Book explores 130-year history of Mennonite youth ministry

Published: December 17, 2013

Mary E. Klassen

A new book, published by the Institute of Mennonite Studies, documents how youth ministry efforts of the Mennonite denominations have been an essential element of the life of the church for more than 100 years.

A History of Mennonite Youth Ministry, 1885–2005, edited by Bob Yoder, documents a wide variety of efforts that Mennonite congregations, conferences and denominations employed to nurture the faith of young people.

Yoder, who is campus pastor and assistant professor of youth ministry at Goshen College, solicited chapters from long-term youth workers and directed the research and writing of several Goshen College students in creating the book.

“Some of the most creative, intentional and faithful church-shaping work has happened in youth ministry,” Andy Brubacher Kaethler, professor at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary and director of AMBS’s !Explore program for high school youth, said.

At a December 3 celebration of the book’s release, Kaethler also said, “Like any good history book, it does not simply recount the past, but it asks questions of the past which are instructive for the present and the future.”

Efforts included in this history and analysis include Christian Endeavor, Youth for Christ, Bible quizzing, Mennonite Youth Fellowship, Mennonite camping programs, short-term service programs, denominational youth conventions and more. Among the writers are people involved in youth ministry in both Canada and the United States, such as Anna Rehan, Susan Allison-Jones, Randy Keeler and Kent Miller.

Yoder expressed his gratitude for several forms of help in creating the book. Goshen College’s Maple Scholars program linked him to four students in the summers of 2008 and 2009. These students—Matt Harms, Jonny Gerig Meyer, Joshua Hertzler and Anna Showalter—conducted research and contributed chapters to the book.

In addition, Yoder thanked Mennonite Education Agency for grants that supported the work of a copyeditor, Sarah Rohrer Schlegel, and that now make possible the distribution of the book to leaders across the church.

Mary Schertz, director of IMS, noted an endorsement of the book by Mark Senter, professor of educational ministries at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Ill. Senter commented, “A History of Mennonite Youth Ministry, 1885-2005 documents the complexities of youth ministry in one community of faith. It describes tensions between people committed to retaining a strong community characterized by longstanding traditions, and people concerned with responding to the distinctive needs of the community’s young people amid societal change.”

For information about the book and purchasing a copy, visit,-1885-2005.cfm.

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