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Exploring Changing Perspectives in Youth Ministry

December 28, 2015

In her recent book REDEFINING THE ROLE OF THE YOUTH WORKER: A Manifesto For Change By April Diaz (Youth Cartel, 2013) a living case study is presented about some cosmic shifts in the youth ministry vision and job description. Heavily influenced by involvement in the Sticky Faith research and leadership literature this book is as much about the process of change  as it is about a redefinition of youth ministry. At the core of the discussion was the process of moving away (temporarily) from a concurrent youth worship service on Sunday morning to involvement in the larger church congregations worship context. This is an essential idea but Mike Yaconelli was shouting this from the roof tops since the 1980’s, stating “youth church isn’t church”.He was and is right- it never was, is not now nor will it ever will be a substitute for multi-generational worship. Coming from a Presbyterian tradition it was never an option to have “competing” programming during the stated congregational worship time, which eliminates a potential youth ministry silo watershed. Age appropriate outreach, teaching, fellowship and small groups happened at other times of the ministry week allowing for a focused attempt at generational integration on Sunday mornings for worship. For me then the real value of the book is that April does do a great job of bringing together a lot of threads of current youth ministry discussion and walking the reader through the process of contextualization and personal application of the ideas surrounding change through a series of questions and application projects at the end of each chapter. Her introduction to leadership concepts like Bill Hybels 360* leadership are well written as is the discussion on constant reassessment new directions. I also greatly appreciated the honesty of the epilogue. Too often it seems youth ministry lacks the transparency to clearly communicate the “three steps forward, two steps back” reality of growth and change. I am excited to use this book in a class like foundations of youth ministry to introduce students to this valuable overview of the importance and process of integrating youth ministry in to a multi-generational philosophy of ministry.

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