Over my Christmas break, I had the pleasure of finishing a book that has filled my heart and mind with dreams for what I want the youth I’m charged with shepherding to experience. Throughout the time I’ve been reading it, it has challenged, affirmed, and even equipped me for the year ahead in ministry to youth.
The book is Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry. It is edited by Cameron Cole & Jon Nielson, and it has ten other contributors. The book is a call to gospel-centered youth ministries, instead of entertainment-centered youth ministries.
This passion for gospel-centeredness has been on my heart and in my life for quite some time, but this book kicked it up a notch for me. I grew up in a youth ministry that had great godly men with hearts for the gospel ride the wave of entertainment and giveaway based ministries. I watched in sadness in college as many of my peers who grew up in such ministries drifted away from the church, because they were ill-equipped to stand for Jesus and were not consistently taught the beauty of Christ and the wonders of the gospel.
This book will lovingly confront the entertainment-based youth ministry industry that in some ways is still roaring along today. It paints a picture instead of youth ministries that are wholly focused on the good news of the gospel and the centrality of Christ in every facet from worship music and small groups, to discipleship and short-term mission trips, to developing adult and student leaders to retreats and events. Each chapter picks a different aspect of the generic youth ministry and teaches you the Biblical foundation for why it should be gospel-centered and then provides you with applications and ways to implement this gospel-centered approach into your own ministry over time.
My two favorite chapters were:
- Gathering God’s People: Generational Integration in Youth Ministry
- The Impact of Expounding God’s Word: Expositional Teaching in Youth Ministry
The chapter on generational integration was the most convicting for me. We do a pretty terrible job of making youth feel like they’re not a real part of the church. The chapter encouraged churches to allow students to be a part of the ‘big church’ programs through announcements, being greeters, being ushers, or the like. It put forward the belief that countless students leave church in college because they never really felt like part of the church to begin with.
The chapter on expositional preaching was the most affirming. It has always been my heart and desire to teach through books of the Bible. It laid out the fact that Biblical illiteracy leads to a lot of sin, and that the best thing we can do for our students is to show them the Bible’s overarching story and how to study God’s Word for themselves. I do not remember ever walking through a book of the Bible in my youth days. As a result, my understanding of my faith was a hodgepodge of devotional appetizers with no doctrinal depth and I was clueless as to the grand narrative of Scripture.
Overall, I agreed with just about everything this book laid out. I was convicted in many ways, and my passion for gospel-centered ministry was stoked.
If you are a student, a parent of a student, a youth minister, or just someone who wants to see the next generation drawn to Jesus, pick up this book and give it a read.
In His Name,