Robert Elson Yoder
In recent decades there has been an increase in eating disorders, depression, suicide and other mental health illnesses among American adolescents. There is a proliferation for a "feel good" attitude in our American culture that denies or limits constructive expressions of lament, but strives for success and accelerated achievement. Theologically, our society narrowly views God as a therapeutic being who "helps us" when we need to feel good. Mennonite youth are not immune to the societal pressures and various mental health concerns that persist. Lamenting Youth, Believing Youth explores the role of biblical lament in faith formation and pastoral care of early, middle, and late Mennonite adolescents as a response to contemporary cultural realities. The thesis of this Doctor of Ministry project is that Mennonite pastors and youth workers will be motivated to engage youth in expressions of biblical lament by enabling youth to write their own prayers of lament. After describing a theology and understanding of biblical lament, I then explore how regular engagement in practices of lament will aid in the faith formation and pastoral care of adolescents. The method I used to investigate this thesis was to equip three different youth pastors to lead members of their junior and senior high youth groups through a series of timed-writing prayer exercises of lament. In addition, one pastor led this same practice with his young adult church group, while I conducted it with a college youth ministry class comprised mainly of young adults. Observations were then made from the questionnaires that adolescents in this study completed, as well as from their voluntarily submitted prayers of lament. I discovered that young people were comfortable engaging this prayer discipline and appreciated the opportunity to express their emotions to God.