Book Reviews

Raising the Bar

Ministry to Youth in the New Millennium

Alvin Reid Grand Rapids 2004-10-25

Many people think of teenagers as apathetic, irreverent, and shallow. This perspective has dictated the way many churches and youth pastors have approached ministry to youth. What if this perspective is wrong? This is exactly what Reid proposes in this book. Making use of George Barna’s research, Reid points out that teens are more optimistic about the future, more willing to work, better cared for, and brighter than the generation that preceded them. The problem, Reid says, is not with teens; the problem is that churches have failed to challenge them. Programs treat teens as children rather than teaching them to be adults. No wonder so many teens find church irrelevant.

Reid’s book is about potential, not programs. This is a fresh shift from the program-dominated topics most youth ministry books talk about. Youth are expected to be kept entertained and left to do menial tasks that no one else wants to do. Reid points out that Joseph, Samuel, and David were all teens when they began their ministries and did great things for God. Pietism, the First Great Awakening, the Student Volunteer Movement, and the Welsh Revival were all fueled by teens. Nicholaus Von Zinzendorf began his ministry while still a teen. Charles Spurgeon began his incredible career as a teen.

Teenagers are zealous about clothes, friends, and families. History teaches that they can also be zealous for God and eternity. Reid points out that Mormons, who send their teens on a two-year mission, utilize this passion. The Taliban thrives on youth, whose zeal drives their agenda. Teenagers are passionate, and they want to be passionate about something that matters. However, many churches ignore and even discourage the passionate nature of teens.

In the second section of the book Reid discusses what this new perspective should look like for future youth ministry. Reid suggests that youth workers and parents “raise the bar” on what they teach teens, by focusing on Christian doctrine, not just “what a Christian does.” Reid says teens should not be separated from adult worship services and other congregational functions.

Reid’s advice to parents is twofold. First, they should foster their own spiritual hunger and growth and include family devotional times. Second, Reid advises parents to become involved in their teens’ lives and stop “virtual parenting,” because parents still have the most influence over the development of their children, in spite of the pressures of today’s culture.

Reid challenges churches to teach teens what adult faith looks like, not merely entertain them until they are deemed old enough to take on meaningful responsibility. Teenagers, he argues, need the church to “raise the bar.”

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