On June 27, 2023, Dr. Jason Lief released his newest book, “To Mend the World: A New Vision for Youth Ministry.” Dr. Lief, a practical theologian, co-wrote this book with Kurt Rietema, the senior director of Youth Front Neighborhood at Youthfront, a Christian youth ministry organization based in Kansas City, MO to offer a practitioner’s point of view on the topic as well. Together, they argue that the old ways of doing youth ministry are no longer effective. Instead, they offer a new and fresh way to approach it.
When asked about the writing process, Lief said it was great because he loves writing. On why they wrote the book he said, “We feel there is a way to do youth ministry that tends to the lived experience of young people. Sometimes it feels like we are answering question they are not asking.” He said the writing process took about a year because their editor switched jobs while working on it. When asked if he had anything else to say about the topic he said, “Youth ministry is much more than knowing how to throw a pizza party. There is an art to pastoral care.”
In “To Mend the World,” Lief and Rietema argue that the old ways of offering abstract theological concepts and biblical narratives to young people without showing how this intersects their lived experience is ineffective. They argue that this answers questions that young people are not asking. In chapter four, Lief states, “This is a fundamental problem with youth ministry: youth leaders teach young people what to believe about God and living a moral life, assuming these ideas will lead to transformation, but these doctrinal or moral lessons rarely address the ingrained ideological habits formed by the dominant culture.” Instead of continuing this problem, readers see Lief offer an idea of a ministry that focuses on the lived experience of young people and answers the questions that they are asking. They offer up a view of ministry that is interpretive and focused on the lives of young people.
In the book, readers see the authors combat the marketization of ministries. They do this by putting social entrepreneurship, the disruption of the existing social arrangement, in conversation with youth ministry. They argue that you can do this by using the economic sphere to directly address the systematic issues that cause social problems. The authors spend time focusing on helping young people develop a sense of agency to free them from some of these systematic issues. The book includes real life experiences and stories from the authors that show these concepts in action and support their arguments.
In the concluding chapter of the book Lief writes, “Youth ministry should focus less on order, certainty, and young people fitting into the way the world is and focus more on the beautiful chaos that is the source of life.” This attitude towards youth ministry is something that Lief would argue all Christians to adopt.