Resisting consumerism


Brian Mahan, Michael Warren and David White, the authors of the penetrating book, Awakening Youth Discipleship: Christian Resistance in a Consumer Culture (Cascade Books, 2008, ISBN# 978-1-55635-136-5) challenge the current state of youth ministry in America. The authors are quick to point out that, “Youth ministry, like contemporary Christian music, has become a significant industry in the U.S. In this youth ministry market we see high energy, high visibility and high budget programs, promising high-yield youth ministry.” Quoting recent research, however, they conclude, “The version of Christian faith [youth] have internalized does not, for the most part, influence the shape of their lives, their relationships or perspectives on vocation.” Put simply, while there is a lot of youth ministry activity (books, conferences, college degree programs) there doesn’t seem to be much Gospel transformation among youth.


In nine succinct chapters, the authors set out to explain how this has happened. First, White summarizes the creation and history of adolescence, illustrating how youth have been marginalized in society. He then offers a challenging critique of comfortable Christian parents who don’t really want to see their kids radically transformed by the Gospel. Second, Warren explains how much of today’s youth ministry is shaped more by the techniques and assumptions of marketers and entertainers than the Gospel. And finally, Mahan directly challenges youth ministers (and himself) to consider how they have conformed to the patterns of this world by not inviting kids into the story of the Gospel, but rather into the story of the American Dream and consumerism.


This slim volume does not provide easy answers, but does issue a clarion call to think more deeply about what youth ministry should look like in our consumer culture.


—Derek Melleby




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