In April, Campus Pastor Bob Yoder published the book “Helping Youth Grieve: The Good News of Biblical Lament.” This past week during Goshen’s First Friday, he held a book signing at Better World Books. The following interview explores his book, inspiration and process.Q: How was the book signing last Friday?
A: It was good! It was fun to be able to see people, talk to people, make people aware.
Q: How long did it take you to write the book?
A: A long time. There’s phases. This is like 8 years. However, the bulk of the book is the focus of my doctoral work, so I did a lot of the work 8 years ago. Then it went through phases where I set it aside for a couple of years and then worked on some of it to get it in publishing form. Last fall I had a publisher accept my proposal, and I had a couple of months to get into shape for publication. That time was maybe three to three and a half months, but it wasn’t starting over because it was my doctoral dissertation.
Q: What was your inspiration?
A: Again, it goes back to my doctoral work, which was focusing on faith formation and pastoral care of adolescents. In that time what I was struck by was loss and grief that in many ways all of us face and deal with, particularly during junior high, high school and college. In youth ministry in particular, I wonder how we work and walk with young people in the midst of these losses alongside the fun things we do in youth group or wherever else.
Q: How do you think being Campus Pastor influenced your writing?
A: I wrote the bulk of it in my first year as campus pastor. But I’m not so sure that being campus pastor influenced my writing so much as my writing and that study influenced how I am as a pastor and how I walk with people. I want to invite people into an understanding of God that makes room for that pain and grief, and acknowledging that experiencing pain does not make you a bad Christian or person of faith. Life happens. Some of it is beyond our control. Being campus pastor has reinforced that understanding of lament spirituality.
Q: Do you think that is something that Goshen College students can take away from your writing?
A: I want GC students to know that when we encounter those times in life, God cares. God wants to be with us—God is with us. And when those times and feelings about God are apathetic, that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist or care, because God does. For college students it is a very easy time to think God is absent and does not care, or to take it internally and think, “It’s all my fault.” That’s not even true.
Q: One last question – do you have any plans to write more books in the future?
A: I’m working on one right now. It’s on mentoring faith in college. The last number of years I have worked on research here at GC and elsewhere on how college can serve as a faith mentoring environment. I plan on writing the book in the latter part of the year.
Helping Youth Grieve is available now.