group magazine: July-August, 2011
THE ADOLESCENT JOURNEY
WHAT IT IS: An academic book that explores the theological underpinnings for helping teenagers become adults.
THE SCOOP: Author Amy E. Jacober offers youth workers a deeper understanding of adolescent development and equips them with a solid theological framework for their work. She unpacks three main insights in the book.
First, youth workers need to be bilingual—familiar with both social psychology and theology. We must become fluent in youth culture as well as theology, integrating the two in order to relate with teenagers effectively. Second, youth workers must recognize the three intertwined strands of existence (individual, communal, and eternal) and minister to each aspect in a teenager's life. Third, we must understand that teenagers aren't transformed by our efforts or programs but by the power of Christ. It's our job to join God in his work by loving kids and pursuing justice in community and mercy for eternity.
While the book is well-researched and rich in content, it's an academic read. I wish there were more stories to make the theories come alive.
AVAILABLE FROM: InterVarsity Press, ivpress.com
REVIEWER: Kevin Mahaffey, Jr. has 16 years of youth ministry experience.
GLOBAL YOUTH MINISTRY
WHAT IT IS: A textbook that transcends the genre, primarily written by youth ministry specialists around the world and edited by two North American ministry heavyweights.
THE SCOOP: If you buy into the idea that all youth ministry is contextual—I mean, that all of us are working to plant an outpost for the gospel of Jesus Christ in a particular setting in a particular time for a particular people—then Global Youth Ministry is a goldmine of thinking and ideas and encouragement. Written by a killer group of "in the trenches" global youth ministry leaders including Jonny Baker (UK), the Rev. Mark Tittley (South Africa), the Rev. Jacob G. Isaac (India), and Beth Baleke (Uganda), general editors Terry Linhart (Bethel College) and David Livermore (president of the Cultural Intelligence Center) have constructed a book full of diverse perspectives that somehow speaks with one voice. The stories, illustrations, and strategies embedded in this textbook make it a compelling mix of academic research and pragmatism. For years the rest of the world has looked to North America as a youth ministry mentor, but the tide is turning.
AVAILABLE FROM: Zondervan/Youth Specialties, youthspecialties.com
REVIEWER: Rick Lawrence has been editor of GROUP for 23 years.
THE VOLUNTEER'S FIELD GUIDE TO YOUTH MINISTRY
WHAT IT IS: An extremely practical book for volunteer youth leaders—whether in a helping role or the top dog.
THE SCOOP: Congratulations. You've landed a spot on Survivor: Church World. You must build a youth ministry out of sticks, seaweed, and other contestants. Pack the Field Guide and you'll do just fine. Kageler is as relational as he is practical—advising volunteer youth workers and having fun with the "field guide" theme through six conversationally written parts: The Terrain: You—focuses on your personality and spiritual gifts; The Terrain: The "Field" of Youth Work—targets your purpose; The Wildlife: Teenagers—covers your "cerebral upgrade," discipline, teaching, and counseling youth; The Wildlife: Parents—no explanation necessary; The Wildlife: Other Volunteers—is for both primary and assistant youth workers; The Wildlife: Those Above—is about understanding and working with your pastor and church board.
This is easily one of the most helpful books I've read—in fact, paid part-time youth leaders should read this book, too.
AVAILABLE FROM: Simply Youth Ministry, simplyyouthministry.com
Reviewer: Danette Matty has 25 years of youth ministry experience.
THE INDISPENSABLE YOUTH PASTOR
WHAT IT IS: A candid, inside look at youth Aministry that prepares youth pastors—old or young—to find, keep, and love their job.
THE SCOOP: Youth ministry veterans Mark DeVries and Jeff Dunn-Rankin seem to understand that many youth pastors have a severe case of ADHD—the book is divided into three "How To" sections (Landing, Locking-In, and Loving Your Youth Ministry Job), which are then divided into concise and easy-to-read chapters (3-4 pages max). They encompass nearly every challenge a youth pastor might encounter. The authors cover important ministry aspects from beginning to end—all the while drawing from their own practical ministry experiences, scriptures, and the struggles and successes of others. They're brutally honest, but it's tempered with humor—with chapter titles including "How to Tell If a Search Committee Is Lying," and "Congratulations, You're a Politician."
At the risk of sounding hyper-spiritual, I would've liked a little more scripture reference, though it's evident these guys are biblically grounded and don't stray from that commitment in their writing. But you'd be hard-pressed to find two more wisely pragmatic guides through the sometimes-chaotic jungles of youth ministry.
