It’s not my Dad’s Youth Ministry…


This is my second paper for Communication Theory class…

 Critical vs. Rhetorical

Jason M. Roebuck

Northwest Christian University



    In this paper, I will look at how I believe the Holy Spirit is leading me to focus more on the Rhetorical Tradition over the Critical Tradition. It is my flesh and the way I was raised that is putting pressure on me to see the benefits of communication from a critical tradition, rather than the one I believe God is calling me to pursue. I will explain the reasons why I believe this rhetorical tradition works best for me, and why the critical tradition is counter-productive when it comes to my work in ministry, even though it is the one that I have been taught most of my life.

    It was about six and a half years ago that I started working for the church as a youth minister and the director of religious education. When I first took the job, I did not know anything about being a youth minister or director of religious education. I read a lot of articles from magazines and textbooks about how to be a good youth minister and I relied on the way things were in the past to lead my decisions of how and what to do in the future. I think the method that I was employing here was critical, because I was trying to identify all of the things that were not working first and then work on not repeating them. I remember identifying some methods that would be effective from day one, but deciding to wait to see what I could glean from just being a part of ministry.

    After about 6 months of treading water to keep my head up, I decided to try to apply some things that God was teaching me through my journaling project to the work that I was doing in ministry. In my opinion, this was when I realized that the rhetorical tradition was more suited for effective communication in ministry, than the critical tradition that I was raised with. I began to organize meetings and group discussion around a specific topic and designed the communication to be used that would best speak to the kids. For the past couple of years, I have tried to pass along this method of application of the rhetorical tradition on to the other teachers at my parish, but it is difficult to get them to commit to the struggle to make it happen effectively.

    The Critical Tradition is what I am comfortable with, because my father raised me with the idea that there was no objective truth, and without questioning everything and not accepting anything as universally true for everyone, you could not be free to live. In the beginning of my ministry experience, I was more willing to accept this idea because it seemed that everyone was comfortable with my speaking this way. I would choose not to be confrontation in most subjects, because it was easier. Too often, I believe children involved in our youth programs were being led to abandon their faith, by being open to all truth, without being given any opinion about the objective truth that is given to the church by God.

    Finally, the Rhetorical Tradition sets me up for ridicule, when I talk about issues that are “not popular”. By the way, it would be awesome if I was just talking about the kids here, but the truth is that most parents have been raised in the church a lot like I was raised outside of the church. This means, that when it comes to a decision that needs to be made about a moral issue, it is easier for them, and most of adult society, to just rely on what the popular culture tells us is ok. As I grow in my faith, I hope that I can continue on the path of developing the rhetorical tradition to use in my work, and use less of the critical tradition. I know that I can be more effective in delivering the message of the gospel, which even Jesus said would make people uncomfortable. “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Luke 12:51 NABRE)

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