Youth Ministry in a Multifaith Society: Forming Christian Identity Among Skeptics, Syncretists and Sincere Believers of Other Faiths, By Len Kageler alt
Youth Ministry in a Multifaith Society
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Published: April 24, 2014
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 8407
  • ISBN: 9780830884070

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In simpler, more homogenous times, youth ministry was a relatively straightforward activity. The church's youth gathered (occasionally inviting their unchurched friends from school), played together, sang together and listened together to a message from a bright, engaging youth minister, selecting from a relatively defined set of topics: "What does it mean to follow Jesus when it comes to _______?"

Now Christian youth must make sense of their faith, with its exclusive claims, in light of their close friends who are Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, atheist, "other" or even "none." And increasingly other religions are taking their cues for rooting and establishing their youth from Christian ministry practices, so that our kids are being invited to outreach events sponsored by other faiths.

Veteran youth minister and researcher Len Kageler digs into the data surrounding this exciting multifaith era and offers surprising confidence that our kids can be guided into mature Christian faith while simultaneously learning to love their neighbors of other religions.

"It's so refreshing to learn how other faiths participate in youth ministry. Len points out the global context and commonalities that can refresh your youth ministry and encourage you to see that kids are cared for all over the world. This is a very important book for those of us who care about kids and youth ministry."

Doug Fields, youth pastor, author, cofounder of

"With a contagious passion for both quantitative research and Christology, and particularly the challenging interrelationship between the two, Len Kageler invites Christian youth ministers around the globe to rethink youth ministry in a multifaith society. Although writing out of a North American context, Kageler offers thoughtful reflections, insights and ideas that may prove helpful for youth ministers in other parts of the world who are faithfully seeking to develop a pastoral theology for youth ministry in an emerging multifaith society."

Bård Eirik Hallesby Norheim, associate professor of practical theology, NLA University College, Bergen, Norway

"Len Kageler's book is a must-read for youth work practitioners and educators in these contemporary, multicultural times. It is more important than ever to understand and celebrate the diverse nature of our communities. But forming young people as Christian disciples can be daunting given the difficult questions that may arise when considering the different beliefs of others. Kageler provides an excellent resource that will equip the youth minister sociologically and theologically to consider their practice in sensitive and creative ways."

Jo Griffiths, director of the Cambridge Institute for Children, Youth and Mission

"Youth Ministry in a Multifaith Society is truly an original contribution to the academy and the church. Making an unexplored area of inquiry accessible and probing it brilliantly puts us all in Leonard Kageler's debt. One might be still more grateful if there was more to be grateful for--;I wanted this book to be twice as long!"

Leonard Sweet, bestselling author, professor at Drew University and George Fox University, and chief contributor to

"In a culture of hyperbole, it's important to recognize when a book really is 'one of a kind,' and Youth Ministry in a Multifaith Society is just that. In addition to a rich and detailed overview of the spread of youth work among Christianity's 'competing' religions, Len Kageler offers prophetic perspective on why it's good for Christian teenagers to have a better working knowledge of other world religions as an invigorating catalyst for their own faith in Christ, and he throws in rich perspective on the rising tide of 'nones' in our culture--young people who've given up on religious life altogether. This book is a needed primer for youth ministry in the real world."

Rick Lawrence, executive editor of GROUP Magazine

"Youth Ministry in a Multifaith Society is a must-have for all youth workers, especially those living in international or urban contexts. With the global rise of postmodernity and pluralism, it is essential for youth workers to understand the foundations of other religious traditions and the importance of youth religiosity. Dr. Kageler's in-depth research and statistical analysis is the most comprehensive look thus far into this social and religious phenomenon from the perspective of youth culture and ministry. Living in France, I can assure the viewpoints expressed in this book are commonplace and will be the majority understanding among younger generations in the United States. With grace and truth, Kageler discloses the core beliefs and impact of other faith traditions, while exploring how Christianity can both come alongside these faiths in partnership while also remaining a transformative agent in today's youth culture. This book is not only informative but has inspired me to reaffirm and appreciate my own faith and the call to help students flourish spiritually with a viable faith that makes a difference in their lives and the world."

Rev. Dan Haugh, pastor of youth and young adults, The American Church in Paris, France

"Youth Ministry in a Multifaith Society is a timely and relevant resource, especially for our part of the world, where we brush shoulders with those of various faiths (or of no faith) on a daily basis and where many of our youth are growing up biblically and doctrinally illiterate and confused, unable to discern truth from falsehood, at a loss to defend their faith and incapable of 'dividing the word of truth' properly. Furthermore, the predominant culture encourages them to exercise extreme tolerance toward other faiths (lest they be branded religious bigots) and even encourages a religious-smorgasbord attitude, where they feel free to dabble in the 'best of the best' of other religions and integrate it with their own. This book would greatly aid youth ministers, professors and Christian educators in establishing our students in the faith, while ministering to those whose faiths are different or nonexistent."

Anne De Jesus-Ardina, faculty/director for youth studies and Christian education, Alliance Graduate School, Metro Manila, Philipines

"In a vivid description Kageler gives different perspectives on youth ministry in a reality that affects us all: multifaith. His elaboration on and suggestions for the complex field of religiosity, youth and pluralism are innovative. After reading this book, one will consider one's own views on pluralism and approaches in youth ministry from a christological point of view. This is an informative and relevant book for the contexts of Europe and the United States. I highly recommend it."

