Learning never ends. But my picks on essential youth ministry reads is coming to a close. This list is certainly not exhaustive, nor has my reading been exhaustive. I would love to hear about books that have influenced you; please post a comment on books that have influenced you, or why you think these books should or should not be on our shelves. Enjoy the last three picks of books that must be in your youth ministry library.
1. Youth Ministry 3.0 by Mark Oestreicher – 125 pages
This is a recent read of mine, and for fear of it being “too new” I was almost ready to leave it on the shelf waiting for its test of time. Then, on second thought, I realized for that reason, that it is a new and fresh perspective on youth culture, it should be on here. This little book is really a brief history on youth ministry, youth culture, and the waves that the church has ridden to bring us into this current land of doing youth ministry.
If you are a thinker or visionary (and if you’re not and in youth ministry, those two traits are necessary evils at the least), I really believe you will enjoy this quick read. I enjoy thinking about what could be, and how to get there, and this book formulates well that given our current social standing (being postmodern and all), something has got to change in how we approach ministry to teenagers. It’s a book well worth reading if you are a youth worker wondering what the future holds for youth ministry.
2. Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity by David Kinnamon – 246 pages
This book calls out the blind or naïve Christian that all is not well in the church. If you are involved and invested in youth ministry, you have already seen the trends. There is less knowledge and interest in biblical or godly ideas. Students have migrated away from church or will do so following their graduation from youth group. You have seen that parents are not doing their job instructing students in the way they should go, etc. If you have asked those questions or felt that being true in your church, you get the premise behind the book.
Since you are probably in the loop that we live in a post-Christian society, this book serves well to draw out and delineate the church’s image problem. In true Barna fashion, they survey and analyze, coming up with the proof behind what we hear students saying about the church. Yes, it affirms many unchristian accusations about the church. We may not like it or agree with it, but the reality remains that their perception trumps whatever reality is out there, and until their perception is reworked, it will be that much harder it to introduce them to the One who really matters.
Read the book. Gain some proof and some ammo to change things the church’s image problem.
3. Simply Christian by N.T. Wright – 237 pages
I admit, I have not made it fully through the book yet. This book was recommended to me, and the half that I have read convinced me that youth leaders should rediscover the roots of their faith. Many students ask the question, “Why are you a youth pastor?, or Why do you believe in God?, or What difference does this make? (I work with a lot of unchristians if you can’t tell :o). It is always great to have an answer; if you don’t it will be hard to convince them on anything.
What is even better is to have a story to tell. A passionate story about a God who has had a plan for this world, about these longings in our hearts that we all share about justice and beauty, about Jesus who came and lived life on our planet, and that it was significant to us today because He started a revolution that continues to this day that peaked at a bloody, violent cross, etc. You know the story.
I think this book is a great refresher on why we chose (or were chosen, depending upon your theology) to commit the rest of our lives in service to our Liberating King.