25 October 2018

review: Changing the World (Through Effective Youth Ministry)

Ben Putt

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We asked several youth and children’s workers to recommend some great books for people committed to a biblical pattern of ministry who want to be reading and thinking more. In this post, Ben Putt reviews a key book on biblical youth ministry by Ken Moser.

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to change the world?! The global gospel need is vast and seeing the lost won for Christ is, after all, our great commission (Matt 28:19-20).

One might expect then that the key to changing the world would be to engineer countless outreach opportunities among young people: delivering assemblies in schools, running evangelistic evenings, hanging out in the local skate park.  If the world is only going to be changed if people come to know Jesus, then surely our efforts should centre on getting out into the community and reaching unbelieving teens with the Gospel, right?

Nope. Moser’s approach is almost counter-intuitive: he says that “the way forward is to build first (discipleship) and then to reach out through those whom you’ve built up.” His model suggests that the way to change the world is to start in the local church and to faithfully disciple the young people who are already there so that they in turn will reach out to their peers.

“the way forward is to build first (discipleship) and then to reach out through those whom you’ve built up.”

Moser is keen to avoid two kinds of youth ministry in particular. Firstly, any model which tries to simply attract numbers through the door using anything other than the Gospel as the reason for coming is rejected. Secondly (and perhaps more challengingly), he is also against any youth ministry that THINKS it is discipling, by spending all the time in the bible, but is essentially boring and only attended by ‘keenies’ who only come because they feel that they should. Moser certainly commends ‘fun’ and recommends socials (there are two chapters devoted to these very subjects), but sees it as a subsidiary part of any program that exists to enable community formation, so that effective discipleship can take place.

This is not a long book, and it is very easy to read. Moser sets out his principles in the first 5 chapters before addressing a variety of very practical issues to help work out how these principles may work out in your setting. It remains my go-to book for anyone involved in youth ministry – if you haven’t got a copy on your shelf, get it!

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