Contemplative Youth Ministry : Practicing the Presence of Jesus

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2006-04-14
  • Publisher: Youth Specialties

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"Contemplative Youth Ministry is refreshing rain for dry youth workers and barren youth ministries. More than the same old youth ministry tips and tricks, it gives principles and practices to soak in God's grace, love, and power. I wish I had read it 15 years ago." - Kara Powell, Ph.D., executive director, Center for Youth Ministry and Family Ministry, Fuller Theological Seminary "Mark invites readers to be encountered by the presence of Jesus who is always near. This book is transparent about the challenges that churches and families face as they desire to be effective in youth ministry. The book is filled with the honest stories of different kinds of youth ministries representing the breadth of Christianity in the United States. I heartily endorse Contemplative Youth Ministry as a rich encounter with the souls of youth and adults whose lives have been transformed by our very present God." - Bill Kees, director of youth ministries, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) "Mark Yaconelli not only reminds us of some of the long-forgotten pathways of faith, he shares with us how it actually looks when men and women who love God practice it with young people. I especially appreciate Mark's optimism in his perspective of today's kids, for his insights are grounded in God's view of them." - Chap Clark, Ph.D., associate professor of youth, family, and culture, Fuller Theological Seminary "Mark Yaconelli was experimenting with contemplative youth ministry practices before contemplative youth ministry practices became cool. This book has about it the unique air of authenticity. He shares with us in these pages his own journey as a youth worker who actually believes that God's still small voice speaks louder than the roaring windstorm of our busy youth ministry calendars. It's a book about creating for our students places of silence and opening up spaces for God to speak." - Duffy Robbins, professor of youth ministry, Eastern University; author of Enjoy the Silence and This Way to Youth Ministry "Mark Yaconelli has emerged as one of youth ministry's most provocative 'voices in the wilderness,' calling us back to our theological taproots: The contemplative practices that bind our lives to the life of Christ. If Mark's research has taught us anything, it's that these practices do not cause youth ministry to take fl ight into a spiritual never-never land; rather they anchor young people-and their churches-in the fertile soil of Christian tradition, in the nitty-gritty of daily life, and in the explosive transformation that awaits us when we wait upon God." - Kenda Creasy Dean, parent, pastor, and professor of youth, Princeton Theological Seminary; author of Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church

Table of Contents

Forewordp. 9
Acknowledgmentsp. 13
Introduction: Practicing the Presence of Jesusp. 17
Teen Angst and Adult Anxietyp. 29
Life without Expectationsp. 47
Staying Alivep. 61
Becoming a Good Receiverp. 69
Allowing God to Love Usp. 77
From Prayer to Presencep. 95
Being with Young Peoplep. 103
Rememberingp. 123
Forming the Beloved Communityp. 139
The Liturgy for Discernmentp. 157
Noticingp. 177
Namingp. 201
Nurturingp. 217
Beyond Fearp. 233
Appendixesp. 239
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.


Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus
Copyright © 2006 by Mark Yaconelli
Youth Specialties products, 300 South Pierce Street, El Cajon, CA 92020 are published by Zondervan, 5300
Patterson Avenue Southeast, Grand Rapids, MI 49530.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Yaconelli, Mark.
Contemplative youth ministry : practicing the presence of Jesus / by Mark Yaconelli.
p. cm.
ISBN-10: 0-310-26777-3
ISBN-13: 978- 0-310-26777-5
1. Church work with youth. 2. Contemplation. I. Title.
BV4447.Y23 2006
The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyrighted
1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the
United States of America, and are used by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted
in any form or by any means-electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other-(except for brief
quotations in printed reviews) without the prior permission of the publisher.
Web site addresses listed in this book were current at the time of publication. Please contact Youth Specialties
via e-mail (YS@YouthSpecialties.com) to report URLs that are no longer operational and replacement
URLs if available.
Creative team: Doug Davidson, Randy Southern, Heather Haggerty, Laura Gross, and Mark Novelli
Cover design by Burnkit
Printed in the United States
06 07 08 09 10 • 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
teen angst and
adult anxiety
In our age everything has to be a “problem.” Ours
is a time of anxiety because we have willed it to be
so. Our anxiety is not imposed on us by force from
outside. We impose it on our world and upon one
another from within ourselves.
Sanctity in such an age means, no doubt, traveling
from the area of anxiety to the area in which
there is no anxiety or perhaps it may mean learning,
from God, to be without anxiety in the midst
of anxiety.
I’ve really begun to understand what deeply spiritual
people teenagers are. (Silly to have forgotten,
when I was one myself.) Even the scruffi est middle-
schooler is on a seriously beautiful, completely
unique journey, as we all are, and have been, even
when we were little kids. Understanding that has
perhaps been the best fruit that contemplative
prayer has yielded in my relationship with young
Teenagers make adults anxious. They just do. In fact, adult anxiety
about teens may be the primary reason youth ministry exists.
Spot a cluster of unfamiliar young people laughing outside the
church, and adults get suspicious. If these youth happen to paint
their lips black or jump skateboards off the church steps, adults can
get downright fearful. Adult anxiety toward teens is ancient, even
biblical. In the only scene we’re given from Jesus’ adolescence, the
young Messiah sneaks away from his family and hides out in Jerusalem.
When his mother fi nally rushes into the temple and discovers
her holy middle-schooler, she cries frantically, “Child, why have you
treated us like this? Your father and I have been searching for you in
great anxiety!” (Luke 2:48). It turns out that even the teenage Prince
of Peace can make adults crazy with worry.
There are many reasons why adults feel anxious around teens.
Young people are fi dgety. They fi ddle with things and won’t stay
still. They exaggerate and mirror adult postures that make us selfconscious
and uncomfortable. They always seem to be looking for
something—a friend, an adventure, a ride, food, acceptance, a glimpse
of who they’re becoming. Youth can voice their questions with such
open-hearted honesty that we fi nd ourselves blushing. Sometimes
their neediness or suffering can be obvious in a way that leaves us
feeling helpless or despondent.
Young people are green. They can make adults feel tired, musty,
and unattractive. Emerging from childhood, teens move toward adulthood
with fresh eyes and energy. They see white elephants. They ask
the obvious and un-faced questions: “Why do we have to go to church
when Jesus never did?” “How come you tell me not to drink alcohol
when you have a beer every night?” “Why are these benches called
pews?” Just the presence of young people within a community of adults
exposes weaknesses, raises doubts, and challenges assumed values.
]Young people can be disturbingly (or is it refreshingly?) unpredictable.
One day they seem happy to conform to their parents’ wishes
and adult conventions; the next day it appears they’re making it up as
they go along, led zigzag by an internal drummer that even they don’t
seem to recognize. Young people can express a childlike dependency
one moment, then get offended by the lack of independence they’re
granted the next. Youth are messy. Take this example:
Three years ago while traveling on a bus full of young people, I
noticed I was seated near fi ve or six teenage girls. At the time, my
wife and I were expecting our fi rst daughter, and I was eager to learn
about the relationships between these teenage girls and their fathers.
I asked the girls if they would be willing to tell me about their relationships
with their fathers and to offer any advice they thought helpful.
Although these young women were from all over North America and
represented diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, I was surprised at
how all the girls in this particular group spoke in very similar, adoring
tones about their dads. Then one 15-year-old said, “Of course, you
have to be prepared for times when your daughter might say to you, ‘I
hate you, Daddy!’ But usually by the next day you’ll get a handmade
card that says something like, ‘You’re the greatest dad in the world.’”
Bewildered, I looked at her and asked if any of them had enacted
this kind of behavior with their own fathers. All but one nodded in
agreement. I was incredulous. I asked what had prompted them to
use such extreme language. One girl replied, “Well, it can be anything,
really. Like, a couple of months ago I stopped talking to my dad after
he wore black socks and sandals to pick me up from school. But other
times I’ve said similar things for really no reason at all.” When I asked
them why, they just shrugged their shoulders. “It’s just something we
do,” one of them offered. Youth make adults anxious.
One thing that becomes increasingly disturbing for many grownups
is the sense that they have little control over young people. This
scares adults. Adults want youth to conform to adult standards. They
want kids to act responsibly. They want them to sit down and listen.
They want them to hurry up and get their identities fi xed and
grounded. Adults want youth to have a roadmap for a secure and reasonable
future, and they get rattled when they notice that most youth

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