dan kimball reviews ym3.0

so stoked to have my friend dan kimball review youth ministry 3.0, and call it out as a book all church leaders should read. dan is a great and unique mind, and has a quirky way of thinking and writing that i have often found almost as valuable as his friendship. here’s dan’s wonderful review:

Youth Ministry 3.0 = Church 3.0

Youth ministry 3.0 I just reread Youth Ministry 3.0 today for the second time. It is a book that is short, but it is not a book that is shallow. It’s written by my friend Mark Oestreicher from Youth Specialties. I met Marko in Colorado around 10 years ago at a retreat think-tank sort of thing we both were at. He was not yet on staff with Youth Specialties but was soon to be going there. I found an instant admiration of his unique hair style that he had at the time. I will say that his hair changes seasonally in ways that I am in awe of. It feels like every year at the Apple Convention the excitement builds for the unveiling of the new Mac products – and I feel that way about his hair. It feels like an annual event. You can sense it coming… the anticipation builds – and then there is the revealing of a new style.

I have had many fun days through the years with Marko and we went to Singapore together a couple of years ago (where he saw me with my hair drenched and flattened after a downpour).

But, this post isn’t about hair… I am writing about his latest book, Youth Ministry 3.0. I had an entirely different review written at first – and then changed it because there are many great reviews posted already looking at the content of the book you can read here. I wanted to write a different kind of review focusing on why I think this book is critically important not just to youth leaders but to church leaders in general. It really could be called “Church 3.0”.

When I read the book I had the strong “aha!” experience of when someone explores and discovers the underlying cause of a problem.That’s very different than just trying to fix the surface or exterior of a problem while the real problem still remains below. Marko addresses why we need to change, not just suggesting change for change sake, or change to keep up with youth trends. He makes a case that our assumptions may be wrong about how we go about youth ministry today. If we are entering into ministry with wrong assumptions, then we can go on and on and on in ministry building on incorrect assumptions. So this is a very, very big thing to consider and why this book is important and makes it very different from others.

Marko then does what a good historian and cultural anthropologist would do and goes back into time to trace the roots of where what we do comes from. I cannot overstate the importance of doing this. If we don’t go back to our origins to see when and why and how things developed, we then may be building on incorrect assumptions if the original reason we started doing something is now different. So he looks at the growth of youth culture first. Where did “teenagers” come from? When and how did youth ministry as we know it start? He goes through all this so we have a framework of understanding how we got to where we are today. He does it in a relatively short amount of pages which is amazing for the amount of content he covers.

From this Marko builds a sequence of phases uses a chart to track through time how we first had Youth MIinistry 1.0, then 2.0 and now entering 3.0. he breaks it down by Youth Culture Fixation, Cultural Influence on Youth Ministry, Key Themes, what drives the ministry and even a theme verse which was fun to see what he would select. As I mentioned, there are great reviews on Marko’s blog already which explore these three themes more. So I won’t repeat them – but I wanted to explore something else about this book.

Youth Ministry sets the path for the whole church to follow

I have a theory that perhaps what Marko is saying here is not just regarding youth ministry. These 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 phases definitely apply to youth – however, I am pretty convinced that they really speak of “Church 3.0” as well. That is why I think that this book should be read not just by youth leaders, but by anyone in vocational ministry as it effects every aspect of every church we are in.

When Marko talks about what influenced youth during these phases, I would make a case that these same shifts influenced the church at large, not only youth. If I am looking at what he says about “Cultural Influences on Youth Ministry” being in 1.0 we had “Language and Topics” and in 2.0 we had “Models and Success” and in 3.0 we have “Contextualization” – the description of the shift from 2.0 to 3.0 is exactly what I find myself thinking as a church planter of a church entering year 5 of our existence. Yes, there are applications of these changes that apply to specific ages such as youth. But as I am reading what he is writing, I am thinking “This book could be titled “Church 3.0”

Something I have been wondering about and this book stirred this up in my thinking again, is how influential youth ministry is to the church at large. What I mean by that is wondering if what youth ministries do now will become what churches are like in the future. I have been interested in looking at in particular the rise of some “adult” churches in the Bible belt. This may just be my perspective and incorrect – but some of the very large ones, look almost identical to youth ministries of the 1990’s. The lights, the bands, the smoke machines, the whole shebang in what the worship gatherings are like. God sure seems to be using them in their contexts and am thrilled reading about how God is using these churches. As I read Marko’s book, I wondered if what is happening in these areas is that the adult churches are to some degree to the 2.0 approach of what youth ministry was doing. Maybe California and the west coast is more moving into 3.0 earlier? I don’t know, but as I have been a youth leader for many years and then young adult leader – Marko is writing down the shifts that I saw with youth and young adults with the 2.0 to 3.0. So maybe some of the youth ministries pave the way for what the adult church does and some areas of the country accelerate faster than others or slower than others in this latest phase.

Out in California and some other places, I have seen some “adult” churches now adopt what young adult ministries were doing 10 years ago. You could take what a young adult worship gathering looked like in 1999 and the main gatherings of the church now look like that in 2009. So maybe the youth ministry paves the way for young adult ministry who paves the way for the whole church to some degree. I am drifting here, but when you read Youth Ministry 3.0, it gets you thinking about these very types of things. That is why it is such a great book. It doesn’t wrap up the ending with conclusions of what to specifically do – but it leaves you with optimism and makes you think.

I would get this book even if you aren’t a youth leader and be looking at your church through the lens of what Marko raises. I believe we should always be watching what is happening in youth minstries, as to be out of touch with them – to me, means we will lose touch in our churches as they progress to the future. I have always felt that youth pastors and leaders are the pioneers of creating the future church. They take a lot of risks and experiment with things and deal with cultural change first – and then the rest of the church seems to catch up later. So when Youth Ministry moves from 1.0 to 2.0, the church is just becoming 1.0. Then as Youth Ministry moves from 2.0 to 3.0, the church is moving from 1.0 to 2.0.

OK. Long review and thoughts. But that’s what the book does and why I think it is really “Church 3.0” in addition to Youth Ministry 3.0. It is one of those books which makes you think about a lot of things as you read it.

I would like to end this post with some Marko photos highlighting three of the various phases of hair styles that he has had since I have known him.


Marko 1.0 ………………….. Marko 2.0 ………………….. Marko 3.0

Leave a Reply