Monday, February 16, 2009
Resource Review - Youth Ministry 3.0 A Manifesto
Youth Ministry 3.0 A Manifesto of Where We've Been, Where We Are and WHERE WE NEED TO GO By: Mark Oestreicher 155 pages Published by Zondervan/Youth Specialities
OVERALL - There was a great deal of excitement when the author (best known in YM circles simply as Marko) starting talking about this book idea. When it finally arrived the first reaction from many of us was "Is this all there is?" The expectation was that this would be a much more monumental volume. In the end I think Marko got it right. This book will challenge most of the assumptions we were raised in and trained to believe about what youth ministry should look like. He takes us to some very unnerving country because it is such a change from that which has gone before. It scares the hell out of my brain but in my heart I feel a definite affinity. But then when you read the book you'll know why, lol! I think this will be a multi-read kind of book. I need to go back over some parts and look at them in a little more depth but it's well worth the time.
For transparency's sake I will note that Marko thanks me, twice, in this book. Once, among many other names, in the foreword and the other, among many other names, in the footnotes. I can honestly say that while I remember making some comments in response to his questions online (along with many others) I have NO memory of what I might have said. If it was of ANY help to him in his process I'm very happy. And hey, it's always kinda cool to see your name in print! Took me totally by surprise.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The Manifesto is a response to the growing thinking in youth ministry that "something isn't working". Marko walks us through the history of youth ministry (in thumbnail sketch form, the book IS only 155 pages long!)to establish how we got where we are. It's not intended to be a definitive history rather just enough of a background so we can prepare for the most important bit. And that takes us into a future where youth ministry is going to look very different. This is NOT a program book, it's NOT a instruction manual. It is an examination of the underlying assumptions we have and the ones we may need for the next step. He clearly works his way through each of his points. Agree or disagree Marko gives you plenty to think about.
RESERVATIONS I'm not quite sure how to introduce this book to most congregational ministries. Sadly I'm not sure that most of them have ever really considered WHY they do what they do. They just do it. Places like that will find themselves very challenged by this book. They NEED to read it but may find the ideas so radical that they just shut down. Talk about being too good for your own good.
Marko also tripped one of my pet peeves. He uses some statistics early on about puberty and then doesn't note where they came from! Granting, as he notes later, that this is NOT a dissertation or formal paper. It still irks me when we toss out information like this without substantiation. It's like the "Youth workers burn out in 18 months" mythology which was repeated ad nauseum even by me without ever knowing what we were talking about. He gets better as he goes along. But guaranteed as soon as I use the stat (which I have seen elsewhere. It strikes me that it's from research done by the Smithsonian but I'm not sure) someone is going to ask. I can't just say that "Marko said it".
RECOMMENDATION Yes, this book may irritate you. Yes, it may anger you by challenging some fairly dearly held assumptions. Yes, it may even frighten you because you don't see where your place in this new paradigm may be. Read it any way. Better yet, get a group of youth ministry people to read it together. Gather over your favorite beverages and food and take Marko apart line by line, thought by thought. I'd be willing to bet nothing would make him happier. And in the process, even if you reject everything he proposes, you'll have a better, stronger, more focused youth ministry. In the end I think that's probably the idea. So read this book. Even if it's the only YM book you read this year.