my friend andy jack asked an interesting question quite a while ago. he posted his findings on a little research he did on the top 10 books that professors use in youth ministry education (as assigned reading in course work). as part of his master’s thesis research (andy has just started an Ed.D. at trinity, and is still a middle school pastor — gotta love it!), he asked a mess of youth ministry professors for their input on this list. the most common nominations, in order, were:
The ten most frequently used books, in order were Doug Fields, Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry; Walt Mueller, Understanding Youth Culture; Ginny Olson, Youth Ministry Management Tools; Tony Jones, Postmodern Youth Ministry; Richard Dunn, Shaping the Spiritual Life of Students; Kenda Creasy Dean & Ron Foster, The Godbearing Life; Doug Fields, Your First Two Years Of Youth Ministry; Richard Dunn & Mark Senter, Reaching a Generation for Christ; Kenda Creasy Dean, Chap Clark, & Dave Rahn, Starting Right; Merton Strommen & Richard Hardel, Passing On the Faith.
then, andy jumped off the christianity today list of the top 50 books that have shaped evangelicals, and is considering the top 10 books to influence youth ministry. these are not necessarily the top 10 books i’d recommend, of course — that’s not the point here. they’re also not the top 10 books that have influenced me in youth ministry. often, the books i’d recommend haven’t been as influential as i’d like them to be! but here’s my list of nominations, in no particular order:
Ideas, volume 1, edited by Mike Yaconelli and Wayne Rice. ok, i know, it’s funny to think of an “ideas book” shaping youth ministry. but, seriously, i think this one funny little mimeographed book with a hand silk-screened cover (in its first edition, that is), had a larger shaping role, for better or worse, than any other youth ministry book since. here’s why: without this little book, YS wouldn’t exist. yaconelli and rice compiled it, and literally sold it out of their trunk at a gathering of youth workers at a camp, and that was the nexus of youth specialties. i’m not saying YS is the only shaping force in youth ministry — but it’s been a major force (again, for better and for worse), and cleared the way for many of the other youth ministry serving organizations that exist today.
The Youth Builder, by Jim Burns. this book is still in print in one form or another. it’s not the influential book it once was; but there was a time (in the 80s, i think) when this book defined relational youth ministry in a way no one had previously put in print. and it had a HUGE influence on the world of youth ministry.
Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry, by Doug Fields. i’m pretty sure this would be the all-time best-selling youth ministry book (it’s certainly the all-time best-selling youth specialties title, at least for books that don’t have ‘ideas’ in the title). certainly, rick warren’s best-selling ‘purpose driven church’ had some influence on the sales and popularity of doug’s book. but it would have been a best-seller even without warren’s book, imho. there are plenty of naysayers and detractors. and that’s fine. but i still say pdym is one of the best books for thinking through priorities and strategy and values for the practical implementation of youth ministry in a local church context. i still hope we’ll see a revised version at some point (we’ve talked with doug about it for years).
Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, by christian smith. smith’s book was, i think, the most widely talked-about youth ministry book in the last 10 years. it’s functioned as the wake-up call to the broad collective of youth ministry, across denominational lines (and — this is rare — across the mainline and evangelical divide).
The Ministry of Nurture, by duffy robbins. at one point, every youth worker had this book on her shelf. it’s been through a couple major revisions, and still holds its own on the subject of discipleship.
Postmodern Youth Ministry, by tony jones. it’s likely not been the bestselling on this list, and i’m sure it’s presence on the list is even debatable. but the reason i list it is that i think it was the first book to truly strike out in a completely different direction, in terms of youth ministry thinking. i’m sure there are other examples, but tony’s book — even the saying of the name communicated ‘it’s time for change’ — was all about new direction, AND it sold enough and got talked about enough to have an influence.
i think i need to include one of kenda dean’s books — either The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry or Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church. actually, i think i’ll include them collectively. because i don’t think it was so much their message that made them influential. it was two other factors: kenda’s books showed us that it’s possible to be theologically deep AND be called to youth ministry. in other words, kenda’s books — i think — played a significant role in paving the way for the growing thirst for theological reflection in youth ministry. the second significant thing about kenda’s books is that she is a decidedly mainline author, teaching at a mainline seminary, and the darling of the mainline youth ministry world: but evangelicals have embraced her books (rightfully so).
and i’m going to go with Starting Right: Thinking Theologically About Youth Ministry, gen eds: kenda creasy dean, dave rahn, and chap clark. in my opinion, this was the first truly academic book in youth ministry. there were many books prior to this one that were used in academic settings, but they weren’t written for the academy. but ‘starting right’ launched the ‘ys academic’ line, and is still likely the line’s most deeply and exclusively academic work. there has been an explosion of schools offering majors or minors in youth ministry in the last 10 or 15 years. in many christian colleges and universities, youth ministry is the largest or fastest growing major. many of these school still concentrate their text adoptions on popular youth ministry books (see andy’s list at the top of this post); but those that are more academically rigorous tend to use ‘starting right’ somewhere in their curriculum.
Junior High Ministry (now in it’s 3rd edition), by wayne rice. i’m a little biased here, i suppose, since junior high (or middle school) ministry is the passionate calling of my life. but i’m including this book because wayne, as well as his book, validated ministry to young teens LONG before the vast majority of the church or even the vast majority of the youth ministry world was willing to do so. wayne’s book, in some ways, is the grandfather to all of us who specialize in the niche-calling of early adolescent ministry.
ok, that’s only 9. and i’m sure i’m forgetting some massively influential book or two — like great talk outlines for youth ministry or something. :) what do you think? did i miss something obvious? do you disagree strongly with any of my nominations?