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Foundations for Youth Ministry, 2nd Edition

Theological Engagement with Teen Life and Culture

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Dean Borgman, a nationally known youth ministry expert, offers a new edition of his influential classic. Reaching a broadly ecumenical audience, this book challenges readers to think about the theological nature of youth ministry. Questions for discussion and reflection are included. This thoroughly updated edition was previously published as When Kumbaya Is Not Enough.

Praise for the first edition

"Writing with the lens of a theologian, the heart of a pastor, and welcome doctrinal breadth, Borgman has provided a 'field book' of pastoral theologies that takes seriously the social systems shaping the lives of adolescents. This book is a significant step toward the long-awaited conversation about theology and youth ministry in postmodern culture."--Kenda Creasy Dean, Princeton Theological Seminary; author of Almost Christian

"In this excellent work Borgman brings theological integrity, depth, and years of wisdom like nothing else I have seen in our field."--Jim Burns, author of Teenology: The Art of Raising Great Teenagers


Part 1: Practical Theological Foundations
1. Introducing a Theology for Youth Ministry
2. The Art of Interpretation
3. The Practice of Interpretation
4. Basic Theology for Youth Ministers
5. From General Theology to Practical Theology for Youth Ministry
Part 2: Theology of Persons
6. Theology of Growth and Development
7. Theology of Personhood and Community
8. Theology of Family and Peers
9. Theology of Sexuality
Part 3: Practical Theology Engaging Culture
10. Theologizing about Culture and Cultures
11. Relating to Christ in Culture
12. Practical Theology in a Digital Age
13. Theology and Ministry in a Consumerist Age
14. Funny Theology?
Part 4: Practical Theology for Holistic Youth Ministry
15. Where Practical Theology Meets Holistic Ministry
16. The High Calling of Ministry with Youth


"In his capstone work, Foundations for Youth Ministry, Dean Borgman draws together a lifetime of engagement with theology and youth ministry to provide a vista from which to view the diverging and converging streams of youth ministry philosophy and practice. The book clearly establishes Borgman as the dean of youth ministers."

Mark H. Senter III, professor of educational ministries, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (emeritus)

"Truly a giant in youth ministry, Borgman offers theological depth, years of experience, and contextual integrity. Weaving together a tapestry of theology, anthropology, and culture, Borgman reveals the essential foundations that shape every aspect of youth ministry. Processing these fundamentals provides the firm foundation on which youth ministry is properly constructed."

Mark Cannister, professor of Christian ministries, Gordon College; author of Teenagers Matter

"Dean Borgman's When Kumbaya Is Not Enough was foundational for me at the beginning of my career as a youth ministry educator. My own interests in youth, theology, the arts, and social sciences meant his book was a touchstone for many of my courses. So naturally I am thrilled about Borgman's newest work picking up where Kumbaya left off. Foundations for Youth Ministry is a bold project that considers holistic theology in the context of persons, relationships, and place. As a trailblazer who remains cutting-edge, Borgman challenges much of our traditional thinking about youth ministry. And he remains a must read."

Calenthia S. Dowdy, director of faith initiatives, Philadelphia FIGHT Community Health Centers

"If there is one person who has led the way in careful study of youth ministry, it is Dean Borgman. Unassuming, never one to seek the spotlight of fame or influence, Borgman has faithfully and consistently worked to remind the world that youth ministry matters. In this magnum opus, Dean has brought together decades of experience in direct ministry, teaching, and consulting to produce a grounding resource that summarizes the best contemporary thinking about the call of the church to kids. He is thoroughly current, thoughtfully integrated, and carefully critical, all while communicating a single message: God cares about young people, and so should we."

Chap Clark, senior pastor, St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach, California; author of Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today's Teenagers

Praise for the First Edition

"Writing with the lens of a theologian, the heart of a pastor, and welcome doctrinal breadth, Dean Borgman has provided a field book of pastoral theologies that take seriously the social systems shaping the lives of adolescents--never mind that Borgman knows more about youth culture than anybody alive. This book is a significant step toward the long-awaited conversation about theology and youth ministry in postmodern culture."

