-Risk Youth, At-Risk Church:
What Jesus Christ and American Teenagers are
Saying to the Mainline Church”


Webster's has two meanings for the term "mainline." The one teenagers know is the practice of injecting narcotics directly into the bloodstream to get a quick high. The second definition means the principle route a train takes to reach its destination.

Pick your metaphor. The term "mainline church" was coined when trains, like churches, were a principal means of getting somewhere people wanted to go. Today, teenagers' understanding of "mainline" paints an ominous portrait of who we are as a church: once-­‐able bodies who, after years of steady injections of American culture into our veins, have a dulled sense of who, what, and where we are.

We have reared a generation of teenagers to "just say no" to such behavior, and they're saying "no" to mainline Christianity in favor of visions of vitality elsewhere, many that endanger teenagers. According to a 1991 study released by the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, one in four teenagers is "at risk." The church must work with others to create communities of health and hope for young people.

Young people are also making another point. Their exodus from our pews and programs is a form of "tough love" to our denominations, telling us to shape up, to be who we say we are, and to let Jesus be who we say He is -­‐ the Savior, even of the mainline church.

In our "I'm dysfunctional, you're dysfunctional" world, it is easy to settle for therapy when resurrection is at stake. Maybe being "at risk" as a church isn't bad if it calls us back to the authenticity young people expect, and the Gospel requires. Maybe mainline churches and teenagers have something in common: a need to be saved.

These assumptions unite the lectures in this volume. The lectures in these pages provide an outline of "what Jesus Christ and American teenagers are saying to the mainline church" from the perspectives of systematic theology, practical theology, sociology, education, and American religious history (and futurism).

These lectures point to a theological foundation for ministry with young people that views youth as part of the mission of Christ and not as objects to be "won" for the propagation of the church. We approach this direction with humility and hope. The future of the church, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted when he himself was only twenty-­‐seven years old, depends not on youth, but on Jesus Christ. Still, we are confident that young people are prophets in our midst, and that by attending to the "risk" that accompanies adolescence in 1997, we will be better prepared to take the risk that accompanies Christian faith in any era.

Dayle Gillespie Rounds
Director, Institute for Youth Ministry
Princeton Theological Seminary

1997 Lectures

Shirley C. Guthrie
  • “Something to Believe In”
Sara Little
  • “Youth Ministry: Historical Reflections near the End of the Twentieth Century”
Roland Martinson
  • “Getting to All God's Kids”
Albert G. Miller
  • “What Jesus Christ and African American Teenagers Are Telling the African American Church”
Mary Elizabeth Mullino Moore
  • “Walking with Youth: Youth Ministry in Many Cultures”
  • “Volcanic Eruptions: Eruptive Youth Ministry”
  • “Promises and Practices for Tomorrow: Transforming Youth Leaders and Transforming Culture”
Wade Clark Roof
  • “At-­‐Risk Youth” “Today's Spiritual Quests”
  • “Ministry to Youth Today”
Leonard Sweet
  • “Living in an Ancient Future Faith”
Peggy Way
  • “Youth Ministry: A Celebration and a Challenge”
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Mary Elizabeth Mullino Moore is a professor of theology and Christian education at the School of Theology at Claremont and has been involved in various forms of youth work for thirty years. A diaconal minister in the United Methodist Church, she has done research in education, gender, culture, feminist theology, and spirituality, which led to her involvement in the Lilly Endowment's Youth Ministry in Many Cultures project. Moore is co-director of the Center for Process Studies and the Multicultural Resource and Research Center; she writes and lectures widely on practical theology. Her many books include Youth Ministries in Many Cultures.

The practice of youth ministry is an art, and you who are leaders in youth ministry are artists. If youth ministry is eruptive, as we discussed in the previous lecture, then establishing timeless and universal guidelines for the practice of youth ministry is not possible. What is possible, however, is to identify qualities that are important for leaders in youth ministry so they can travel with young people through the eruptive movements of their lives. What is also possible is to identify approaches to youth ministry that help push boundaries toward the transformation of culture. In this lecture, I want to explore with you the charisms and approaches that will be important to the transformation of youth ministry and to the transformation of cultures. These represent promises and practices for tomorrow.


One of the persisting questions facing local churches and other institutions calling youth ministers is: What qualities and gifts do we seek in the people who will be entrusted to lead our youth? Most church leaders know that a guitar and a pleasant personality are not enough, but they feel baffled as to what they are seeking in a potential youth leader. Likewise, people who serve in youth ministry, as most of you do, often ask themselves: What qualities do I need if I am to be effective as a leader with youth?

