Products>When God Shows Up: A History of Protestant Youth Ministry in America

When God Shows Up: A History of Protestant Youth Ministry in America

Format: Digital
ISBN: 9780801035906


In a post-everything era, is there any hope that teenagers will encounter the Triune God? If history is any indication, the answer is yes. According to veteran youth educator Mark Senter, for more than two centuries Protestant youth ministries have either strengthened teenagers after a special encounter with God or tried to retain them until such a moment when God shows up. This book examines the fascinating journey of church leaders as they seek to capture the moment in life when young people are most open to peak spiritual experiences. As such, it provides the first substantial history of American Protestant youth ministry.

Senter traces the American Protestant church through three cycles of youth ministry, each beginning with a cultural shift that made obsolete the established methods of passing Christian values from one generation to the next. For each cycle, he evaluates innovations made by pastors and local churches in response to cultural shifts and shows how these innovations in youth ministry have impacted broader church life. Senter also highlights the evolution of adolescent spirituality in America and describes the major shapers of youth ministry over the last century. As he reveals the dynamics of changing youth ministry trends and eras, Senter uses history as a lens for responding to the future.

This volume’s unique historical foundation makes it relevant for a broad array of youth ministry courses. In addition, youth workers will value Senter’s assessment of what youth ministry has been, what it is now, and where it is going.

Whether you’re a pastor, youth leader, or layperson, this collection will enhance your understanding. All Scripture passages in When God Shows Up link to your favorite Bible translation in your library. You can perform powerful searches by topic and find what other authors, pastors, and theologians have to say, making this collection ideal for studying youth evangelism.

Key Features

  • Explores the topic of Protestant youth in America
  • Assesses the past, present, and future of Protestant youth ministry


  • Part 1 Birth of Youth Ministry Jazz: The Context
    • Newsies: A Survey of the Diverse Experiences of Youth in America
    • Rebel Without a Cause: The Rise and Fall of Adolescence in America
    • Bruce Almighty: A History of Spirituality in Youth Ministry
    • Whatever Goes Around Comes Around: The Concept of Cycles in History
  • Part 2 Youth Ministry Jazz: The Period of Associations (1824–75)
    • Tom Sawyer and the British Invasion: The Period of Associations (1824–75)
    • Cadets of Temperance: Structuring Youth Societies
    • Gangs of New York: The Setting for Modern Youth Ministry
  • Part 3 Sheet Music Jazz: The Period of Youth Societies (1881–1925)
    • Trouble in River City: The Period of Youth Societies (1881–1925)
    • Saturday Night in River City: Denominational Youth Societies (1889–1935)
  • Part 4 Modern Jazz: The Period of the Relational Outreach (1933–89)
    • The Great Gatsby: Youth Fellowships in Mainline Denominational Youth Ministry (1936–65)
    • Grease: Parachurch Club Programs (1933–89)
    • Pleasantville: The Evangelical Church Discovers Teenagers (1933–89)
    • Friday Night Lights: The Youth Rally Era (1938–67)
  • Part 5 Jazz Fusion: Combining Old and New (1990 and Beyond)
    • Into the Woods: Reinventing Youth Ministry
    • Mr. Holland’s Opus: The Legacy of Youth Ministry

Praise for the Print Edition

Mark Senter has done it again! Those of us who have read and used The Coming Revolution in Youth Ministry have waited far too long for this rich addition to the field of youth ministry. When God Shows Up offers a remarkable sweep across the heritage of youth ministry, demonstrating the factors that have shaped us today. Students of youth ministry will benefit from this work for years to come. I urge all those who care about where youth ministry has been and where it is going to read this fine book.

—Wesley Black, professor of student ministry, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

When God Shows Up will be a standard text in the field and will help us all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us with a passion to reach and nurture young people.

—Leonard Kageler, associate dean for faculty development, Nyack College

Every family, every organization, and every movement has a history that informs, explains, and inspires. Mark Senter has done a wonderful job of providing historical context for American Protestant youth ministry, which is a family, an organization, and a movement all in one. A thorough understanding of the contents of this book will help those who care about youth ministry to appreciate its roots and to be awed and inspired by youth ministry leaders from the past.

—Dan Lambert, dean of professional studies, John Brown University

Like a wise docent, Senter generously guides us through the archives of the history of youth ministry. Embracing a cyclical description of the evolution of youth ministry in America, Senter insightfully presents a well-researched, creative engagement with youth ministry in the Protestant church. Faithfully reporting the stories of our past, the text concludes with current observations and questions regarding our future direction. Comprehensive, accessible, and vital—a one-of-a-kind book that needs to be savored by every youth ministry professional!

—Cheryl A. Crawford, assistant professor of youth ministry, Azusa Pacific University

Weaving together stories of youth ministry pioneers and their organizations, Senter provides an intriguing historical perspective on the church’s concern for its young people. Drawing on the lessons from history, Senter provides insight into this frustrating area of ministry and the challenges the church must address in order to spiritually engage young people. When God Shows Up is required reading for anyone remotely concerned with the future of the church’s ministry to young people.

—Darwin Glassford, director of the MA program, Calvin Theological Seminary

Youth ministry changes—and must change—in the context of changing cultures. Mark Senter has experienced much of the history of modern youth ministry as a youth pastor himself and as a professor and leading scholar in the field. In When God Shows Up, Senter has produced a book that professors, students, youth leaders, and senior pastors should study. It challenged and expanded my thinking. Senter’s latest book is grist for dynamic, ministry-transforming discussion.

Dean Borgman, Charles E. Culpeper Professor of Youth Ministries, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Product Details

  • Title: When God Shows Up: A History of Protestant Youth Ministry in America
  • Author: Mark H. Senter III
  • Editor: Chap Clark
  • Series: Youth, Family, and Culture
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2010
  • Pages: 384

About Mark H. Senter III

Mark H. Senter III is a professor of educational ministries and chair of the department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is chair of the board of the Association of Youth Ministry Educators and has served as a youth pastor for 11 years. Senter has written and spoken widely on Christian education topics, with a specialty in youth ministry, and is the author or coauthor of eight books, including The Coming Revolution in Youth Ministry.