Saturday, March 28, 2009

Youth Ministry 3.0 by Mark Oestreicher

Youth Ministry 3.0: A Manifesto Of Where We've Been, Where We Are, And Where We Need To Go by Mark Oestreicher.


How it was obtained:
Ordered it with some other youth ministry books.

Time spent on the "to read" shelf:
None. I read it right away. (I just didn't write my review right away).

Days spent reading it:
1 afternoon.

Why I read it:
I'm a youth pastor, so I figured I'd like to hear what Mark Oestreicher had to say about where youth ministry needed to go. Mark Oestreicher (aka Marko) is president of Youth Specialties, a leading company in youth ministry resources. I heard about this book through Marko's blog (

Brief review:
Youth Ministry 3.0 is Marko's attempt to talk about the previous, current, and future direction of youth ministry. The book includes a brief discussion about adolescent development, a brief history of youth ministry since post-WWII, and then a few suggestions on how we can take youth ministry to the next step.

The center thesis of this book seems to be that youth ministry has gone through two phases already, and is about to enter the third phase. Phase one was driven by proclamation. It was centered around evangelism and teaching. Phase two was driven by programs. "Bigger is better" would be a favorite slogan. This phase focused on discipleship. Many churches are in this phase right now. But as youth ministers we know there is something wrong. Kids are dropping out at ridiculous rates (it is not uncommon to hear statistics that 80% of kids drop out of church after high school, this number seems to be inflated, but you get the picture). We know somethings wrong, so what do we do? Marko proposes phase three which would not be driven by any particular motivator. Instead it is present (or incarnational).

So the question is obviously how do we get to an incarnational ministry from a program (or even proclomation) driven ministry? Marko offers up a few solutions. We can focus on smaller groups, and literally have a youth group for each sub-culture in our youth. We could focus on making our youth ministries a place for a supra-culture--where everyone comes together and no one group is better or dominate over the other groups. Finally, we could have hybrid of the two. Perhaps a large group for some events, and a small group for others.

Honestly, Marko's ideas are aimed at larger groups. Although he addresses the question of how smaller groups can incorporate this kind of thinking (on pgs. 95-96) it seemed forced. Seeing that I work with about 20-30 students, many of his ideas on how to move to Youth Ministry 3.0 seemed impractical or unnecessary.

I'm not convinced Marko has the solutions, but at least he is willing to think outside of the box to create some discussion about this topic. It is important to wrestle with, and I think this book has created great discussion and thought on where we need to take youth ministry in the upcoming years in order to stay relevant to a culture that changes every single day. One great thought Marko has at the end of the book is that youth ministers need to begin to consider themselves missionaries. We are becoming more and more distant from the culture we are attempting to reach. In order to be effective we need to begin thinking like missionaries. We need to begin studying youth culture like we would other cultures around the world. (Should youth ministers begin to take missions courses in college? That's probably not a bad idea...)

Every youth leader should read this book and wrestle with the thoughts, problems, solutions, and overall structure of their youth ministries. There are many great little gems in this book. I underlined a lot of it as I read and digested the ideas. It only takes about 2 hours to read through. The book is short, the typeset and spacing are large. It is definitely worth the investment.

Favorite quote:
"We must live incarnationally, positioning ourselves humbly and openly on the somtimes cold, dark, and scary stairwell to the underground of youth culture."

4 out of 5.

Final Word:


Elizabeth said...

"incarnational" ?? Is that some sort of buzzword? Does it mean living out your beliefs in your life? True Christianity?

Patrick said...

Hey Liz,
Yeah, incarnational has been a buzzword for awhile now. I'm not sure when I first heard it. Its root is in how Jesus became incarnate and walked among us. We do the same thing when we live out our lives amongst people everywhere. Living out Jesus amongst the masses.