I suggest that we need to think afresh about these questions and to consider that what is most important is leading from our charisms, or our gifts of the Spirit. To think of leadership in this way places the emphasis on God as the source of page 74 our gifts and on the larger community as the benefactor. Some particular charisms appear to be particularly significant in light of our team's research; that is the focus of the first part of my lecture. These charisms suggest promises that we need to make as we move toward the future.


If I knew you and you knew me,
And each of us could clearly see
By that inner light divine
The meaning of your heart and mine;
I'm sure that we would differ less. 1

The charism of mutual knowing and befriending may seem romantic and vague, but, like the poet Howard Thurman, people in youth ministry are painfully aware of the schisms that arise in church communities. Such schisms can arise from generational differences or from different theological orientations, but whatever the source, they can be devastating to a community and to the young people in particular.

Consider what Wade Clark Roof has been saying about the uncertain future faced by today's youth and about the lack of a supportive and nourishing family life for many young people. The recent high school graduate whom I described — the young man faced with overwhelming questions about his future — is not an unusual case. In fact, this particular young man may be one of the more fortunate youths because his family, although they are struggling, too, is loving and supportive of him. What this young man needs now, beyond the treasure of his loving family, is other adults and young people to walk with him as well. He especially needs people who will know and befriend him as he walks through an over-whelming transition in his young life, a transition that could set the direction for the rest of his life. What is important for him and other young people is to have one or more significant companions with the charism of mutual knowing and befriending. And with that charism, we are reminded of the earlier image of the cellular telephone — an image that suggests being available to youth as they live with their vitality and vulnerability.

Mutual knowing is a value that our research team could see clearly as we related to the six congregations of our study. The lack of mutual knowing was a major concern for many of the congregations themselves. The Korean American congregation, for example, was troubled by two different and distant worlds between the adults and youth. The Native American congregation in Los Angeles was troubled by the lack of mutual knowing and befriending between them and the European American congregation with whom they shared facilities. At the same time, the existence of mutual knowing and befriending within the Native American community was so strong that people would not begin their Sunday morning page 75 classes until the two church vans arrived from central Los Angeles with the church members who depended on the vans for transportation. No distinction was made among members of diverse occupations and social classes; they were all Native Americans together. Clearly, we can see how complex this ideal of mutual knowing is — complex because we are speaking of communities knowing one another, with all of their challenging differences, as well as of individuals knowing one another, with all of their idiosyncrasies as human beings and variations in experience, values, and commitments.

To remove some of the feeling of impossibility, let us consider the power of mutual knowing and befriending among the members of our youth research team — a very common and ordinary group of people. We were people who had little time to spare, but we shared a deep commitment to this project. In the process of spending hundreds of hours together, we learned a lot about the churches we studied, but we discovered our own passions as well. One of our members grew increasingly uncomfortable as we analyzed data from the United Church of Christ suburban church; finally, the person exclaimed, "My people would call that 'liberal bunk'!" Another member became angry during the analysis of field notes from the Korean American congregation. At that point, we all stopped and confessed our negative reactions to the more authoritarian of the two youth leaders. We also held each other accountable when we fell into the trap of letting our own biases prevent us from hearing the pains and passions of the churches. Such a spirit of honesty and accountability suffused our meetings with humor and the ability to laugh at ourselves and one another. The real treasure was the opportunity to work on a common goal with such intensity that we were able to be together, bound by something larger than our individual selves and the particular likes and dislikes we carried.

How might youth ministry nurture such relationships, and how can we embody this charism of mutual knowing and befriending? First, we need a sense of common mission that can encourage our charisms to rise to the surface. Can we promise our youth that we will quest with them for a common mission that is larger than the individuals in the group? Second, we need youth leaders who are passionate and are able and willing to share their deepest longings, concerns, and hopes, and who are respectful of the longings, concerns, and hopes of others. Can we promise to be impassioned youth leaders, and respectful of the deepest yearnings of the youth with whom we minister? Third, we need youth leaders who are committed to learning and growing and to changing their minds as they engage with the young. Can we promise to be so open that we will actually change our minds from time to time? Fourth, we need youth leaders who have a sense of humor and the ability to interject humor into gatherings with others — not a humor that tears down, but a humor that allows people to be real. Can we promise our young colleagues in ministry that we will seek the perspective of levity and laughter, even in the tightest situations? Such is the charism of mutual knowing and befriending!

