What are your top three?

Posted on: 11/20/14 5:45 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Top-10-youth-ministry-booksWINNERS POSTED- see below.

A few weeks ago I was sitting with a group of youth workers and one of them asked me, “What are the top three youth ministry books you’d recommend we read, if we could only buy three?”

Great question.

This one caused me to pause for a few moments, after all, I’ve read a variety of insightful books that have helped me through my years of youth ministry (that lot in the picture are a pretty good bunch). But which three have proved foundational?

I’ll list the three books I shared with those youth workers that evening, and then I’ll ask you the same. What three youth ministry books have been the most influential and foundational for your ministry? (I’ll even make this a contest—chime in with a comment below sharing your top three and I’ll randomly choose three people as winners next week and they get their choice of any of my books!)

  1. Purpose Driven Youth Ministry, Doug Fields—this book forces youth workers to seek the “why” behind the ministry methods they use. No more Wednesday nights because “We’ve always done Wednesday nights.” What is your purpose behind Wednesday nights? Who will you reach? How? I first read this book before I knew Doug, in fact, before I even knew “of” Doug. I was amazed with its vision and practicality. If you haven’t read it, grab a copy now. Fantastic book! Still as relevant today as the day it was written.
  2. Connect, Jonathan McKee—this book not only lays out the Biblical groundwork for relational ministry, it provides the reader with tools to connect with the different types of young people they’ll encounter in today’s world of growing technological isolation. I’m passionate about this book because I’m passionate about teaching youth workers to recognize six types of kids (you probably have seen the video on YouTube), and seek out venues that put them in contact with all of them. This is the same book that provides youth workers with the stickynote training, a tool that helps us stay accountable to outreach and discipleship in our community. Be sure and grab this one if you missed it.
  3. Dare 2 Share, Greg Stier—maybe it’s the fact that my first 10 years of youth ministry were on the front lines in campus ministry. Maybe it’s the fact that this book is still practical in my adult life sharing my faith with my neighbors and relatives. Maybe it’s the fact that Greg’s passion to share the Gospel is so contagious, it bleeds from the pages and compels you to “always be prepared to give an answer” as well as living a life where people “ask you to give a reason for the hope within you.” (I Peter 3:15-18). This book is truly a field guide for sharing your faith, even providing sections on how to share with people from different religions. Practical, practical, practical. Get this book.

So what about you? What youth ministry books were the most practical and influential… and why?

WINNERS: I randomly chose the following three winners… use the blog’s CONTACT US feature to email me your address and which one of my books you’d like!

Josh Nelson

Chris Hurt

Paul Loeffler


22 Replies to “What are your top three?”

  1. I am a Children’s Pastor, however, I also like to inform myself about Youth Ministry, as I have a 13 year daughter.

    I would say my top three are Purpose Driven Youth Ministry, Spiritial Development (by George Barna), and also Stretch by Jim Wideman.

  2. I have to agree Jonathan with your “3 must have Books.” I really think that as a youth minister if we look to Group/Simply youth ministry – Youth Specialties – and our denominational publisher for resources you can probably find the right one that fits “your group”.

    Also another resource which is online todays is the “youth culture” sights from Youth Culture Report and Walt Mueller’s writings/website from the Center for Parent & Youth Understanding.
    Check them out; it is so helpful!!!

  3. Doug Fields wrote 2 of my top 3; The Purpose Driven Youth Ministry and Your First 2 Years in Youth Ministry. My third (and this is in no way meant to influence the contest results 😀 ) is Do They Run When They See You Coming by, oh, what’s his name? You know, that McKee guy.

  4. 1. Purpose Driven Youth Ministry by Doug Fields
    This book was a lifesaver when I was first starting out in youth ministry. Still love it after all these years.

    2. Getting Students to Show Up by Jonathan McKee
    This book challenged me to really think through the details of an event and to do everything possible to make them better.

    3. Speaking to Teenagers by Duffy Robbins and Doug Fields
    This book really helped me to develop my speaking and since I do that almost every week, it’s an invaluable resource.

  5. I agree with all of the resources mentioned and I would add one more: Thriving Youth Ministry in Smaller Churches by Rick Chromey & Stephanie Caro. I think anyone could benefit from their advice no matter what size your church is.

  6. 1) Doug Fields-Purpose Driven Youth Ministry
    2) Deep and Wide–Andy Stanley
    3) Communicating for a Change–Andy Stanley
    4) Connect–McKee

    I threw in the fourth–call it a freebie!!

  7. Three of my favorites that have not been mentioned yet:

    1. Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries
    2. Rethinking Relational Youth Ministry by Andrew Root
    3. Almost Christian by Kenda Creasy Dean

  8. I had a hard time with this, because so many books have informed my vision for Youth Ministry. However, if I had to narrow it down to THREE:

    Relationships Unfiltered — Andrew Root
    It helps you CARE and MINISTER to students without an agenda.

