Youth Ministry on the Front Foot
Edited by Zachary Veron
Youthworks Press 2012
Put the ‘ministry’ back into youth ministry with Sam Oldland.
Whether you are a novice youth minister (the position I find myself in), a seasoned veteran or a member of a team, ‘Youth Ministry on the Front Foot’ provides a refreshingly practical and reader-friendly guide to the complex world and responsibilities of youth ministry.
’Youth Ministry on the Front Foot’ is written from (and for) the Australian context. Thirty-five chapters by thirteen contributing authors are collected under four broad themes: youth ministry, the youth leader, youth ministry principles and developing youth leaders. The bite-sized chapters cover a variety of topics including: developing youth leaders,
engaging with social media, managing issues of gender and sexuality and running a youth camp. Each chapter is accompanied by an application guide which poses questions to challenge readers. The structure helps readers to engage with each principle and not be overwhelmed by the book’s breadth.
It seems immensely popular in youth ministry today to espouse a foolproof strategy for exploding numbers and assured salvation while condemning competing models or strategies. ‘Youth Ministry on the Front Foot’ engages with programming elements of youth ministry (particularly in chapter 3 ‘Putting the horse before the cart’ and chapter 13 ‘How to make your youth group fun and fulfilling’) without campaigning for any specific model of ministry. Graham Stanton asserts that, ‘strategy must come second, but it must come second’ (page 37). Always in first place is the discipling of young people and the proclamation of the gospel.
‘Youth Ministry on the Front Foot’ puts the ‘ministry’ into youth ministry (chapter 1 is titled ‘It’s all about Jesus’). An array of instructions are presented for communicating Jesus and the Word to young people and empowering youth to be the primary ministers of the gospel in their context rather than volunteer or paid leaders. I found this one of the most encouraging and exciting themes of the book. Cameron Hyslop calls out the all-too-common approach of encouraging youth to invite their friends along to hear the gospel when we should be equipping the saints for works of ministry, to share the gospel themselves (chapter 16). Mike Everett urges leaders to encourage and unleash the passion and gifts that youth possess, refusing to buy into the cultural lie that teenagers have nothing to offer (chapter 10). Reading ‘Youth Ministry On The Front Foot’ has challenged me to reconsider how I view the youth I lead and how I will spur on my leadership team to equip and encourage teenagers as ministers of the gospel.
The authors are to be commended for their focus on Scripture. They repeatedly place the Bible at the centre of their teaching and implore youth leaders to teach faithfully. Perhaps lacking though is a chapter on other forms of worship for youth (such as singing praise as a community, acts of service beyond evangelism or the importance of praying together). The brevity of each chapter meant that I was often left wanting more, but there is always sufficient to prompt further thinking or reading. The application guide at the conclusion of each chapter makes the book a reflective tool for groups. I will be putting it to good use with my leadership team.
‘Youth Ministry on the Front Foot’ left me encouraged and strengthened. It serves as a concise and insightful reference for youth ministries of all shapes and sizes.
Sam Oldland is finishing his first undergraduate degree and is the rookie part-time youth minister at St Alfred’s Blackburn North.