Last week, three more high-profile mass shootings rocked the US, once again sparking intense debate about gun control, white supremacy, and the president’s role in inspiring the shootings. In the wake of these attacks, the media also profiled the alleged gunmen, who were dubbed “loners” by those who knew them. They were also all young—the three alleged gunmen’s ages fell between 19 and 24. An LA Times op-ed by researchers who have analyzed data about the profile of mass shooters since 1966 also noted that nearly all of them were traumatized as children.

The American church’s youth ministry model hasn’t done a good job of reaching this demographic, largely because of the middle-class’s desire for safety, said Andrew Root, the author of multiple books on youth ministry and a professor of youth and family ministry at Lutheran Seminary.

“So all of a sudden, a loner kid comes, who either is bullying or has been bullied, and then comes in and is just a negative presence,” he said. “It can lead young people to say they don't feel safe and lead parents to be very clear to the youth worker that they don't want that kid around because he/she feels unsafe. I think it becomes really difficult that American youth ministry as it classically has been a middle-class phenomenon and that tends to push these young people out. Or not even out, but they just disappear.”

Root joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editorial director Ted Olsen to discuss the complexities of welcoming disaffected young people into church, why lack of interpersonal relationships especially hurts young people, and what Bonhoeffer has to offer our current conversation on youth ministry. ...

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