Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry: Book Review

186961-2A few months ago I wrote a post where I wrestled if it was time to leave my context or if I simply needed to take a nap.  In that post I concluded that I was called to stay, and instead of starting over, I am going to attempt to do the things that I would do in a brand new context, but do them with the 7  years of street cred I have earned here. Part of my plan was to watch and learn from our new staff hire to see how passion, hard work, and idealism are important ingredients in a thriving youth ministry.  Now that we have hired a new Jr High Director who has these ingredients in spades, I am ready for the clinic.

So far, I could not be more pleased with the gifted and godly man that God has brought to our church.  While he is hardly a youth ministry rookie, this gets to be his first position with some real authority, and a real opportunity for success.  As he has hit the ground running, I am mimicking his every move, every meeting, every plan, every interaction with students, and even attempting to mimic his hours.

Besides studying our new director, I have decided to add to my education a refresher on one of the Youth Ministry classics, Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry by Doug Fields.

No matter if you are just starting out, or have been doing youth ministry back when DC Talk was a useful ministry tool, this book is a worthy read!  For a book that has been around for over 10 years, I was really impressed with how relevant this book still is.  Besides a couple of references to answering machines, this book is a great road map for those who are new to this gig.  For me, I found this book a helpful course correction as I lean into this next season of ministry.

Here are some of the highlights:

Right out of the gate, Fields lays out his top 10 essentials.  His second word of his entire book is the year he started doing youth ministry.  1979!!! Yikes.  Once you get past his introduction, which is a good taste of the good 'ol days of Youth Ministry, he does jump right into the meat of his essentials.

These are Doug Field's top ten youth ministry commitments:

  1. I will move slowly.
  2. I will regularly check my motives and evaluate my heart.
  3. I will steer clear of the numbers game.
  4. I will not criticize the past.
  5. I will avoid the comparison trap.
  6. I will focus on priorities.
  7. I will pace myself.
  8. I will serve.
  9. I will be a learner.
  10. I will pursue contentment.

These commitments are worth buying the book.  Everyone of these, if implemented will make for sustained and healthy ministry.  As the book goes on, I found a number of gems that were good reminders, and some ideas I have never even considered.

Throughout the rest of the book Fields addresses matters of the heart, discouragement, and keeping the faith.  He walks through the dangerous mine field of dealing with pastors and parents.  And he gives practical helps to evaluate your programs and the development of your student leaders.

The truth is that we have the best job!

Keeping youth ministry fresh is a challenging task. And if we are not careful cynicism will take over.  If you want to do youth ministry for the long haul, then I recommend treating your job like it is always your first two years.  We need more passion, hard work and idealism, not bitter know it alls :)

May God continue to restore your vision and passion for ministry, and may we never get complacent or think we are above getting back to ministry basics.