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The Best Practices of Healthy Youth Ministries

Let’s face it, there are a lot of books written about youth ministry. A lot. It seems a new “must read” book pops up every few months. The problem is that many of them aren’t “must reads.” If you’re like me, you’ve learned to temper your expectations in these books, hoping to just gain a few useful nuggets of info after wading through a lot of the “same old, same old.”

When I heard that Kurt Johnston and Tim Levert were coming out with The 9 Best Practices For Youth Ministry, I’ll be honest: I was pretty pumped. First, it’s my kind of book; I am a “boil things down to their essential elements” kind of guy. Second, these guys are both great practitioners of youth ministry. So, I really, really wanted to get my hands on this book. But I was worried it wouldn’t live up to my expectations.

After devouring the book in about a week, I clearly had nothing to worry about.

This book is one I would recommend to anyone doing youth ministry. It’s that good.

The premise is pretty simple: There was a really cool research project done, the Study of Exemplary Congregations in Youth Ministry (more info on the study here). This study “identified youth ministries nationwide that were graduating students with mature Christian faith.” Which is, you know, kind of the point, right? Kurt and Tim took the 8 Best Practices identified by the study, added one of their own, and voila! You get The 9 Best Practices of Youth Ministry.

This book is extremely easy to read, yet full of great info. Each chapter is a look at a specific “best practice.” One of the reasons I love the book is that Kurt and Tim don’t just talk about the best practices, they actually do the work of helping youth workers understand how to apply these practices. Again, the chapters are easy to read, extremely informative, and packed with a ton of insight. Hands down, it’s one of the best youth ministry books I’ve read in a while. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Here are the nine Best Practices with a little more info on the three that meant the most to me:

  1. Nurture Your Own Soul
  2. Build an Awareness of God’s Active Presence
  3. Encourage Personal Spiritual Growth
  4. Foster a Sense of Evangelistic Urgency
  5. Increase the Congregation’s Appreciation of Students
  6. Provide Opportunities for Relationships
  7. Develop Confident, Competent, and Committed Adult Leaders
  8. Consistently Value Families
  9. Create Contextualized Programs & Events

My favorite chapters:

Best Practice 4: Foster A Sense Of Evangelistic Urgency

  • The guys do such a great job with this chapter, allowing room for different denominations and traditions to approach evangelism from their own theological and methodological distinctives. Yet, the chapter provides a great framework for creating an environment where our students understand why sharing the Gospel is vital to their faith. Great stuff, one of my favorite chapters.

Best Practice 6: Provide Opportunities For Relationships

  • This is where Kurt and Tim’s experience and depth of knowledge shone through. I figured a chapter on building relationships would be a lot of the same stuff. After all, it’s pretty well covered. But, the guys did a great job of taking three or four really good angles that provided some valuable insight.

Best Practice 8: Consistently Value Families

  • Lots of great stuff here. I love their definition of what it means to value families: “Valuing families means viewing the parent-child relationship as sacred and guarding it appropriately through the things we say (and don’t say) and do (and don’t do).” Such a simple but all-encompassing thought.

If you go here, you can download a sample of some of the book’s content. I was challenged by this book. I was entertained. And I left wanting to recommend it to other youth workers. All in all, not a bad outcome!

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andy_blanks@churchleaders.com'
Andy Blanks is the co-founder of youthministry360, a ministry committed to equipping youth workers through resources, training, community, and networking. Andy is passionate about God’s Word and the transformation it brings in the lives of God’s people. Andy is a writer, teacher, speaker, and a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan. He lives in Birmingham, AL with his wife and three daughters. Check out Andy’s youth ministry posts on the ym360 Blog (www.youthministry360.com/blog).