From the Editor: Baptism and Youth
This issue of Direction complements the theme of ministry to youth covered this past spring (2002). Among its articles, several take a particular look at the significance of baptism for children and for young people. Baptism has not been visited by Direction since 1985 but increasingly is raising difficult questions among us. Perhaps the offerings contained here will motivate thoughtful responses from our readership which can be published in a subsequent issue.
Michele Hershberger examines how the practice of an initiation ritual such as baptism impacts postmodern youth. Should those who profess faith be baptized immediately, or undergo a waiting period or time of teaching (catechism)? Laura Kalmar looks at the lower end of the age range. Typically among Mennonite Brethren baptism has been administered at the age of eleven or twelve. How should we evaluate the fact that increasingly younger children are being baptized? David Esau is concerned that believers baptism may be facing hard times. Particularly as believers from other faith traditions enter the local church, he urges us to consider several important reasons for the continued practice of believers baptism. Sharon Johnson gives an account of the motivating factors and guiding values behind some newly-developed educational resources on baptism and the Lord’s Supper now available to the church.
Ritch Hostetler completes the collaborative work begun by Wendell Loewen in the spring issue. Loewen provided an historical, theological, and biblical analysis for a kingdom theology of youth ministry; Hostetler delves into youth ministry practice, diagnosing barriers as well as offering pragmatic counsel for such a theology. Randy Keeler alerts us to gifts from various developmental theorists gleaned from his ministry with college youth. Tim Neufeld reports on a helpful grid for charting the field of postmodern youth ministry models.
This issue also includes a student essay by Eliza Mok. Using Direction as a lens, she responds to four important challenges to North American Mennonite Brethren. Her article includes an interesting chart of subjects covered by the journal in the past thirty years. Prof. Bruce L. Guenther, for whom this essay was originally written, reports that students who complete this assignment, and its required extensive use of Direction, consistently make two comments: (1) they are impressed at how well the journal chronicles the issues of concern to MBs over the years, and (2) they are puzzled that Direction remains such a well-kept secret within the denomination.
Finally, John B. Toews recounts inspiring and challenging stories of the passion and mission of Mennonite Brethren in early Communist Russia. The issue concludes with book reviews on a variety of subjects.