Relationships Unfiltered: A Handbook for Youth Workers, Volunteers, Pastors and Parents
Andrew Root
Zondervan, 2009, 176 pp., $14.99

In our family, there are expectations. I’m expected to wash the dishes. My wife is expected to pay the bills. Our kids are expected to clean their rooms. However, I didn’t marry my wife in order to have a personal accountant. She didn’t marry me for my dishwashing skills, and we didn’t decide to have children rather than hire a maid. In marriage, expectations naturally grow out of relationship; yet in ministry, relationships often are viewed as tools for achieving expectations.

Root suggests that we often dive into expectations of teenagers before taking the time to understand their hearts, struggles and joys. In Good Will Hunting, Sean is the psychiatrist of last resort for the delinquent, yet brilliant, Will. Early on, Sean challenges Will’s know-it-all attitude by suggesting that one can view art and never experience the smell inside the Sistine Chapel; one can read about war without being trapped in a foxhole; one can listen to love songs, never knowing the depths of true love. Sean then declares that just because he read Oliver Twist doesn’t mean he knows anything about an orphan such as Will.

After doing ministry for a while, we easily can fall into the trap of believing we know everything concerning teenagers. In so doing, our relational agenda can overshadow our capacity to see the hearts, hurts and needs of our students. Andy Root believes relationships aren’t pathways toward attaining our goals but invitations to share life together. He challenges us to do just that through his concept of Place-Sharing—simply being with and doing life alongside students, having no agenda other than loving them.

Relationships Unfiltered is especially well designed for volunteer leadership teams with thoughtful discussion questions for each chapter. If you only have time to read through one book with your leadership team this year, this is the one.

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