Mark DeVries, Sustainable Youth Ministry: Why Most Youth Ministry Doesn’t Last and What Your Church Can Do About It (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2008). $16.00, 224 pages.
Youth ministry is full of promise and fraught with peril. On the one hand, youth are the next generation of Christians. On the other hand, youth pastors are typically young, energetic, naïve, and inexperienced. They burn out quickly and cause problems that stay long after they’ve gone.
At least that’s pastors and board members tell themselves. In reality, the one hand is true but the other hand is false. If youth ministries are failing to accomplish the goals set for them, youth ministers are not the problem—at least not the only problem. Rather, the problem is systemic.
In Sustainable Youth Ministry, Mark DeVries presents a systems approach to youth ministry. It focuses on two things:
Architecture: the structures of sustainability
Atmosphere: the culture, climate and ethos that sustain the health of an organization
Too many churches focus on short-term numbers, which pushes them toward superstar youth pastors and amped-up programs. Sustainable youth ministry focuses on a leadership team that builds relationships among youth and between youth and the entire congregation. Once they’re out of the youth ministry, these students stick around. Sustainable ministry requires that pastors and board members develop long-term thinking and a commitment to what they’re building rather than what they currently have.
This book is primarily intended for churches whose youth ministries are in transition. Before hiring a new youth minister, the pastor and board members should read this book. But it will also be useful to churches with an existing youth pastor.