1. The Seven Checkpoints by Andy Stanley & Stuart Hall – 230 pages
These guys have a very insightful view on teaching. We all know students need to know the basics, the foundation. We want them to understand faith, morality, the spiritual life, making good choices, etc. The Bible is big, too big to get through in four, even six years with students. Andy and Stuart boil the need-to-know basics down to their ‘irreducible minimum’. Seven checkpoints students should hear each year so that when they leave your ministry, you know that they know what they should know (ya know). This is known as cyclical teaching, as opposed to linear teaching. At the surface you may balk and say: ‘ Wouldn’t that get boring’? or, ‘There is so much more they need to know’. You are on to something with the boring bit, and there are certainly other philosophies of teaching to pick from. Andy and Stuart have been doing this for over 10 years. They have curriculum for sale, so there is fresh material each year, so students don’t think they have heard that, tried that. The reason this book is on the list is that it is focused, driven, and transformational. If students understand these basic seven checkpoints and apply them, they have potential to develop into strong leaders, fathers, mothers, husbands and wives. This book is on the list because I have seen it work. Look for it on Amazon or their church site. (Note: you know better than anyone the needs of your students; side series’ and book studies are quite all right to integrate into this philosophy).
2. Visioneering by Andy Stanley – 271 pages
Leading is a primary role for any youth worker. As a lead youth worker/pastor/director, it moves to another level, with adult volunteers, student volunteers, students, parents, elders, pastoral staff and a host of other people looking on, most of whom will be directly or indirectly affected by the decisions you make and the vision you cast.
In his book, Stanley pulls straight from the story of Nehemiah leadership principles that will give you a strong base to work out of. From infancy to maturity to sustainability, Stanley takes us on the ride of seeing a vision born, to a vision bloomed, and the fruit of the labors of the one who takes God’s vision and builds it into reality here on earth.
Nehemiah and his story is the framework that Stanley gleans from and builds his principles on. If you have read The Next Generation Leader you will find hints and fragrances of those vital characteristics of a leader emanating from the pages, because to be a visionary also means to be a leader in some capacity. You would do well to read that book as well if you haven’t already.
This book is a handy guide to help you flesh out and build on your vision.
3. The Radical Reformission by Mark Driscoll – 189 pages
Not a youth pastor (and from what I hear, not a big fan of today’s ‘typical’ youth ministry of being separate from the congregation), Mark Driscoll has done a very good job of honoring God with commitment to Scriptural authority, and honoring God in reaching today’s postmodern culture. In his book, Driscoll addresses the issue of church “selling” an irrelevant, powerless Gospel. He compares and contrasts conservative churches and liberal churches, traditional and progressive. He stresses the idea of being true to God (an absolute with absolute standards) to a relativistic, postmodern culture we find ourselves in today.
What really struck me in this book is Driscoll’s determination to spread the Gospel, no matter what barriers needed to be broken (many of them man-made religious ones). It reminded me yet again that Jesus was counter-cultural in His day, and that he ruffled the feathers of the religious, and met the secular where they were at. In many churches today, we find just the opposite. And the implications of how churches are run have a direct impact on the youth ministries today. Even though youth ministries may be enfolding students into an awareness of God and Jesus, if churches are not committed to reaching culture as well, what happens when the teens grow up and find out that church is not inclusive like their youth group was? What happens when they enter all the politicking and those ridiculous religious hoops? What happens when they find out that Jesus gets lost among the rituals, traditions, and prejudices of the church? What happens is that we lose them to the mass of young twenty-somethings that have migrated away from the church, trying to find a “spirituality” with power. Either Jesus has lost His power, or the church has stopped showing it.
All in all, I believe this is a must-read for youth pastors to clue you in on the larger picture, and to help shape the way your mind works when it comes to reaching out into a young, postmodern, post-Christian, post-(traditional)values society.
Stay tuned for one more set of book reviews that I believe should be in every youth minister’s library: paid or volunteer.