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Another critical charism for youth ministry is the charism of question-posing. Ever since Paulo Freire published his groundbreaking Pedagogy of the Oppressed, religious educators have spoken freely of problem-posing education, contrasting it with what Freire called the banking method of depositing information into learners. 2 Long before that book was published, however, leaders with youth were approaching ministry by posing questions. One of the strongest and most beloved youth counselors I have ever known approached the youth every Sunday evening with a long string of questions. He jovially played the part of "devil's advocate" by pushing the youth with more and more questions. He would sometimes say, "Do you really believe that?" The youth soon came to realize that he was not pushing them around or cajoling them to arrive at his view; rather, he was encouraging them to ask questions constantly, both of themselves and of others.

This quality of question-posing certainly appeared in the six congregations we studied, especially in the actions of the youth counselor in the largely European American suburban church, who conducted taste and smell tests while the youth were blindfolded, trying to prove to the youth that things are not always what they seem to be. The African American parish in Los Angeles was also a community where questions abounded and youth often entered into direct conflict with one another over divergent opinions. Rather than judging this situation as a sign of problems, the youth in this parish identified their conflicts and unanswered questions as a natural part of being a family.

Vernon Jahnke, one of our research team members, was especially aware that his whole approach to ministry changed as a result of participating in this research project. He said:

The practice of parish ministry changed for me irrevocably that summer eight years ago. Question-asking, storytelling, and training parishioners to be observers and interviewers [with one] another are now my preferred approaches.... And, there is always room in the decision-making process for one more person's point of view.

Jahnke's reflections suggest that asking questions is part of ministry, as are telling stories and training parishioners in observing and interviewing one another.

Think about it. All of these skills are ways of posing questions. Asking questions directly is obvious, as evidenced by the stories of the persistent, questioning, sometimes obnoxious youth counselors I have just described. But even storytelling is a significant way of posing questions. Jesus often responded to questions by telling a story that raised more questions. Then he would turn and ask after the story, "And who do you think was neighbor to the man?"

In addition to asking questions and telling stories, what would happen if we opened the door and urged people in our churches to interview one another and other folks in the larger community? In a church where I once served in youth page 77 ministry, the youth themselves decided to interview one of the pastors and some other church leaders because they were disturbed about how church folk were responding, or not responding, to homeless people who approached them for handouts. The interviews opened a variety of perspectives, gave information that the youth did not have, and faced the youth with even larger questions about the causes of homelessness and the most "helpful" responses to people who approach them on the streets. This is an example of a very focused kind of interview around a particular topic, but youth might also engage in interviewing children about their lives and experiences in the church, or interviewing adults about their younger years or their biggest concerns for the present world. What questions would youth face as they listened to people's stories of struggling and dancing with life? What might the youth have to contribute to the wisdom of a Christian community if they went out to ask questions and returned to share what they had learned?

Can you imagine the church that gathers youth leaders (both youth and adults) with the charism of question-posing? Can we go further and promise to give high priority to calling youth leaders who are gifted in question-posing? If we did this, we might discover that the "ornery" youth leaders are one of our strongest assets. Youth often crave to ask their questions and to hear the questions of others. One young woman, a high school senior, told me just last night that one of her biggest frustrations as a young person is the fear that so many adults have of talking with youth. She said, "I think they are afraid of our questions."


We have already spoken of storytelling in relation to question-posing, but storytelling is also a charism. This is a charism embodied in the ministry of Jesus, and embodied throughout the Jewish and Christian traditions. It is represented in the Bible, in the stories and legends of the Jewish rabbis and Christian saints, in the Jewish tradition of midrash (telling stories that contribute to explanation, interpretation, or embellishment of tradition), and in the long tradition of storytelling in teaching and preaching.

Among the churches we studied in our research, the Norwegian Lutheran Church exemplifies, as fully as any, a generosity of storytelling — telling stories of the time that the cemetery was vandalized, stories of a determination to keep the church doors open, stories of tragedies in the community, and stories of answered prayer. These stories provided a kind of rudder through the uncertainties and threats the people were experiencing in their rural Minnesota context. Stories flowed easily in the two Roman Catholic parishes in northern Arizona as well. People told Navajo stories and stories of Navajo traditions. People told humorous stories and tales of kindness in their newsletters. And they told stories of people who were important in their lives. In the two Navajo communities, as in the others, stories were like a treasure chest that carried the identity of the page 78 community.