    Contemplative Youth Ministry — Mark Yaconelli
    Students lives are transformed when THEY ENCOUNTER GOD.

    Sticky Faith — Kara Powell
    Parents are the primary youth minister.

  9. I have enjoyed all of the books that you all have mentioned, but my top 3 are:

    1. Sustainable Youth Ministry- Mark DeVries

    2. Simple Student Ministry- Geiger, Borton

    3. First 2 years, Doug Fields.

    These books have really molded the way our church does student ministry.

  10. 1. Speaking to Teenagers – Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins
    Absolutely fantastic and practical advice for how to develop and deliver messages that will resonate with teenagers (and even adults).

    2. Group’s Emergency Response Handbook for Youth Workers
    Incredibly invaluable tool for those difficult situations where you don’t know what to say or do. Great wisdom and discernment tool.

    3. Connect by Jonathan McKee (you may have heard of him)
    I own all of your books already, but this one is my favourite and is so valuable for viewing students through God’s eyes and trying to help them move to being a fully-committed servant of Jesus Christ.

  11. I’ve been influenced by so many over the years, that sometimes I’m not sure which book was the original one I got the philosophy, idea, or trick from. However, the first three books that come to mind are:
    1) “Hurt” by Chap Clark
    2) “Do They Run When They See You Coming” – I purchased that for my volunteers during my last two ministry positions
    3) “So That’s Why I Keep Doing This” by Glen Procopio. That one’s out of print, but it’s a gem worth tracking down.

    Then, of course, there are all the leadership books that have nothing to do with youth ministry, yet the principles have everything to do with youth ministry… or pastoring in general. That’s probably for another post, if you haven’t done it already.

    I do find it fun to look through these lists, and think about which generation of youth workers might have written the list. Some of these books didn’t come out until after I’d been in youth ministry for over ten years. Some were classics within a year after coming out, whenever it was. Good stuff, all of it.

  12. 1. Purpose Drive Youth Ministry by Doug Fields
    2. Raising the Bar by Dr. Alvin Reid
    3. Rethink by Steve Wright

  13. 1. “Zombies, Football, and the Gospel” by Reggie Joiner. This is an easy read. A lot of points he makes are “No brainers” that we forget. Plus, it has some great space to take notes, and then pass it to your volunteers to read, and chime in on with their own observations.

    2. “Purpose Driven Youth Ministry” by some Doug guy? Seriously, this is THE youth ministry text book. Whether you follow the PD plan, or not, so many observations about commitment levels within our ministry, plus the ideas based on planning with “purpose” gave us the needed insight not to be discouraged, and at the same time feel empowered to course correct when needed. (Someone should take this concept and apply it (bigger) to the entire local church, and (smaller) to the individual. What an awesome impact that would have.)

    3. “All My Friends Are Dead” This is just fun. Teenagers live in too serious a culture and need something to bring them out of it, and remember that it’s not uncool to laugh.

  14. Man, this is a tougher than the time I had to choose to stop a game or keep playing when my student busted his eye open in the dark at a lock-in….in the sanctuary…that had a trail of blood going from the sanctuary to the bathroom (we kept playing).

    1) Purpose Driven Youth Ministry by Doug Fields
    2) Speaking to Teenagers by Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins
    3) Outbreak by Greg Stier

  15. My three must have books for YM are;

    1. Purpose Driven Youth Ministry – one of the first books to give small churches a real idea of what the big churches were doing.
    2. Do They Run When they see You Coming – one of the first and best books I read about building relationships with youth.
    3. Getting Students to Show Up – a great read that helped me realize that no event is greater than your group.


  16. 1. Purpose Driven Youth Ministry – Doug Fields
    2. Sticky Faith – Kara Powell
    3. Youth Ministry Handbook – Josh McDowell

    *Disclaimer – I feel it is a given but there is always that one guy who wants you to list the Bible. So, the Bible is obviously at the top of the list.

  17. 1. Purpose Driven Youth Ministry by Doug Fields
    2. The Big Turn Over: The Revolutionary Plan of Student-Led Youth Ministry by Rick A. Mills
    3. (Tie… because I can’t decide) Connect by Jonathan McKee AND Dare2Share by Greg Stier

    *I must admit I laughed hysterically when I saw “Everyone Poops.” You don’t even know how “influential” that book has been to me. Great practical insights for anyone of any age!

  18. I would have to say… that’s very tough.. but…
    1. Youth Ministry Management Tools 2.0
    2. My first 2 years in YM
    3. Communicating for a Change

    so many good ones, and soooooo many i still have to pick up

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