Title: Youth Ministry 101 by Walt Mueller
How it was obtained: I bought it at the National Youth Ministry Conference almost 3 years ago.
Time spent on the "to read" shelf: I started reading it right away, but I did not finish it until this month.
Days spent reading it: About 3 years, but I finished half of it in about a week when I buckled down to finish it.
Why I read it: After seeing Walt Mueller at NYMC, Susan and I knew that we had to pick up his book and read it. He was incredibly knowledgeable about youth culture and specifically about how media shapes their worldview.
Brief review: Walt Mueller's book Youth Culture 101 is sure to be the standard by which all other youth culture books are evaluated. It is well documented, well thought out, and well presented. Mueller starts off with an overview of why culture is so important to understand, and further explains why youth culture is so unique. Mueller is especially impressive when it comes to youth and media. He dedicates a few chapters to the subject. He talks about how media (movies, music, TV, advertisements, etc.) really influences us. His main approach is to talk about how it impacts youth, but one cannot walk away from this book without evaluating your own media consumption. It's crazy actually how much we are exposed to in any given day.
Mueller has a simple message. We need to evaluate the message of media in our lives, not just consume the product it promises. He helps Christians to critically look at these influences, run them through a grid of how they line up with Biblical values, and then encourages us to act on how they compare. He has other resources that go over these same principles. It is called the 3-D approach to media. And you can find it, along with other resources on youth culture, at www.cpyu.org. His website is a great resource for youth pastors and parents who want to understand the youth they are living life with every day. However, media is just one facet of this book. Mueller covers a wide variety of youth culture topics including: Media, Marketing to teens, Peer Pressure, Sex, Materialism, Substance Abuse, and Depression and Suicide. It is a book full of helpful statistics, facts, interpretations, and ideas for how to counsel students.
The chapter that really scared me in this book was the chapter on teens and sex. It was heart-breaking and challenging. If I could hand it out to every parent I knew, I would. Just a few shocking statistics for you: "70 percent of young women and 62 percent of young men today have had sexual intercourse by age 18." If that makes you cringe, the statistics for oral sex are increasing in an alarming way as well. "By the time they reach the age of 19, three-quarters of all teenagers will have engaged in oral sex." That's 75 percent!! 75 percent!!! Mueller states "Oral sex is now more common than sexual intercourse among teenagers." And most of those teenagers do not consider oral sex to be breaking an abstinence pledge. "One study showed that among students who said they'd made and kept an abstinence pledge, 55 percent had participated in oral sex." One last word on this subject, the craziest part is that many of our middle school students are beginning to engage in these activities. Parents and youth workers, it is NOT too soon to talk about sex with your kids. They are getting a sex education from their friends, music, TV, movies, and school. If you want to give them a Biblical perspective on sex, YOU have to speak up. I know it can be scary, but after reading these chapters I am convinced that parents and youth workers must do a better job of educating our youth about what the Bible says about sex. They are already hearing it, but are they hearing it from the most important people in their lives? I was personally challenged after reading this chapter and plan on having some talks and lessons in the upcoming months about healthy relationships and sexual purity. I hope you will too.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who works with youth. You need to know about the world these students are living in because it is much different than when you were a student. Youth culture has changed rapidly in the past decade and it continues to accelerate in how rapidly it changes. Mueller's book is helpful because it lays out some of the basics, but also gives us advice for how to address the issues from a Biblical perspective. It challenged my personal walk and my teaching patterns as well. My copy of this book is marked up, with notes in the margins, and thoughts scribbled throughout the whole book. I would highly recommend this books to parents as well, but the size might be daunting. I think Mueller has written some other books that are more approachable, but really this book was not as big as it seems on the outside. With large fonts, ample spacing between lines, and wide-margins make this 480ish page book read like a 250 page book. It is very readable, well documented, and very practical. One of the best books on ministry I have ever read.
Favorite quote: "Today's teenagers desire real relationships that are characterized by depth, vulnerability, openness, listening, and love—connectedness in their disconnected, confusing, alienated world."
Stars: 5 out of 5.Final Word: Vital.