AVAILABLE FROM: Simply Youth Ministry, simplyyouthministry.com
REVIEWER: Eric Ebbinghaus has 11 years of youth ministry experience.
TEEN TO TEEN
Edited by Teen Mania founders Ron and Katie Luce, these 145 devotions are written by teenagers and young adults, and provide advice and encouragement on how to stay faithful through the teen years.
COST: $12.99. Available from Regal, regalbooks.com.
THE LIFE BOOK
Founded by The Gideons International, The Life Book Movement provides free copies of this book, a retelling of the Bible story—their dream is that teenagers would go on "short-term mission trips" to their high schools, where they'd hand these books out to their friends.
AVAILABLE FROM The Life Book Movement, thelifebook.com.
by Scott Firestone IV
scott, GROUP's associate editor, highlights new—and newly discovered—music for you and your ministry.
American Dream (Red Song Music)
Dominic blends rock, reggae, and hip-hop into a catchy stew. I don't even like reggae, but Balli's tunes had me tapping my foot and rocking my head. If I had hair, I might grow dreads...dominicballi.com
Songs In Secret (Indie)
These guys started as a youth group worship band. Their indie sound is a refreshing breath in the stagnant CCM landscape. At the time we went to press, this album was free on MySpace.com/greatawakeningworship.
Go to youthministry.com/webextras to get Scott's take on Dirt 3 for XBOX and PS3.
by Jeff Dunn-Rankin
ACTS OF FAITH
Acts of Faith by Eboo Patel, is an intriguing coming-of-age story about a young man struggling with what faith means, and discovering his identity. If you liked Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz, you'll recognize strains of the same song in Acts of Faith.
The key difference is that the author, Eboo Patel, is a midwestern American whose Muslim parents were raised in India. After exploring and loving some Christian communities, Patel ultimately embraces his Islamic roots.
It's tempting to dismiss a memoir by an Indian-American Muslim as irrelevant to the church, but it's important for youth pastors to read this book. Patel, founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core, is one of the leading voices in America's conversation about what it means to live in a world where Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and all flavors of Christians are living as neighbors. Patel has the ear of the president, and Christian leaders should know what he's saying.
I was encouraged to read his definition of religious pluralism. He avoids the postmodern position that all religions are true as long as they are "true for you." Instead, Patel is an advocate of Christians and Muslims alike being passionate believers in their own faith. Pluralism, as he sees it, is not a melting pot where various faiths blend into a nondescript gray. It is more like a salad bowl where people of different faiths and cultures maintain their identity even as they are tossed together.
The first step in Patel's interfaith vision is one that you'd hope every Christian could embrace: First, do no harm. Unfortunately, there are teenagers in our schools who went to church on Sunday and are tormenting a Hindu kid in the locker room on Monday.
Patel juxtaposes stories of religiously compassionate people against stories of "religious totalitarians" who pick sides and insist the other guys have to lose. Patel believes the key determiner of whether a Christian or a Muslim grows up to be a religious bully or a Good Samaritan is the messages that person was fed by the grownups in his life.
That certainly raises the stakes on youth pastors. Patel asks: Are we intentionally raising teenagers who will treat someone like a neighbor, even if they're not a member of our tribe?
The second level of Patel's vision involves people of different religions serving the community together. Patel's Interfaith Youth Core spends much of its energy creating opportunities for young people of various religions to work side-by-side. There's a part of me that rebels against that idea, but I wonder if I'm just being naïve. Patel says most of our youth already know how to respect their Jewish lab partner, even if they believe their buddy is missing the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Likewise, bussing tables next to a Hindu co-worker doesn't cause rooted Muslims to abandon their faith. So if today's kids already cooperate at school and at work, what bubble do we think we're protecting by not feeding the poor together, even though we are of different faiths?
The next level of Patel's vision is the hardest to embrace. The Interfaith Youth Core offers teenagers structured time to share stories of their faith. The result, he says, is that teenagers don't abandon their family's faith. Rather, they dig deeper as they look for ways to give an account of the hope they have, and to do it with gentleness and respect.
The book falls short of addressing the question of evangelism. Is there a way to respect my Muslim friend and appreciate her faith's best qualities, but still care enough about her eternal soul to present the gospel? Can I read a Muslim author and appreciate his wisdom at the same time that I pray he will one day have a saving faith in Jesus Christ?
In the short-term, it might be easier to avoid those questions, but Patel says our complex, integrated world doesn't offer that option.
Jeff is a youth pastor and senior consultant for Youth Ministry Architects. He also co-authored The Indispensable Youth Pastor with Mark DeVries (Group/Simply Youth Ministry).
First Choice: Tampa
Angelo's: Fort Worth