Book Review – Growing Souls

Experiments in Contemplative Youth MinistryI looked forward to reading Mark Yaconelli’s Growing Souls: Experiments in Contemplative Youth Ministry with much anticipation. Especially after reading his previous work in exploring the implementation of contemplative practices into Youth Ministry. (You can find Contemplative Youth Ministry here, and my review of it here).

I think I set my expectations far too high, though.

The book is not bad. It really isn’t. It follows up Contemplative Youth Ministry by giving more background on the Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project (the thrust behind the first book) and its mission. It follows several churches that participated in the Project. But it doesn’t seem to build upon the work of Contemplative Youth Ministry. It actually almost seems to go in a different direction. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it did not feel like a follow-up.

Another problem is that Yaconelli is not the sole author. There are a few other contributers, and the writing styles, while similar, were very different while I was reading. Distracting at times, in fact. And there is a lot of petition in the book, at times making it feel that Zondervan wanted them to fill a page quota, and not write a completed thought.

There are several good reasons to read the book, however. The stories from those who did seek out integrating contemplative practices in their youth ministries, succeeding or failing, serve to teach so much to the reader. The appendices alone about several contemplative practices are worth the price of the book. Yaconelli’s storytelling remains his strong suit, and his chapters are quite enjoyable.

All in all, a good resource if you are considering implementing contemplative practices into your ministry. But start with Contemplative Youth Ministry. This one will probably spend more time on your shelf than in yr hands.