The Juvenilization of American Christianity
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The Juvenilization of American Christianity

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  72 ratings  ·  20 reviews
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 spiri...more
Paperback, 281 pages
Published April 20th 2012 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
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Dave McNeely
The premise and promise of this book is fascinating, but the book is largely uneven - overdeveloping some sections while leaving others aspects thoroughly underdeveloped, if not completely ignored. For instance, while Bergler painstakingly analyzes the forces that led to "juvenilization" from the 1930's to the 1960's, he only offers fleeting mention of how juvenillization grew out of youth ministry ghettoes into the larger ecclesial community over the past four decades. (Perhaps that was not int...more
Nigel Berry
Its said that one must know where they are in order to determine where they are going. In the same manner, one best understands where they are by studying where they have been. So it goes with this book. Bergler gives a terrific outline of the history of youth ministry in the United States. As a youth worker, I found that this book helped to paint the cultural landscape of American Christianity in a way that adds depth to its triumphs and struggles. Perhaps more importantly is the value it adds...more
Justin Woodall
This book was more of a 200 page history of Youth Ministry than a look at the affects that 100 year history has had on the church. The last chapter is what I was hoping the whole book would be about.
Bergler explores how the effects that American Christianity has undertaken since the 1940's. His main argument is that since American Christianity at the time thought that the youth were the future, it bred a Christianity that was juvenile; that is, the "process by which the religious beliefs, practices, and developmental characteristics of adolescents become accepted as appropriate for Christians of all ages." (p.4)

He expounds on his thesis by exploring mainline Liberal churches, the Black chur...more
Excellent, excellent book. Highly recommend it, though you do have to expect a heavy, textbook-ish read. But well worth the time and effort. I got a copy from the library, but it would be well worth the money to purchase. If I'd had my own copy, it would have been very marked up with highlighting and notes by the end. It would be a great book for groups like church Board of Elders or other leadership (including Pastors!) to read as a group and discuss.
~~~ (I've finished the book, but wrote this...more
Shay Gabriel
Bergler and I disagree theologically, I'm quite certain, but we both share a concern for the vitality of the church and its testimony to the Word of God.

However, although I agree with some of the things Bergler writes, I find his argument overall lacking simply for the sheer number of holes. Many scholars of church growth and shift now talk about generation theory, and I think it's a mistake for Bergler not to engage with this — is there a difference in how generations have approached Christian...more
This book traces the history of youth ministry in the United States from the 1930s through the present, with special emphasis on the youth experience in the 1950s and 1960s in the mainline Protestant, evangelical, black Protestant, and Roman Catholic traditions. The author's theses is that while investing in youth ministry created growing churches with committed followers, it also led to a greater number of Christians who were deeply immature in their faith. He explains that there is a fine line...more
For better or worse, youth ministry and youth culture have changed the American church and the effects will be long-lasting. The real question is: what will we do about it? This book is really a history of youth ministry in America and how it has juvenilized the church at large. It was well researched and is a fascinating tale of just how youth ministries changed the landscape of the church we know today. For the most part, author Thomas Bergler saves his own thoughts and feelings for the last 3...more
Apr 20, 2013 Sean rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: kindle
I gave up in the intro because I can't tell who the author is mad at. On the one hand, he speaks negatively about teenagers and youth ministries while maintaining they are necessary in the church. What? On the other hand, the entire beginning of this book is a sardonic caricature of the American Church. And I for one am tired of reading professors' opinions about how bad the church is without offering any support. In short, I gather the point of this rant, I mean, book, is to air grievances of t...more
While I was a bit disheartened to find out this was more of an history of the American rather than a sociology; I am happy with this book. It really does bring forth the notion that the church has not made disciples, but rather has made social groups. It also is a good warning against people changing because of fear instead of changing because they are being disciples of their particular meta-narrative. It also offers a valid critique against those people who act as if the young people will brin...more
Will Hunter
Excellent historical and sociological history of the youth movement in the church. A must for any believer. Describes historical trends both Protestant and Catholic churches and their youth movements from the twenties until the present. Also describes how the modern "seeker sensitive" movement came from former youth ministers. Also explains how we can mentor and disciple young people in the faith and how they can become part of the regular church body!
An interesting and frustrating read. He addresses a number of key issues. My frustration is that he did not clearly identify the other social/cultural factors which created the environment for juvenilization of Christianity. In particular fundamentalisms eschatology and excessive concern with behavior as well as evangelicalisms excessive individualism and castration of the gospel by overemphasizing evangelism while neglecting discipleship.
Very interesting read. I'm not sure I always agreed with every assertion that he made. But I didn't live through that era. I like the solutions that he offers at the end in the last chapter. Of course they aren't super specific, so I need to think about what specific ways I would implement some of the maturity principles he outlines.
Worth reading.
John Hoffacker
A history of American Christian churches' attempts to appeal to adolescents and the resulting transformation of the churches' theologies. Bergler teaches Youth Ministry at Huntington College. He posits that juvenilization means a feel-good, Jesus-loves-me theology has replaced mature spirituality - which is never fully defined.
Compelling introduction and conclusion, but the chapters in between kinda ran together. Overall, a helpful explanation of what sparked the church's marketing focus toward youth culture and why many adults haven't been able to conceive of a Christian faith deeper than that of their childhood.
Book traces the history of the youth movement in the Catholic, mainline Protestant, Evangelical, and African-American churches. Well-written, engaging, and even-handed. Looking forward to what I hope is next: a discussion of 'what do we do now'?
The author did a thorough job of chronicling the move in post-WW2 America toward a youth-focused church. I wish he had spent more time describing what his vision for the church is.
Very good. Especially the assessment of the YFC/evangelical movement in the 50s and 60s. Talk about understanding the past in order to understand the present!
Excellent history of the dumbing down of American Christianity we have in many churches today. One of the most eye-opening books I have read in a long time.
Great main point. Could have been slimmed down. Worth a read for anyone who cares about the health of the Church.
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“Juvenilization is the process by which the religious beliefs, practices, and developmental characteristics of adolescents become accepted as appropriate for Christians of all ages. It begins with the praiseworthy goal of adapting the faith to appeal to the young. But it sometimes ends badly, with both youth and adults embracing immature versions of the faith.” 0 likes
“To give one example, consumerism and juvenilization reinforce one another. People who know who they are, who think carefully about purchases, and who exercise self-control are harder to persuade to buy products they don't really need. In contrast, impulsive people who are searching for a sense of identity, who are looking to salve their emotional pain, who desperately crave the approval of others, and who have lots of discretionary income (or are willing to spend as if they do) make ideal consumers. In
other words, encouraging people to settle into some of the worst traits of adolescence is good for business. Not all businesses and advertisers operate on this basis, but enough do to encourage the cult of youth and discourage people from growing up. Considerable evidence suggests that consumers can see through these techniques and resist them to some extent. But immersed as we all are in the culture of adolescence, it becomes increasingly hard to embrace the self-denial and character formation necessary to achieve what used to be called mature adulthood.2”
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