What possibilities for youth ministry would we open if we looked for youth leaders with the charism of storytelling, and if we valued and celebrated that particular charism in youth leadership? We might look for youth leaders who are immersed in the biblical and historical traditions of Christianity and in the cultural traditions of their congregations. We also might encourage those leaders who have a passion for learning the church's and the Bible's stories to gather and share them with the youth. Or we might invite occasional visitors who have stories to tell. We might also look for leaders who know many stories of people and places in the contemporary world. One youth leader in my own past was a social worker, and he continually told the youth of our middle class church the stories of people and life situations that he encountered every day, thus exposing us to a world that most of us would not otherwise have known.

What we need is leaders who know and love many stories, leaders who are also gifted in sharing those stories, whether through oral telling, music, art, or engaging others to tell their stories. The possibilities are endless! Storytelling is far more than a winsome gimmick to get attention; it is a charism that is vitally important to youth ministry. When we look to the future, can we promise our youth that we will pass on the rich story tradition that is ours to share, that we will hear and value their stories, and that we will engage them in enjoying, critiquing, and participating in the stories of their faith?


Youth tell us that they feel cheated when youth ministry is carried by one or two leaders and when the congregation as a whole is uninvolved with youth. In the congregations we studied, youth ministry was more interwoven into the life of the full congregation than it was in other churches. In the African American Catholic parish, the people made intentional efforts to work together across generations; the youth often went to the Africans in the parish to learn more about the life and traditions of Africa; the adults in the parish often worked on projects with youth and talked about their lives, including the hard and shameful moments. Reflecting on these experiences, Randy Litchfield identified what he learned in the study:

Probably the most significant learning I gained from this study was the understanding that youth ministry is a congregational ministry, not one that is limited to the workings of the youth group and the youth minister. I came to this congregation knowing only a style of youth ministry typical of white middle class Protestant churches. In such a style, youth have their own separate program that often leaves youth as a church unto themselves. As I studied the African American Catholic congregation, I learned that youth ministry is a family affair, a rich page 79 web of educational forms of which a 'youth group' is but one strand.

Of the congregations that we studied, the ministry with youth was most separated in the Korean American church and the European American town church. In the former, the separation was explained by the language and cultural differences between the adult generation (mostly first generation immigrants) and the youth (mostly 1.5 generation immigrants). In the latter, the pattern is one that has become quite common in American Protestant churches of mid-range or large membership. The youth literature published by most Protestant publishing houses is designed to support a structure in which youth meet separately in classes or youth groups with one or more adult leaders.

What we discovered in all of our studies is that the congregation does have an influence on youth, whether or not people are intentional about it. So how can a congregation become more intentional about being in ministry with youth? What promises do we need to make? We need, first, to promise to understand youth ministry as a congregational ministry. That is far more than empty rhetoric. We need practices of youth ministry in which people of all ages seek to know at least some of the young folks; we need practices in which youth leaders are visible to the congregation and give the congregation an opportunity to be involved with youth.

Second, we need to promise to empower families and other communities in the congregation to be in positive relationship with youth. We need to be honest about incest, violence, and neglect, and we need to share hope and teach skills for justice, peace, and life.

Third, we need to promise that we will create opportunities for youth to experience the stories and wisdom of the elders in their congregations. This is a way for young people to see the faith of their elders in good times and bad times, in strong times and shaky times. Such interaction can be encouraged through special sharing events for that purpose, but it will happen naturally and spontaneously if youth are working side by side with adults in the work of ministry.

We need, also, to make a fourth promise to create opportunities for adults and children to experience the stories and wisdom of the youth. This suggests the necessity of involving youth in significant leadership in the congregation, creating opportunities for them to give voice to whatever their concerns and visions are, and finding opportunities to share their stories. All of these promises will be easy to keep if we see our ministry as empowering everyone to be engaged in ministry — on the streets, in their homes, and everywhere they find themselves.


The last charism is the charism of unity, or the gift of living in the intersection of cultures. All of the congregations and parishes in our study were in some way intercultural, whether they were dealing with different generations, racial/ethnic communities, or religious cultures. To talk about the charism of unity is to borrow page 80 a term from Leonardo Boff. 3 How can we hold people together without dissolving difference? How can we empower people to work together and dispute together in the spirit of love?

