It's been a month of Fridays looking at Edwards and the claim that he invented Youth Ministry.  We have see that there is no question that Jonathan Edwards was involved in Youth Ministry.  He deliberately sought to minister to young people who where experiencing a state of prolonged adolescence because of the changing social system in Northampton.  But is Edwards’s ministry to young people, new and unique?  Did he invent it, or was he simply one of many who began working with young people?  Brekus cites a quote from one of Edwards’s contemporaries William Williams which stressed the need to convey the truth of scripture to youth in a way that enables them to ‘conceive of it’ and not simply, ‘learn things by rote’.  She argues this reflects Edwards view.[1]  But in our case it also shows that there were others around Edwards’s time who were beginning to minister to young people.

Chamberlin notes that Congregational ministers throughout New England had a longstanding concern for the reform and conversion of young people,[2] and Tracy speaks of Jonathan Edwards and his father Timothy as being, ‘clearly preoccupied with the same issues’, which included young people and their sexual sins, and the failure of parents to govern their children.[3]  Brekus notes that many Puritan ministers had written catechisms for children but that, ‘few (if any) seem to have held separate meetings for them. [4]  Edwards however did hold special meetings for children and youth and this seems to have been a new and unique thing.

Next week will bring us to the end of our discussion of Edwards on Youth Ministry and I'll give my opinion as to why I think Edwards indeed may have invented Youth Ministry.

[1] Brekus, ‘Children of Wrath, Children of Grace: Jonathan Edwards and the Puritan Culture of Child Rearing’, 303.
[2] Chamberlain, ‘Edwards and Social Issues’, 331.
[3] Tracy, Jonathan Edwards, Pastor: Religion and Society in Eighteenth Century Northampton, 168.
[4] Brekus, ‘Children of Wrath, Children of Grace: Jonathan Edwards and the Puritan Culture of Child Rearing’, 313.