Today I speak at the best conference I know for student pastors, the Youth Pastor Summit in Orlando presented by my good friends at Student Leadership University. My focus will be essentially what I am finishing a book on this month, ie creating a missional, gospel-centered culture in your student ministry.
One of the staples of the rhetoric of SLU is this gem: who you become is based above all else on the people you meet, the books you read, and the places you go. I totally agree, if you start with meeting Jesus, reading the Word, and going to the cross.
Student pastor, you need to be reading. Read a book a month if you can. Be a lifelong learning, growing, understand better the Scripture and the culture. Here are a few books I think every student pastor should read. They are all books I have recently read myself. NOTE: every year you should read books that grow you spiritually and deepen you theologically. You should also read some that you may not agree with at points, but that make you think better.
First, a couple to ground you in what doesn’t change but that we need to give continual attention:
J.D Greear, Gospel. There is a movement today of recovery of the gospel in the place of moralistic religion. Since the Great Awakenings featured a gospel recovery, this enthuses me. Greear in a winsome style confronts misunderstandings of the gospel and helps to show why Jesus and His work must be the centerpiece of a life or a ministry.
Kenda Creasy Dean, Almost Christian. Dean summarizes and reacts to the findings of the most extensive study of youth and religion ever done in the U.S. She exposes the problem of Therapeutic Moralistic Deism and the need for a renewed missional vision.
Gabe Lyons, The Next Christians. Lyons offers a helpful critique of the church and culture in our time. He argues, correctly I believe, the “next Christians” focus on being restorers, which in his descriptions sounds a lot like what we expect missionaries to be doing around the world. Given that the U.S. is the 4th largest mission field in the world today, this approach helps to explain why students love social justice and how we can be effective in gospel work today.
Leonard Sweet, Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival. In his own unique style Sweet offers a view of the world from the view of the “Guternbergers” and the “Googlers.” His analogy works on most levels and helps to explain much about our world and why some struggle with it. Len Sweet makes me laugh, makes me think, and sometimes makes me scratch my head. But if you want to understand the new, digital world, this book will help you.
A plumber’s tools are his wrenches. A surgeon’s tools are his scalpels. But a minister of the gospel (that includes student pastors) tools are books. Go forth and read.