Youth Ministry: In Praise of the Beards

There is an interactive site that Youthscape are running at the moment, in which people involved in youth ministry are able to design through a basic picture, and then name and describe a person who has greatly influenced them, or their ministry. The link is here: Design your inspiration.

Alongside an impressive list of activities, ministry leaders, determined souls and unsung heroes stands the stuck out on a limb theologian that is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Thus far he is the one theologian that has been uploaded as being an inspiration for this so far unscientific poll of youth ministry contingency, and i wonder, slightly cruelly if that is only because Andrew Root recently wrote a book about him. This isn’t anything against any of the people uploaded, though Jesus isn’t mentioned, strangely (maybe he was off limits), as there are other Biblical Characters, and contemporary leaders, who are genuinely inspiring. Yet, repeatedly, even in these pages, and even in youth ministry conferences, there are calls to ‘Go Deeper’ with young people – and the question for us in that, yes it can be to go deeper by acting more ethically, more appropriately- but can going deeper also mean thinking and being inspired Theologically and Philosophically about ideas that might inspire youth ministry practice, about intrinsically who we are as humans, who we are in the place of the world and in this way enable young people to be inspired by depth too.

So, whilst ‘in praise of the Beards’ is totally sexist, it does tragically represent the lack of female philosophers and theologians on my bookshelf (unlike my ‘youthwork bookshelf’). What I would like to do, over the next few weeks is to outline the key ideas of a small series of Philosopher/Theologians to whet your appetite for thinking more in depth about Faith, about the Bible, about Humanity and because of all these things, about Youth Ministry. You might be bored, you might be inspired. If nothing else, it might help put some of the current thoughts of theology in some context.

So, as a marker for the future, these are the Beards that the practice of Youth Discipleship and Mission might draw from their richness further:

Paul Ricoeur

Paulo Freire

Hans George Gadamer

Kevin Vanhoozer

I would add Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but as i mentioned above – he is already inducted in the hall of fame, and Andrew Root has made his work accessible to the Youth Ministry market. What i would like to do, therefore in the coming weeks is give some time to describing and outlining the incredible insight of these ‘beards’ to the philosophical and theological landscape. I will not be able to do them justice, but try and share a few key insights and how their work might apply to youth work/ministry.

If you are inspired by a theologian or philosopher and would like to write a guest blog (1000 words max) on their key ideas, their inspiration to you and youth work/ministry, then please get in touch (above) , happy to add to this list, from the list thats on my bookshelf, to those who are on yours…

So, in Praise of the philosophical beards… Paul Ricouer coming up in a few days…


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