Kenda Creasy Dean, professor of youth, church, and culture, Princeton Theological Seminary

"Dean Borgman has been a wonderful mentor and teacher for hundreds of youth workers throughout the years. In this excellent work he brings theological integrity, depth, and years of wisdom like nothing else I have seen in our field."

Jim Burns, president, National Institute of Youth Ministry

"In youth ministry it's not enough to know what to do. We must know why we do it. Dean Borgman's book gives us the why with depth. This is practical theology at its best."

Tony Campolo, Eastern University

"Dean Borgman has been around since the early days of Young Life. He started Young Life's suburban ministry in New England in the 1950s and helped begin Young Life's overall urban thrust in the United States in the 1960s. He has been deeply involved in training and research and has taught hundreds of Young Life staff and management personnel on adolescent culture and youth ministry in the last several decades. In the last decade, Dean has been involved in the coordination and expansion of Young Life's ministry in Africa and the Middle East. On the subject of youth ministry Dean brings wisdom, a lifetime of experience, and a great track record. I highly recommend his book."

Denny Rydberg, president, Young Life

"A must for anyone involved in youth ministry. Dean Borgman is a man who has done his homework and paid his dues. This book gives the crucial theological framework necessary for youth ministry. It is relevant and accurate in its understanding of youth culture, particularly of urban youth culture."

Allen A. Belton, vice president of multiethnic and urban affairs, Youth for Christ USA

The Author

  1. Dean Borgman

    Dean Borgman

    Dean Borgman (MA, Fairfield University and Columbia University) is the Charles E. Culpeper Professor of Youth Ministries at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and teaches at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary. An internationally recognized authority on youth...

    Continue reading about Dean Borgman


"Drawing on his extensive experience in urban youth ministry and academia, in Foundations for Youth Ministry [FYM] Borgman successfully navigates the intersection of biblical, theological, developmental psychology, sociology, and neuroscience in offering a practical theology of youth ministry. FYM is an essential text; it will inspire, challenge, frustrate, and cause the novice and veteran youth worker as well as the academician to reconsider their understanding and practice of youth ministry in some manner. . . . FYM is a seminal work. It is appropriate for use as an undergraduate and graduate textbook. It constructively interacts with a diversity of perspectives in a respectful, constructive, and charitable manner. It models critical engagement and civil discourse. FYM encourages thoughtful questions and will inspire engaging discussions. Whether one is a researcher, professor, student, or youth ministry practitioner, a thoughtful reading of FYM is a worthy investment."

Darwin K. Glassford,

Christian Education Journal

"Foundations for Youth Ministry is well-researched and offers a host of resources for the reader to further pursue. . . . The book targets the more scholastic reader. However, Borgman explains his points with specific life illustrations and cultural examples, making the text easy to understand. Youth ministry professors would find this a valuable piece of literature and might consider making it a required text in their classes. Youth leaders would do well to consider the text in formulating a philosophy of ministry and should find ways to integrate their learning from the text into the training of volunteer leaders. . . . The book offers much value. One would do well to read slowly through the text and take time to prayerfully consider the questions raised."

Jarrod Bergey,

Journal of Youth Ministry

"Foundations for Youth Ministry is the book I need a half-decade ago. The author lays out a clear, easy-to-follow theological foundation that informs a new youth pastor about the ideas, approaches, and doctrines that are out there in addition to providing a step-by-step form of exegetical interpretation that remains biblical while allowing enough room to show the youth of the church how scripture is not just applicable but fundamental in their day-to-day lives. Borgman then goes into many of the common apologetic and application issues that teens run into . . . and offers pastors a way to show how each is addressed in the Bible. Perhaps the most valuable element Borgman shares is his demonstration of how we are not to make the everything Bible applicable to the world but instead how everything in the world is applicable to the Bible. This consistent, scripture-oriented approach to youth ministry is truly the foundational element of this book."

Trent Nicholson,

blog (

Praise for the First Edition

"This solid foundational book is considered a textbook for youth ministry and training of future leaders. A must read for all who work with youth."

Ashland Theological Journal