Review: Youth Ministry in a Multifaith Society by Len Kageler
If you pick up my copy of Youth Ministry in a Multifaith Society by Len Kageler, you'll notice that nearly every page in the last three chapters is dog-eared. It's that good.
In this book, youth ministry researcher, professor, and practitioner, Len Kageler explores the question “How do we ground our young people in the faith while encouraging their relationships with friends of other faiths?”
To do so, Len presents research on youth ministry in Muslim and other religious communities. I found learning about Muslim youth ministry absolutely fascinating, especially the many ways in which we employ similar methods for reaching our respective youth.
Perhaps even more interesting to me, however, was Len's exploration of other Christian youth ministries that may not adhere to the traditional view that “the only way to know God is through Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross”. Instead, such ministries “happily affirm their Christian faith but also affirm there are other equally valid ways to know God”. My experience in suburban, North American youth ministry is that I encounter such ministries far more frequently than I do people of entirely different faiths.
While Len's book is excellent overall, where he truly excels is in his practical, research-based suggestions for how to conduct youth ministry among teens living in a multifaith world. His suggestions include
- Grounding teens in their Christology – their beliefs about Jesus.
- Giving teens space for “positive doubt”, which is “the notion that as the adolescent brain gets its cognitive upgrade we should expose our students to other points of view regarding faith.”
- Involving teens in interfaith experiences that, to be clear, don't mean participants "give up their respective faiths but rather harness the compassion implicit in that faith for the good of others.”
As someone particularly interested in Christology, I especially appreciated Len's closing chapter. In it, he explores the Christology “expressed in the seven 'I am' statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John” and the “two most important paired words in the entire New Testament, 'In Christ'”. He does so knowing that “our Christology uniquely connects us with both Jesus' presence and power as we engage in student ministry in a multifaith society.” This chapter is so strong; It alone is worth the price of the book.
Without a doubt, Len's book is one I'd include on a short list of must-reads for those in youth ministry. In it, he clearly shows that “most Christian young people today do not understand their own faith, let alone the faith (or nonfaith) of others.” Yet, rather than just raise an alarm, Len also delineates a clear path forward. I'm convinced that by using his suggestions for how to help young people understand their own faith, we can help it flourish, even in a multifaith society.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of Youth Ministry in a Multifaith Society from Youth Worker Journal in exchange for an honest review of it.