BOOK REVIEW: Sustainable Youth Ministry

If you are a youth worker, you won’t like reading Sustainable Youth Ministry.  But you will benefit from it.  That’s because Mark DeVries addresses several things youth pastors are notorious for complaining about or avoiding (and he does it with 30 years experience, not posture).  This book is a straightforward, tested look at the need for “systems” in youth ministry that last, and DeVries explains these with the same patience it takes to develop them.  One of the features I particularly admire is the numbers DeVries presents about having a sustainable budget, a sustainable staff, a sustainable volunteer team, and a sustainable size (all of which were very helpful in evaluating our current situation and planning for future growth).  DeVries also attacks the notion that the “next great idea” will propel youth ministries or that some youth pastors can be “the one” to take a youth ministry to “the next level.”  His challenge is for us to reconsider what we’re accomplishing and if the youth ministries we serve belong to us or the church.  it’s a challenging read because DeVries asks you to do something with what you’ve read.  He also brings up and answers the arguments you will have when reading some of these ideas.  After finishing “Sustainable Youth Ministry,” I’ve understood better why I was anxious in my internship, why I was burnt out in my first position, and why things are going well where I am currently.  I even put the book down a few times to type out some of the documents he suggested.  This is a very systematic book that will help the young youth pastor and the yearning youth pastor get a grip and take a breath.  The trick is, you have to do some of these things.  But DeVries provides for that, too, including clear checklists and descriptions of the next step in the appendices.  “Sustainable Youth Ministry” has helped me re-evaluate some what we’re currently doing and has solidified other things we’re already doing.  And I feel better equipped with hard data (rather than emotional reaction) to present the reasons why we do what we do in youth ministry, and feel more confident that youth ministry is turning a corner towards rightly perceived greatness.