First Third Conversations

Review of The Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry in the Journal of Youth Ministry

Review by Tagg Wolverton, Greater Europe Mission, Netherlands


In recent years some tough criticisms have been leveled at modern youth ministry. While evaluation and critique are to be expected with youth ministry coming of age as a profession, many of the rest of the concerns can be traced back to the lack of readily identifiable measures of the nuanced process of adolescent discipleship. How can one adequately judge the effectiveness of youth ministry from a perspective that includes spiritual, organizational, and other criteria, and then do so in a way that helps the community of faith toward best practices? These are the answers this book attempts to offer, and by doing so becomes an extremely valuable resource to youth workers no matter the environment within which they function. As the book says, ‘Every now and then, one comes across an idea or a piece of work that reorients one’s wayof thinking. For us, the material you hold in your hand has done just that.’ (p.9) After reading the book I would have to say I agree wholeheartedly.

It’s important to note right at the start that the study upon which the book is based is massive (the book summarizes the resultsof the Study of Exemplary Congregations in Youth Ministry). In fact, nearly six thousand pastors, youth ministers, adult youth workers, parents, and youth from 131 congregations participated, and the depth of material is evident throughout the numerous charts, tables, and appendices which allow the reader to work through the material in a number of different ways.

For youth ministry educators and practitioners alike, The Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry is an essential and excellent resource that serves not only as a snapshot of effective youth ministry today but also points toward a more integrated approach for the future which seamlessly blends the dynamics of the whole church and the process of discipling young people.

Originally published in:

Journal of Youth Ministry, Volume 10 ♦ Number 2 ♦ Spring 2012, pages 114-117

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