What promises do we as youth leaders need to make if we are to embody the charism of unity? At the very least, we need to promise to recognize the uniqueness of every person, every culture, and every moment of life. This sounds ironic, but unity begins with the recognition and appreciation of difference and uniqueness. Without that, we can have only false unity, bought at the price of belittling or ignoring those who are shy, insecure, or simply different from the majority in some way.

Second, we need to promise to join with the youth in interpreting the Gospel and the world. This is not something to be done alone, but with others, drawing on the wisdom of the young people, the adults who work with youth, and the larger community. This suggests a counter-cultural move away from the individualism that Wade Clark Roof has found so dominant in our culture. We are not discouraging individuals from encountering and interpreting the Gospel and the world around them but, rather, are suggesting that the full interpretative process is a communal one in which the community seeks, critiques, professes, reforms, and seeks again.

Third, we can promise to bring people together to discern the movements of God's Spirit and to respond with their lives. This is not easy, for the forces in any community, including professing Christian communities, may be painful or divisive. People will not necessarily agree on the direction of God's Spirit. The charism of unity is neither to promote cheap harmony nor to force a particular vision of God's will, but simply to bring people to the table. Unity, then, has to do with joining prayers, joining hands, and seeking a shared mission.


Thus far, we have been talking about the transformation of youth ministry itself; now, we turn to the transformation of culture through the work of youth ministry. We are called not only to the transformation of youth ministry but also to the practice of transformative youth ministry. If youth and their communities are transformed, they will affect the world in which they live. The practice of youth ministry has to do with pushing the boundaries of conventionality — pushing the boundaries of culture. We are not talking here about the enculturation of youth but, rather, about youth as cultural agents. I suggest three promises that we are called to make if we are to enter into the transformative process with youth.


We have addressed young people's theology of responsiveness — God responds to creation, and people are expected to respond to God and to the page 81 world. Naturally, then, we need to engage youth with the cultures in which they live. Only as we and they engage our cultures seriously can we see, understand, appreciate, critique, contribute to, and transform them. Some of these cultures will be rich in traditions that contribute to life; others will be threatening and will contribute to death and destruction. To respond to culture is to see the realities of culture (usually an elusive mix of life-giving and life-destroying features), to seek hope, and to discard that which denies life.

Three practices of youth ministry can help us to keep the promise to respond to culture. First, create community for and with youth. This practice is easy to take for granted, but it requires intentionality in an individualistic society such as ours. Think of the early church as described in the Book of Acts.

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44-47, NRSV)

What we see here is a community in which sharing with one another and giving to others was at the core, gathering for worship and breaking bread were regular and frequent, enjoyment and praise of God were central to life, and relating respectfully to all people was natural.

A second practice in youth ministry is to discern and affirm the strengths of the youth and their cultures and subcultures. Youth are people with many gifts, people to be celebrated and encouraged. Likewise, the cultures and subcultures in which they live usually have many strengths as well. In a society where some racial/ethnic cultures are belittled, where youth subcultures are often ignored, and where minority cultures (whatever constitutes a minority in a particular community) are often subjected to discrimination, the effort to discern and affirm the strengths of youth and their cultures and subcultures is important.

This leads to a third practice, which is to expand and build on the strengths of existing cultures. This has to do with recognizing both strengths and limitations in cultures as they now exist, but making a conscious decision to build upon the strengths. Such an approach is counter-cultural in relation to youth ministry because much ministry with youth has been focused on diagnosing problems of youth, their families, their distinctive cultures, and the larger world. From this diagnosis, then, plans are made for responding to the needs of the youth and addressing their problems. What this common approach does is to disempower youth and their leaders. The people who do the diagnosing are claiming the power to understand what is going on in the lives of young people, to know what is wrong, and to propose ways to fix the problems.

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What is suggested here is the reverse, that is, to invite youth and their leaders to affirm their strengths and to find ways to build upon those strengths. In the Native American church in Los Angeles, the youth focused a lot on their strengths and on the strengths of Native Americans. They built a sense of being an extended family. At the same time, conflict was strong between their congregation and the European American congregation with whom they shared facilities. One of the strongest objectors in the European American congregation had a daughter who lived with a learning disability. She had experienced so much rejection from the youth in her own congregation that she refused to go to church anymore. One evening, the Native American youth gave a big party for the youth in the other group. The parents of this young woman asked her if she would be willing to try the church one more time. Reluctantly she agreed, but only if they promised never to ask her to do this again. They agreed. She went. She was overwhelmed with welcome, and she became a regular member of the Native American youth group. In responding to their own culture and Native American hospitality traditions, this group was able to include others.