Rev. Ronelle Sonnenberg, Protestant Church in the Netherlands, coordinator of the Research Centre for Youth, Church, and Culture

"Through disturbing statistics, delightful stories and a deep study of Scripture, Dr. Len Kageler unpacks a distinctive way youth ministry ought to be done in our different-religions-embracing, diverse world. My mind started unlearning while my heart started burning when I read this brilliant book!"

Duke Jeyaraj, evangelist and founder, G4 Mission, India

"Len Kageler has created an important resource for everyone involved in youth ministry in this century, youth pastors, parents, youth ministry educators and students of youth ministry alike. This well-written masterpiece provides coverage of a number of important issues and techniques that are not commonly treated in youth ministry textbooks. For the first time, this book shows youth workers how to ground their young people in their faith while encouraging their relationships with friends of other faiths. Anyone involved in youth ministry will treasure this book because it provides another avenue to help youth workers become reflective, observant and engaged in doing youth ministry in a multifaith society. If you are in any way concerned with the future of global youth ministry, you owe it to yourself to read this book!"

Rev. Nathan H. Chiroma, lecturer in youth ministry and Christian education, ECWA Theological Seminary, Jos, Nigeria

"Len Kageler delivers a timely, much-needed perspective on the challenges of ministry in multifaith societies. The text is content-rich and globally aware, pulling together many threads of research into one seamless must-read book for thinking youth workers."

Andy du Feu, director of youth and community work, Moorlands College, Christchurch, UK

"Len Kageler's new book vacuumed me in--and I carefully read every line. I will continue to grieve over the growing percentage of people who don't know Jesus, but Len opened my eyes to opportunities in this environment. What a wonderful time to show teenagers how to love without conditions, to understand how the truth claims of the Christian faith are distinct from other systems and to grasp much more of the entirely unique Son of God so their hearts will intertwine with his forever."

Richard Ross, professor of student ministry, Southwestern Seminary

"Len Kageler describes a territory for youth ministry that is certainly growing more complex. Postmoderns, syncretists, 'nones,' 'religious others'--the context of our ministry is both multifaith and multifaceted. In his Youth Ministry in a Multifaith Society, Kageler provides a ministry map to navigate this challenging territory. He describes the theological underpinnings of various youth ministry approaches and their practical applications, illustrated by stories from his personal and ministerial experiences. As a Catholic youth ministry leader, I understand that differences exist between faith traditions. Kageler navigates those differences honestly, emphasizing a pastoral theology of presence and power that fosters a Christian faith identity in our young people. This is a valuable resource for youth ministers serious about our shared mission."

Robert J. McCarty, executive director, National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry

"We all need this book written by an active youth minister and vigilant scholar. Its topic has been largely ignored; its research and theology are compelling. Kageler's data on Muslim youth ministry alone makes looking into this work worthwhile, but there's more. Who's gaining and who's losing across the religious field? How does Christ win in multifaith contexts? How does all this work out in practical youth ministry? The book's answers make this a must for youth pastors' libraries."

Dean Borgman, director, Center for Youth Studies, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

"What you hold in your hands is a unique book. I honestly know of none quite like it. But its uniqueness should not be interpreted as novel or niche; this book is of the utmost importance. Faith and pluralism have become (at times tensely) linked in late modernity. It is nearly impossible--at least in the Western world--to imagine one without the other. Our young people, perhaps even more than adults, feel both the possibilities and problems with this linking. It then is a great gift to have before us Youth Ministry in a Multifaith Society. It promises to deepen your perspective and practice of youth ministry, and challenge you at every turn. Embrace it as the gift it is."

Andrew Root, Olson Baalson Associate Professor of Youth and Family Ministry, Luther Seminary, and author of Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker and Christopraxis

"We must be extremely grateful to Len for writing this book, sharing his wisdom, and offering the opportunity to raise these important questions in the context of the international youth ministry community."

Harmen van Wijnen, Journal of Youth and Theology 16, 2017


Foreword by Chap Clark
1 The Rise of Youth Ministry in Other Religions
A Good Thing for Christian Youth Work?

2 The Scope and Nature of Muslim Youth Work
Have They All Read Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry?

3 The Rise of Syncretists and Nones
Understanding Those Whose Faith Is to Have None at All

4 Christians in Occupied Territory
The Church Has Been There, Done That

5 Theology in Praxis: Latent or Articulated Views of Multifaith
Youth Ministry on Purpose

6 Multifaith Perspectives: A Reason to Care
Youth Religiosity, Flourishing and the Public Good


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Len Kageler

Len Kageler, Ph.D, is professor of youth and family studies and associate dean of faculty development at Nyack College in New York. He has authored a dozen books, including The Youth Ministry Survival Guide (Zondervan, 2008) and The Volunteer's Field Guide to Youth Ministry (Group, 2011). He speaks and teaches widely in North America and the European Union. He and his wife Janet live just outside of NYC, and love camping and hiking. Len is a serious runner and has an excellent reputation for making superb omelets on winter backpacking trips, even at 20 degrees while camping on snow. He does not always achieve his reading goal (3 books a month) but the books are duly noted in his reading journal and at the end of the year he heads for Starbucks and enjoys a (cerebral) Book of the Year ceremony in which the top three books are declared.