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Book Review: "Purpose Driven Youth Ministry" by Doug Fields

Although it's now over 20 years old, Doug Fields' Purpose Driven Youth Ministry is still a classic youth ministry text that is worth a read if you are starting out in youth ministry.

It contains a lot of useful insights and suggestions but its real value is in the mindset it communicates. Reading this book impresses on the reader the need to be purposeful in what they do. It's not enough to drift from week to week with little sense of where one is headed. Instead, the author strongly advocates for a thoughtful approach to youth ministry in which everything is done "on purpose".

The book begins by examining the first component of a healthy and growing youth ministry which is rightly, the power of God working through the youth leader. It is a chapter that looks inward and challenges the reader to look at who they are before focussing on what they do.

The following three chapters deal with developing five purposes (evangelism, worship, fellowship, discipleship and ministry) and communicating these to leaders and young people. While I personally, would have slightly different purposes, again the principle is more important than the product.

Next, the author deals with the reality that our young people are at different stages of growth in their understanding of faith  and then launches into a series of chapters on programming to meet each of the five purposes. There are many good suggestions though be sure to listen to what God is saying to you as you read. Don't look to slavishly copy ideas, and don't implement anything until you understand "Why".

The next section brings together the previous two and outlines a process for taking young people from one level of spiritual growth to the next. Again, the pages are filled with examples from the author's own youth ministry and so the reader needs to keep looking beyond specific to principles in order to know how they might apply what they read.

The next section deals with values and seems a little out of place. I'd have included it earlier as it is not until we've determined our values that we are in a position to develop programmes.

Two practical sessions follow dealing with parents and developing a leadership team - two essential areas of focus and not just for the new youth leader. Again there are lots of practical suggestions to sift through.

The book ends by looking at the topic of perseverance both from a personal management angle as well as people management. Each chapter ends with some good questions for personal reflection or group discussion.

There is a lot of information contained in the 400 pages of this book and in places you'll probably want to skim-read, finding the content that is most relevant. A good subject index makes it easy to hunt down topics of particular interest.

As is the case with Doug Fields' other best-seller, Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry, it's not on my list of favourite youth ministry books but it is an important read, especially for the youth pastor or key leader just starting out.

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