A few weeks ago, my friend and fellow Gospel at Center blogger Sam Luce asked me what books I’d recommend to someone preparing for fruitful and faithful youth ministry. After reading my list, he encouraged me to share it here on the blog. Since he’s a pretty smart guy, I thought I’d heed his suggestion.
You’ll quickly realize that many of the books aren’t about youth ministry specifically. The reason for that is because there is so much more to youth ministry than simply youth ministry. Being a faithful youth minister is much more than merely being good at leadership, relationships, ordering pizza, and playing Fortnite. Youth workers are doing gospel ministry and must be prepared for all that entails. My recommendations below focus on equipping a youth worker for the crucial work he will find himself doing in youth ministry, not just general youth ministry work.
So, without further typing, here are 10ish books I think youth pastors should read and be equipped by.
10ish Books for Youth Pastors
Youth pastors need to keep the main thing the main thing. Or, you could say, they need to keep the gospel at center (wink). This book gets to the heart of the gospel quickly and helpfully. Also, this one is good for easy conversation with students about Jesus and this one is helpful to navigating discussions about what it means to be saved and what it does not mean (an important and regular conversation among students in youth ministry).
Students almost exclusively ask systematic theology questions, though they don’t know it. “What does the Bible say about _______?” is a systematic theology question since it is asking what the whole Bible teaches about a specific subject. Therefore, youth workers need to study systematic theology to answer those questions well. Even more, youth workers need to study systematics to learn theological categories (sin, salvation, Jesus, Trinity, etc.) to help them in preaching, teaching, counseling. Even though I don’t line up with Grudem on everything, I still gladly recommend him as an introduction text because his plain-contemporary-language, clarity, application, handling of opposing viewpoints and use of the text is unmatched in helpfulness for untrained people. Also, his bibliographies at the end of each chapter become a goldmine for further study in specific areas.
Systematics protects youth pastors from making categorical mistakes as they unfold the drama of the text, but Biblical theology will protect them from treating the Bible as a book of bare propositions with no story. Both systematics and biblical theology feed and nourish one another. For Biblical theology, Goldsworthy’s work is killer in helping grasp the Christo-telic storyline of the Bible from each genre while being easy-to-read. As two shorter honorable mentions on Biblical theology that would do much of the same I’d say this and this. Goldsworthy just has more to pull from and refer back to.
This is go-to resource that will introduce the major apologetic issues hit in youth ministry while also serving as an ongoing reference work for bibliographies for deeper study. Also, this handbook is a really handy go to resource I recently picked up.
DeVries provides practical tools and structures that youth pastors need to lay a strong foundation for ministry that it isn’t built on a person or the latest, greatest student ministry trend. It’s super practical, but incredibly wise in structuring.
Youth ministry happens amidst culture. Knowing a specific culture will prepare you to minister to those within it. Kunkle and Stonestreet have served the church well in this book by helping guide us through the often chaotic culture we find ourselves in today. Tim Challies said it well: “I am convinced this book has better equipped me in my tasks. It has helped me better understand culture and it has helped me better understand my culture. It has shown me where culture is particularly pressing against the church and where I need to be especially careful to guard myself and equip the ones I love.”
One reviewer sums up this book this way: “Scripturally, parents cannot delegate their role to the youth ministry. DeVries encourages creative thinking for how to get parents and the youth ministry working together for the long-term benefit of the teens. He also provides some practical ideas of his own, with each chapter ending with some great ideas about how to put the ideas of that chapter into practice.” To help tease out more practical ideas of how to do this, check this out too.
Youth ministry has loads of counseling so it’s crucial to prepare for it and Crosstalk will help. As this reviewer says, “Michael Emlet’s book CrossTalk is an excellent resource for bridging the gap between biblical interpretation and biblical counseling. If we learn to read the biblical story in light of Christ, we will see that the ancient text of Scripture has everything to do with our lives, our sins, and our trials.”
Excellent for the nuts and bolts of good, clear, biblical preaching. I would make sure to supplement it with this to ensure that not only his sermon are united, clear, and biblical, but also Christ centered.
This is killer to train him and his leaders how to disciple students with Bible or guided-Bible study open. If you want a youth ministry culture of discipleship, this will be your huckleberry.