Andrew Root hopes that his students will develop into practitioners who continually reflect on their own experience of ministry. He also wants them "to reflect on the complications of human experience, and in that complication, see the distinct activity of God in the world."
Root came to faith as a teenager through his participation in church ministries to youth. Eventually, he became a youth minister. But as he worked with kids, especially those in difficult economic and family situations, he realized that something was lacking.
"I went to seminary because what I learned about youth ministry in college didn't match up with what I saw in the field," Root says. "My question was: how do you minister to people who refuse your care, but continue to ask for it?"
This led him to reflect on how the church interacts with the world. "The work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth became very significant for me," he says. "I realized that real ministry is about faithfulness to the person and to God's call."
This realization was reinforced by his experience as a gang prevention counselor. "I worked with kids one-on-one. Many had parents or other family members who were on drugs, in gangs, or incarcerated. I couldn't change these things. But I could, for one hour a week, enter into their suffering and listen to their story so they could understood that they were not alone," Root says.
This kind of ministry goes beyond cultural strategy and personal influence, and becomes truly incarnational. ""Working with youth takes more than a skateboard and a guitar," he says. "Adolescents need people who'll enter into their lives and love them. This is a relationship between an 'I' and a 'You.' Christ is not the 'third thing' that we bring people to. Christ is present in the relationship itself."