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6 Books to Read if You’re New to Youth Ministry

I spoke at Open Boston last week and met some wonderful youth leaders. One young woman asked me for advice. She is new to youth ministry and had a deep sense of “I don’t know what I’m doing”. Well, that certainly sounds familiar because that’s exactly how I felt when I became a youth ministry volunteer for the first time! Seriously, I felt overwhelmed and I was making stuff up as I went along.

At that time, there wasn’t much available in The Netherlands (where I lived back then) in youth ministry resources and training. And that may be the case for you as well, as I have many readers outside of the US (which I love by the way—it’s such an honor to serve churches in South Africa, Nigeria, Brazil, The Philippines, India, Australia, the UK, you name it). You may not have access to training, a formal education, or even resources.

But there are books. I’ve always been a reader and the great advantage of books is that you can buy them pretty much anywhere these days, at least the digital versions. So I’ve created a list of 6 books that can be a great help to you if you’re starting our or new to youth ministry.

Doug Fields: Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry

This title says it all. Doug has written a great and practical how-to guide for anyone new to youth ministry, whether as a paid youth worker or as a volunteer. (Find it on Amazon)

Doug Fields: Purpose Driven Youth Ministry

Even if you’re not doing the purpose driven approach, you can learn tons from this book. What I really took away after reading it was the importance of choosing the right audience for each program or event and making sure all our ‘audiences’ (unchurched teens, doubting teens, committed Christians, etc.) had a program or event tailored to their needs. This book is especially helpful if you’re in charge in the youth ministry, or are one of the people leading it. (Find it on Amazon)

Jeanne Mayo: Thriving Youth Groups

This book shows you how to develop the right culture in your youth group. It offers many practical suggestions on how to create a friendship culture where everyone feels loved and accepted. (Find it on Amazon)

Kara Powell and Brad Griffin: Sticky Faith

Sticky Faith is a research-based approach that shows you how to teach faith in a way that makes it stick with teens. Too many teens leave their faith behind when they go to college or grow up and Sticky Faith shows you how to help teens develop a faith that’s lasting. There are two versions of this book: one is aimed at parents and the other at youth workers. (Find it on Amazon)

Rick Lawrence: Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry

This book is straight-t-the-gut passionate approach on how to make your youth ministry truly Jesus-centered. Even though we think we put Jesus front and center, the sad truth is that we often don’t. (Find it on Amazon)

Martin Saunders: Youth Work from Scratch

I love this British approach to building youth ministry from the ground up. There’s a lot of practical advice on how to get started, on priorities, and what to look out for. (Find it on Amazon)


I have to close off with one important ‘warning’: all of these books, with the exception of the last one, are written by American youth workers. That means they’re also written for an American audience. If you’re serving in youth ministry outside of the US, you may be tempted to try and run your youth ministry the American way. Trust me, it won’t work.

The principles are the same, for instance of building relationships with the teens or putting Jesus at the core, but you’ll have to adopt your methods, style, and approach to your context and circumstances. Don’t blindly copy-paste because you have a unique situation none of these Americans know anything about.

You can see the difference in the last book I recommended, which is written by a British youth worker. His advice is the same, but the tone and culture in the book is different. Very helpful! That’s also why I haven’t included books on youth culture, even though there are some great ones, because these are mostly American and will be of little help outside the US.

What other books have been helpful to you?

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2 thoughts on “6 Books to Read if You’re New to Youth Ministry

  1. Surprised not to see Mark DeVries Sustainable Youth Ministry and Brock Morgan’s Youth Ministry in a Post Christ World on this list. Otherwise a really good list.

    1. Worthy additions, thanks for sharing!

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