One of the many hats I wear is that of “Youth Ministry Coordinator” for my circuit. In order to provide resources here is a grossly incomplete, but very helpful reading list for those who work with youth in the Church:
Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers – Christian Smith – Probably THE most comprehensive study about the spirituality (or lack thereof) of American youth.
Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it – Ken Ham – By the time most kids start confirmation and join youth groups, we are often too late in trying to shape the worldview of our youth.
The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry – Root & Dean – This book argues that not only can youth handle in depth discipleship (that is learning), such in depth teaching and learning is essential.
Eutychus Youth: Applied Theology for Youth Ministry: Reaching Youth on the Ledge – John Oberdeck – This book argues for a distinctively Lutheran approach to Youth Ministry and gives very practical advice to this end.
The Lutheran Catechesis Series from the Concordia Catechetical Academy – The somewhat infamous “Bender Binder” is a very comprehensive approach to catechesis. It seeks to place catechesis into the prayer life of the Church and the family (rather than being an information dump in a classroom).
Again, this list isn’t intended to be comprehensive, there is a common theme: we need to rethink how we have been approaching the spiritual care of our young people as we have known it the last 40 years. Pizza, rock bands, video games, and goofiness, while fun and have their place, don’t cut it. As one pastor put it, “when our youth get to college they are finding that getting drunk, getting high, and getting laid are far more fun than any of the silliness of their weekly youth group pizza parties.” So what is the big takeaway? I’ll try limiting it to 3 things:
1. In depth discipleship – that is actually teaching the faith in depth from a very young age onward.
2. Connection to the rest of the Church community – the less we segregate our young people from the rest of our congregation the better.
3. Establish a relationship with the pastor early – This isn’t being “buddy-buddy” with Pastor Matt, but that our youth see their pastor as their pastor: namely the one who forgives them in Absolution, who baptized them (or reminds them of their baptism), who gives them Jesus from the pulpit and at the communion rail.
This also has led me to the following conclusions:
1. Waiting to begin communing children in 7th or 8th grade is far too late
2. Waiting to seriously catechize our children until 5th or 6th grade is far too late
3. Catechesis is something the whole congregation does together.
What books do you recommend? What insights do you have?