Book Review: “Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again)”
Our student minister at Sherwood, Garrett Grubbs, recently wrote the following review of Wayne Rice’s book, Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again).
Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again) by Wayne Rice should be read by every pastor, youth pastor, and parent who has a passion for Christ and His church. Rice’s Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again) is really about a paradigm shift. The main points supported throughout the entire book are that any reinvention of student ministry must include parents and must involve the entire church body. This is a great read that will leave the reader challenged to do something about the state of his student ministry.
Readers will be taken through a history of Rice’s ministry which is detailed throughout the book. His rich experiences help support his opinions on why and how youth ministry in America is in a midlife crisis of sorts. Personally, I discovered what a maverick Rice really was, most certainly in the days of the Jesus movement.
One of Rice’s thoughts is if we have so much experience, resources, money, and technology to reach today’s students for Christ, one would think that we’d see more students coming to know Christ. But, as Rice points out, it is quite the opposite. Several strong ideas are given to support why Rice believes that we aren’t seeing more students come to Christ.
Rice realized as a parent of a teenager, after many years of ministry dealing with students and youth pastors, and research backed it up, the single most important social influence in the teen’s life is their parents—whether that parent was living a Spirit filled life or the town drunk. Since Scripture supports that parents God given role is the spiritual leader over their children, Rice is right on. We must engage parents and minister to them in our student ministry.
The other big topic of the book is unity. Somehow in the process of establishing youth ministry we “undermined the unity of the church,” says Rice. It appears that in the days of the Jesus movement many teens were showing up and the church didn’t quite know how to handle their long hair, bell bottom pants, and ways of worshipping Christ. A student ministry was established to “contain” the teens so that they could do their own thing, separate from the church. The idea of youth ministry spread so quickly. Rice even rethinks with readers if there’s really even a need for youth ministry and that a mission accomplished would be for a youth minister to work himself out of a job.
Rice talks about how some youth ministries are so stand alone, they have their own pastors, their own buildings, their own services, and not that anything is wrong with these things, but he argues there must be intergenerational community within a church. I agree. I think our church does a very good job not isolating our students from the rest of the church. I think we have a healthy balance of what Rice would be looking for. I think our parent ministry needs to be stronger and our ministry to our volunteers deeper. These two things would really multiply our student ministry at Sherwood and produce lasting fruit beyond what success is normally defined as, which Rice also discusses in the book.
Rice even suggests reinventing the role of the youth pastor. Rice recommends that youth pastors spend 2/3 of their time with parents and adults who are pouring into their students and 1/3 of the time with the students. This thought is very provoking, as parents will be around long after a youth pastor. Parents will be with their children post high school, through college, marriage, and even to help raise their children’s children. Rice said we must help support them and help encourage and equip them to do all that’s found in Deuteronomy 6.
I don’t think that hosting a parent seminar every now and then is the solution; I think it needs to be more involved as Rice details as well. Also, in reinventing the role of the youth pastor longevity is key as well as if you can hire from within. A youth pastor must be willing to follow the vision of the pastor and the church and not have his own agenda. His role and vision should be in support of the role and vision of the entire church.
Statistics show that close to 80% of teens, once they graduate high school, never return to church. Rice feels that these students were never integrated into the church as well as they were in their student ministry and so they leave. It is a joy when you see students make a smooth transition from student ministry to adult ministries.
Another interesting section challenges youth pastors to rethink their programming in making sure they’re relevant and not counterproductive. Some good diagnostic questions are given. I really like the way Rice thinks and encourages us to think all throughout the book. He hits the nail on the head every time. The questions are hard but very necessary for every novice and veteran youth pastor and church body to consider.
One of the topics covered that I appreciated as a new father were that my role as a youth pastor is not to be a bond breaker, but a supporter of parents. As we are planning our calendars, if we are taking a fun trip to a theme park, let’s invite families, not just students every now and then, to afford families time together in such a fast paced society.
Rice discusses how we as a church have infantilized our students—that we desegregate them from church and only give them milk when they are capable of so much more. I agree that this is a trend; I saw it in our Sunday school curriculum and that’s why we wanted to develop a curriculum that would help eliminate a biblically illiterate youth ministry. A plan is also laid out from birth to adulthood by Rice of how to introduce a child to becoming a part of the church family at age appropriate times so they are able to serve and grow toward maturity in Christ.
Rice did a great job walking readers through the history of the establishment of student ministry. Every youth pastor needs to read this book; it will challenge and encourage them personally and professionally. Rice is a giant and if we can stand on his shoulders through reading his book, filled with nuggets of wisdom, what a privilege. In conclusion, Rice remains hopeful on the future of student ministry. As quick as student ministry spread like wildfire, so could the reinvention of student ministry, and that’s encouraging.