BOOK REVIEW: Youth Ministry What’s Gone Wrong
In Bible College because of my graduation time line I was unable to take any youth/student ministry classes. For the most part I don’t know that I missed out on anything (I’d been interning in student ministry for the year and a half prior to attending Bible college). So my student ministry training came from interning, mentors, and books.
With a new school year starting up and things slowing down I decided to do some reading on youth ministry. After a few quick Google searches for ideas I realized the head of the youth ministry department at my Bible College, David Olshine, had a new book coming out the next day. Unfortunately in the end I found the book disappointing.
Problem #01 – Excluding Christian parents from their God-given purpose and calling
Problem #02 – The shepherds and leaders in the body of Christ have become too safe in reaching out to youth
Problem #03 – The paid youth worker’s temptation is to be a rock star
Problem #04 – Our models of ministry and methods lack intentionality and end being non-sustainable
Problem #05 – Maddening program obsession
Problem #06 – Our volunteer training is weak
Problem #07 – We’ve created a “holy huddle”
Problem #08 – Biblically illiterate Christians
Problem #09 – Students aren’t ready for life after high school
Problem #10 – Youth Ministry is too age segregated and devoid of signficant adult influences
Problem #11 – The traditional paradigm of student ministry as an island limits the ministry’s power to transform
Problem #12 – The caretakers are not taking care of themselves
On the basic level, most of it works. As I read the list of problems, I agree that each of those can be problems with youth ministries. The solutions he offers are all perfectly valid alternatives.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK
As I said earlier I was disappointed by the book. There were two recurring criticisms I kept coming back to while reading the book. First, while I didn’t necessarily disagree with his points, virtually everything in the book has been said many times before. Second, his view of youth ministry seems limited to that which is happening in the deep south. This combination of reused ideas and limited perspective left me leaving the book feeling like I hadn’t really gained anything.
Case in point, the first chapter addresses how some youth ministries exclude parents. I totally support student ministries which incorporate, enable, and empower parents to be the primary spiritual influence in their children’s life. The reason I feel this way is that every major book on youth or children’s ministry has pushed this point for over 10 years. North Point Community Church (Andy Stanley’s church) created a model for childrens/student ministry around involving parents nearly 20 years ago. Then one of the architects of this idea left North Point to start the RETHINK GROUP and ORANGE. Their website makes it pretty clear what they’re all about, “By combining the critical influences of the light of the church (yellow) and the love of the family (red) the Orange Strategy shows a generation who God is more effectively than either could alone.” All this to say, Olshine isn’t wrong about youth ministries needing to partner with parents, but he’s not saying something which hasn’t been said before.
Each chapter of the book felt this way to me. For virtually every chapter I suspect I could recommend a different book which covered the same subject with greater insight. Well just for starters, if you have read Think Orange, The Seven Practices of Effective Ministry, and Purpose-Driven Church, very little in this book will be new to you.
It wasn’t bad. Besides a few small points, I didn’t disagree with his points. There just wasn’t anything new or insightful. I can’t really recommend this book because it didn’t offer any new insights.