In a new book titled “Helping Youth Grieve: The Good News of Biblical Lament” (Resource Publications, May 2015. $19 U.S.), Goshen College Campus Pastor Bob Yoder explores the role of spiritual lament in the pastoral care and faith formation of adolescents.
According to Yoder, suicide, depression, eating disorders and other mental health illnesses have dramatically increased among adolescents in recent decades, and American culture demands high levels of success and propagates a “feel good” attitude that denies pain, loss and failure. Churches contribute to these distressing realities among youth, and many in the church associate “being happy” with “true faithfulness” to God, overemphasizing praise and thanksgiving while neglecting lament, even though lament comprises the largest number of Psalms.
“Helping Youth Grieve” exposes the distorted view of God modeled and taught to young people. The book portrays a God who yearns to hear the honest cries of our youth, even when that involves blaming God, and is based on Yoder’s doctoral work and his passion for “what is needed” in youth ministry today.
“We often encourage youth to praise God and always be thankful for our blessings,” Yoder said. “I believe there is much suffering among adolescents, and they need to know that God welcomes their honest thoughts about this pain. Youth desire a faith that is authentic, and so when we are taught to mask our pain with praise, then that develops a faith that is inauthentic and a view of God that is warped.”
In a review of “Helping Youth Grieve, Jaco Hamman, associate professor of religion, psychology and culture at Vanderbilt University, wrote, “With compassion and wisdom Yoder empowers pastors and teachers to be a transformative presence to persons young in years but old in experience. His witness gives voice to the multiple losses and traumas youth know intimately. Lament is needed, more than ever. ‘Helping Youth Grieve’ should be read, discussed and lived. Hope will follow.”
In addition to his role as campus pastor at Goshen College, Yoder was an assistant professor of youth ministry for 11 years. He has served in ministry for more than 20 years in congregational, camp, conference and college settings. Yoder is editor of “A History of Mennonite Youth Ministry, 1885-2005” (2013) and “Youth Ministry at a Crossroads” (2011). He and his wife, Pamela, reside in Goshen with their two children, Josiah and Mira.