Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again) by Wayne Rice

I traveled to Ohio a couple of weeks ago to visit my brother and his family, which afforded me little time for writing but much time for reading. One of the books I read on the trip was Wayne Rice’s recent book, Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again). When Wayne came to speak to parents in our community last month, he described the book as a brief history of Youth Specialties, followed by a rant. He gives himself far too little credit in that statement.

At the risk of offending Wayne, I should point out that one of the reasons this book is so valuable is that Wayne Rice is a youth ministry elder that deserves our time. While the content of Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again) is great, the real value is in the fact that it’s told by a youth ministry veteran–who’s still “in the trenches,” so to speak–looking back on the first 40 years of his time in youth ministry.

Wayne takes stock of today’s trends in youth ministry. There are times when he is critical, but it’s an honest criticism: he notes that he helped shape the way we view youth ministry today. But this is no mere rant; he notes the value of youth ministry and believes that there continues to be a place for it in the Church. In fact, one of his main points is that teenagers belong in the Church, not alongside it:

But what we have today is not really a youth ministry problem. It’s a church problem. Truth is–it has always been a church problem…It’s easy to point fingers at everyone responsible for keeping a defective model of youth ministry in place for so long, but changing how we do youth ministry, or even abolishing it altogether, won’t stem the tide of young people leaving the church and their faith as they get older. We really need to change how we do church. -pp.144-145

This book is well worth your time, and I imagine it will be a favored text in college and seminary youth ministry courses for at least the next few years.

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