Review: Sustainable Young Adult Ministry – making it work, making it last by Mark DeVries and Scott Pontier

One of the church’s persistent cries is “we are losing the young people.” This book is a thoughtful, honest and practical response to reaching out to young adults.

DeVries and Pontier structure the book very simply – the first six chapters take you through the six common mistakes the church makes when trying to reach young adults. Two of the mistakes are especially prominent in my own church tradition – Mistake # 2 is to change the worship style; Mistake # 3 Expect the youth director to do it. With each Mistake the authors help you frame an understanding of why church’s try and do this (often with  good intentions) and why ultimately it does not work.

There are then six chapters (called paradox chapters) on how to reach out to young adults. They are called paradox chapters because they advocate doing things which you would thing are the opposite of what you should do. An example is paradox #5. It is often the mistake of a church to try and provide multiple options for young adults to make connection easy so that they do not need to make a big commitment because we believe young adults tend to have a mentality that lacks commitment. Yet paradox #5 says – respond to lack of commitment by asking for more. How? The authors write “Strangely, the young adult who has no time for thirty-minute optional Bible study actually might give ten hours a week to a compelling vision they believe in.” Are we scared to ask young people to give a bigger commitment because we assume they will say no because our perception is that they lack commitment?

Another paradox which the authors explore is that if you want to reach young adults….then take your focus off young adults! Their reasoning though is very sound – the focus should be reaching our communities, and ultimately the world. The more effectively we do THIS, the more likely young adults will be drawn in.

If your passion is for young adults to be reached by the church and more accurately, brought to faith in Christ, and you are looking for a quick fix on how to do this then this is not the book for you. DeVries and Pontier give you a LOT of food for thought, practical and achievable suggestions and a road map which, if followed, will take months, even years – not just to reach young adults – but to reach communities for Christ which in turn will draw in young adults.

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