Reading: The Lost Art in Student Ministry?

Top Books LogoOver the next couple days I am finally going to post an article that has been sitting in my drafts queue for nearly 2 years. Yup, the infamous “Top Ten Books in Youth Ministry” post that has the potential to be nothing more than a list of my favorite books. But I don’t want it to be that. So I decided to break it up into three parts, and use this first part to give some ground rules for resources in Student Ministry.

Reading seems to be going the way of the dinosaurs faster and faster with each generation. I pray that you who are reading this are not falling into that trap. I find that I have to fight sometimes against this pull away from printed literature (and I am an avid reader. Have been since my parents enrolled me in kindergarten). Books (magazines and websites are great too, but this series is about books) are an invaluable resource in your ministry and should be treated as such. Even though it seems that there are a lot of books out there that are merely retreads of other authors’ thoughts (just packaged in a flashier cover), there are many solid, useful books that could help you to shape or revitalize your ministry.

But you need to beware when you read other people’s thoughts about ministry. You must exercise discernment about what to try out and incorporate into your ministry. I will say this flat out: You cannot – and should not – try to use everything you will read in someone else’s book. With this in mind, you need to figure out three things about everything you read:

  • Discern what the universal truths are – What in the book is true across the spectrum theologically? Does the author state that your ministry should be founded on prayer and Christ? Do they share that you should seek God’s will in every step of your ministry? What in their book should apply in every church or ministry setting no matter how bog or small?
  • Discern what could fit in your ministry – Odds are that you have chosen the book you are reading in order to help you better your ministry. The author will no doubt share many things that could be applied in your ministry. No one knows your students, volunteers and church body (or parachurch setting) better than you do. Pay attention to tips that fit in your group’s size, maturity and financial capabilities.
  • Discern what you should not try in your ministry – Along with all the good that you might find in your book, you will inevitably find stuff that will not work. For instance, if you have a small group and your book tells you of a miraculous program that will require 40 people to run and $4,000.00 to fund, you should not even give it a second thought. If there is a tip that springs from a theological viewpoint different from your church’s (on a nonessential such as modes of baptism or music style), don’t give it too much thought.

These might seem like no-brainers, but sometimes the simple truths are the ones that we forget. It’s a good idea to refresh ourselves from time to time and honestly, some people have never really thought through these ideas before. So over the next two days look for my list of the 10 or 12 books that have been influential in my ministry (both personal ministry and our church’s ministry) over the years and that I believe would be beneficial in most other ministries as well.

And of course, I welcome your thoughts on books that have helped to shape your ministry as well!