at last year’s Summit, april diaz gave a talk on a topic i’d asked her to focus on: Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker. i knew she would do great. but i didn’t know she’d be THAT great (like, one of the best talks at the event). instantly, i knew it had to become a book.
now, slightly less than a year later, april’s book of that same title has released this week! i’m going on record and saying that every youth worker has to read this book (yeah, i know i’m the publisher, and we benefit if you believe me — but that’s not the reason i wrote that sentence!).
here are a few paragraphs from the end of chapter 1 (actually, you can download a longer sample here):
May I begin this book with a confession? In my church context, we were fairly content with being insane. We knew we weren’t operating at full capacity, but students were still showing up. It’s not like we’d totally destructed. We were tweaking things here and there, yet we still weren’t seeing tangible results. I felt a holy discontent that things were not as they should be, and that discontent would not let me go. The catalyst for us in reimagining the role of the youth worker was a staffing transition that presented an opportunity for real change. But honestly, the catalyst should have been the names and stories of graduated teenagers who were deeply struggling in their faith or no longer walking with Jesus.
In each of the first three Gospels where Jesus discusses fasting, he speaks some haunting words, “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved” (Matthew 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37-38 NLT). I wonder why Jesus declares these words in a discussion on fasting? What do fasting, prayer, and wine have to do with each other? My hunch is that Jesus was hinting at the ancient truth that with any necessary change and maturing growth, a period of fasting and reflection must come.
What we are considering requires more than fancy programmatic tweaks or human ingenuity. We require something new, given to us by the Divine Creator. To be given new wine and a new wineskin is beyond us, beyond our human knowledge or finite experience. Jesus hints that this need to fast—a need to create space in which to evaluate the old—contains deep, yet difficult wisdom that will transform our very souls and then impact our leadership and the teenagers we love.
May we begin our reimagining with the humility to confess we’ve messed up a few things along the way—despite our good intentions—and we are in need of the Great Sommelier to make some new wine for us to drink from a new vessel.
and here are JUST A HANDFUL of the long list of people who have agreed with me that you have to read this book:
In Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker, April Diaz invites us on a journey of ministry reformation, as she translates the findings of the Sticky Faith research project into a model that actually works in the real-life trenches of youth ministry. There is little doubt that now is the time for bold experimentation around the dream of building student ministries that actually build life-long faith in the next generation, and April is one of the early cartographers of the future landscape of youth ministry.
Mark DeVries, Author of Family-Based Youth Ministry, founder of Ministry Architects
I read this book immediately after wrestling with some Youth For Christ veterans about needed shifts in a ministry leader’s job description and just prior to interviewing candidates for my church’s open position in youth ministry. The timing was perfect, bringing sweet clarity to my own gnawing convictions. As a bonus, the book reads like a caffeinated conversation with your spunky, irrepressible and street-wise friend. April and Newsong Church are onto a really important course correction for God’s people and I’m grateful that she’s made the effort to share her insights with us all.
Dr. Dave Rahn, Sr VP, Chief Ministry Officer, Youth for Christ/USA, Director, Huntington University’s MA in Youth Ministry Leadership
For years many of us have known that something wasn’t quite right with how we’ve been ministering to students all these years. In Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker, April Diaz has taken us one step closer to providing us with a clear and compelling vision for a desperately needed new vision for youth ministry. April’s extensive history and experience, keen mind, and love for kids, families and the church all combine to help the new-comer or most seasoned veteran take the leap into a more theological, long-term and practical world of our ministry to our young.
Chap Clark, PhD, Author, Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers, Professor of Youth, Family, and Culture, Fuller Seminary
April passionately reminds us of the heart of our work–relationships with and within the Body of Christ. Her steps toward redefining the role of the youth worker are echoed in the words of others who have also experienced similar “holy discontent” with status quo youth ministry. If you’re hungry for more…see a link that might be missing…are frustrated in the way the church and youth ministry segregate…then you’ve found an exceptional place to begin, right here, with April.
Brooklyn Lindsey, Youth Pastor, Highland Park Church of the Nazarene, Lakeland, Florida
so, go here. download the sample. order your copy or five or twenty (ok, that was the publisher part of me talking there).