Youth Ministry in the United States isn’t an abject failure, or so reasons Mark Oestreicher in his new book from Simply Youth Ministry. In A Beautiful Mess, Marko lays out what he sees as many of the successes and positive aspects of youth ministry. I grabbed the book not long ago, and sat down the other night to read it. What follows are my own random thoughts on this tiny book.
First things first, A Beautiful Mess really is tiny. I finished it in about an hour and a half. That’s not to say it isn’t a good read. It is. In fact, I found it extremely encouraging. You’ll notice that I talk extensively on this blog about how we need to think of new ways to do youth ministry. I haven’t changed my mind on that (aside: neither has Marko). The data are just too clear: the youth ministry status quo isn’t working. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t good things about the youth ministry status quo, and no one has been talking about them–until now.
The most helpful bit of the book, from my perspective, is actually the third chapter (of four, total). In this chapter, Marko shares some positive trends in youth ministry that he has observed from in-the-trenches youth workers. This was encouraging to me for two reasons. First, I haven’t observed these trends when I’ve interacted with local youth workers. That tends to leave me feeling isolated. Not fun. Second, each of the trends he mentions are, I think, extremely positive and exactly the kind of things we need to be experimenting with in youth ministry right now. They are some of the things we’re currently trying and experimenting with in the youth ministry at my church (things like more theological reflection, integrating students into the larger body rather than isolating them, and working with and involving parents).
So, this little book was encouraging and helped me to feel slightly less isolated in the youth ministry world. It’s also challenged me to continue mucking about in this beautiful mess we call youth ministry.
Worth the read.