Critiquing culture is another way of pushing the boundaries. This is not the work of outside observers who diagnose problems and prescribe remedies. It is the work of young people, their mentors, and their congregations as they try to see the forces of destruction in their cultures and in their common life. As they do this, prophets are born.

Urgently, we need to engage young people in critiquing culture. In truth, they are already doing it; the challenge is to hear them and to help others to hear them. David White and Kenda Creasy Dean, in their respective dissertations, have suggested approaches to youth ministry that center on this very activity. To engage youth in critiquing culture is empowering. As they leam critical skills, they are able to distance themselves sufficiently from culture to recognize their opportunity to seek the will of God in the midst of their particular social milieu and to recognize their power to make new decisions. They learn that cultural forces do not have to determine their lives. In fact, as they engage in critiquing culture, youth are opening the path to be makers and reformers of culture, active agents of history. This leads to the third promise.


What I am saying here is that creating culture is also a responsibility of youth ministry. Youth have a role in what the Jewish people call tikkun olam, or the repair of the world. This is no small vision, for our world is devastated by oppression and violence in many forms. To push the boundaries of culture is to participate with youth in repairing the world. This has to do with honoring and caring for the earth, doing justice, and making peace. It has to do with repairing our own congregations page 83 and denominations where youth themselves are often ignored or oppressed, and where people of all ages are hurting, often from hurtful actions within the church itself.

Practice #1: Create Culture with and for Youth

One practice for repairing the world is to create culture with and for youth. Create the physical space, the music, and the dance that make culture; work together to change the world; pray together and wrestle together with hard questions until they bless you. This will sometimes mean creating new cultural styles, and it will sometimes mean renewing and reinventing very old traditions.

Practice #2: Create Prophetic and Justice-Bearing Culture with Youth

Youth ministry is not a time of practicing for life. Young people sometimes have the most finely turned sensitivities to injustice. We need to hear the passions of youth for those who are hurting; we need to create prophetic cultures with them and to push the boundaries. The United Methodist youth and young adults who were members of the 1996 General Conference were among the most potent voices for justice in the 1000-member body. They expressed their concern for young people, for gay and lesbian people, for people in diverse ethnic communities. I am not suggesting that justice-bearing is associated with only one political position, but I am saying that youth are often impassioned to speak out, even in large assemblies, when they see a need for justice. They are brave people, and we need to listen to their voices.

For youth to create prophetic and justice-bearing culture is, also, to develop ways of being together that are just and inclusive, to seek ways of discerning the wounds in their own communities, to hear God calling to them in a particular place, and to seek ways of acting for the repair of the world in which they live. For example, for youth to be involved in creating a community garden or re-landscaping their church with draught-resistant plants can be a way of witnessing to ecological integrity. To welcome into their fellowship youth who are generally rejected in other contexts is a way of witnessing to inclusiveness. To build a racially inclusive or economically inclusive group is to witness to the possibility of healing racism and economic isolation. To develop ways of resolving conflicts and negotiating problems with other youth, or with the congregation, is to witness to the possibility of peace and reconciliation among people.

Promise #3: Recreating Societal Cultures with Youth

The third practice is to recreate the larger society with youth. It has to do with studying and participating in service and political actions in the larger community, whether involving youth with people who are homeless, tutoring young children who need extra support, protesting injustices in schools or the local community, converting a vacant lot from a dump to a community garden, participating page 84 in a protest march for peace, or creating a baseball field for children in the community. These actions reflect young people's commitments not only to live as a prophetic and justice-bearing community, but also to be transformative agents in the larger community.


Youth are people of hope. What are young people telling the mainline churches? They are saying, "If hope is extinguished, we are all doomed. Appreciate us and allow us to do our work; hear our hope and join our hands." The hope of youth is a reminder to all of us that, together, we can join God in repairing the world!


1. Howard Thurman, "Mysticism and the Experience of Love," Pendle Hill Pamphlet (Lebanon, PA: 1961), p. 20.
2. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, translated by Myra Bergman Ramos (New York: Seabury Press, 1970).
3. Leonardo Boff, Church: Charism and Power (New York: Crossroad, 1988).