Practicing Discernment With Youth: A Transformative Youth Ministry Approach

by David White

I have been reading White’s work in preparation to teach a religious education class for youth. White, the former director of research for the Youth Theological Initiative at Candler School of Theology, speaks directly about the ways modern youth ministry has failed to effectively engage young people in the costly journey of discipleship. In response to youth ministry programs that, like many high schools, are concerned with preparing children to be good participants in the marketplace rather than risk-takers in the name of what is just and beneficial for creation, White lays out ways to engage youth in deep, serious discernment that accounts for their inherent gifts and insights. This last point, that youth are not incomplete adults but congregants with valuable offerings specific to their particular phase in life, changes not only how we must see youth ministry but how we must see all ministries. As White says at the outset of this book, “Congregations, adults and youth who engage each other in discernment…find that in discerning together, they are in fact doing much of the work of youth ministry (and adult ministry).”

—Hillary Brownsmith is the pastoral apprentice at Circle of Mercy Congregation, Asheville, NC.