I was asked to review a book about
5 months ago called “Awakening Youth Discipleship” by Brian Mahan, Michael Warren and David White. Five months later I have re-read the first 2 sections 3 times and realized without a dictionary the review was not going to happen. Maybe it was trying to figure out what “the communitarian-narrativist practices of anamnesis” meant that stalled my progress. Apparently my academic reading in regards to youth ministry should be at the level of those wonderful “for Dummmies” books. “Youth Ministry for Dummies” is a book I could review…..and it comes with pictures!
I think my attempt at reading Awakening Youth Discipleship made me realize that there are at least 2 types of youth leaders with many sub-groups I’m sure. There are those that are academically strong and immersed in youth ministry. This is their calling, vocation and strength. The second group is where I fall. We are the leaders who stumbled across youth ministry. We didn’t study it, we were given an opportunity that we hadn’t planned on. Perhaps we came upon it when no one else volunteered or it tied into another part of church work we were doing. Either way we have come to embrace the wonderful area of youth ministry but from a different perspective that those who study and know this ministry so well.
I recognize it is important to read, learn and grow when one is lacking knowledge in a specific area. If you take on the leadership of a youth group to fill a volunteer gap, or take over the ministry because you are doing a similar one and people think it would work or if you want to be a leader so your own children and their friends have a reason to be at church then you have done it for a good reason. But just because you have youth or know youth does not make you a capable youth leader. That’s like saying because your kid plays baseball you as his parent have the ability to coach. You’ve never played, don’t know the rules but since your kid loves the game then you should be able to figure the coaching out as you go. Trust me, that isn’t a good plan. No matter what your reasons are for taking on a youth program, you have to learn the basics from somewhere. But where? For those of us who aren’t going to go to school to study youth ministry or who aren’t going to read all great youth ministry authors, what do we do? Is there a place where the simple building blocks for youth programs exist? How do you learn to be a not just a competent but great youth leader? These questions are not just posed to make us think but in the hopes of a response. I really want to know and share it with the many leaders who take on a church youth group with little or no training in the hopes they can start out on the right foot. What starts us on the road to success?