Pop worship music. Falling in love with Jesus. Mission trips. Wearing jeans and T-shirts to church. Spiritual searching and church hopping. Faith-based political activism. Seeker-sensitive outreach. These now-commonplace elements of American church life all began as innovative ways to reach young people, yet they have gradually become accepted as important parts of a spiritual ideal for all ages. What on earth has happened?
In The Juvenilization of American Christianity
Thomas Bergler traces the way in which, over seventy-five years, youth ministries have breathed new vitality into four major American church traditions — African American, Evangelical, Mainline Protestant, and Roman Catholic. Bergler shows too how this "juvenilization" of churches has led to widespread spiritual immaturity, consumerism, and self-centeredness, popularizing a feel-good faith with neither intergenerational community nor theological literacy. Bergler's critique further offers constructive suggestions for taming juvenilization.
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AWARDS and RECOGNITIONS
2013 Christianity Today Book Awards, Award of Merit: Church/Pastoral Leadership category
— Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals, Wheaton College
"One of the key themes within the American church since the 1930s — and particularly since the 1960s — has been the change in how congregations approach youth ministry and youth culture. The Juvenilization of Christianity by Thomas Bergler explores the wide-ranging ramifications of this revolution across the denominational spectrum, examining not only its impact upon young people but also the larger implications — positive and negative — for the entire church. Anyone really trying to understand the dynamics of American Christianity must read this book."
— University of Notre Dame
"The Juvenilization of American Christianity provides a fine history of one of the most significant revolutions in twentieth-century Christianity. . . . Anyone concerned with the church and its ministries can learn from reading this book and reflecting on the changes that Bergler describes."
Rebecca de Schweinitz
— author of If We Could Change the Word: Young People and America's Long Struggle for Racial Equality
"In exploring previously unexamined relationships between youth, politics, culture, and Christian traditions, Bergler greatly enriches our understanding of Christian youth programs and American religious history."
"A fascinating exploration of the places where Christianity and youth culture have intersected. . . . Will certainly be provocative both for the casual reader and for clergy, who may also appreciate the book's practical suggestions toward a solution."
— Center for Parent/Youth Understanding
"Juvenilization is a long-overdue call to question our means, methods, and message. . . . Bergler shakes us awake and helps us see what's really happening in our youth ministries and churches."