Book Review : Inside The Mind Of Youth Pastors

Articles like this sometimes.

But books like Inside the Mind of Youth Pastors by my friend (presumptious?) Mark Riddle are insightful and brilliant and practical and accessible.

If you mistakenly thought this was some kind of long-awaited self-help book* for youthworkers (hey, now there is an idea for the YS bookshelves!), you would be off by a mile. But, it is in fact, a very helpful self-help book for your youth ministry and your youth staff/volunteer relationships, especially and particularly with senior church staff and leadership.

I am really grateful for Mark’s insights, reality checks and helpful approach to building honest, truthful, supportive and encouraging relationships between senior pastors and youth workers because he tackles tough issues, very real issues, in a precise and unrelenting way. Through it all, he maintains a warmth and genuine tone, where you get the sense, this guy is on your side. In fact, regardless of whether you’re a senior pastor, sole pastor, volunteer or youth pastor.. you get the feeling he’s on your side.

Chapters, Highlights, Sidenotes…You’ll Notice..

Endorsements.. There are a pile of them. And from good quality people, who come from a wide range of places and perspectives. Most praise both Mark the person and the work. Which is always a good sign. There are so many endorsements that actually – you ought to read them for their own sake.

Short Chapters.. Busy people will be reading this book, but while these short chapters are easy to read – they require thoughtful response and ask brilliant questions. My overall sense was that there are no words wasted. Stories are well placed but not overdone.

He Gets It.. Mark legitimately does get inside the mind of youthworkers from all walks and variance of experience, in addition to really understanding the driving motivations behind a lot of church youth ministry stories. He does a good job of identifying not just the wrestles of youthworkers and youth ministry, but the ongoing demands placed on senior leadership in the broader scope of church to deliver on certain expectations. And he unpacks the internal motivations of us all as leaders. *Reading this book in fact, was a little bit of a personal healthcheck.

Great Centerfold Diagrams.. This book isn’t just about seeking the Spirit and relying on discernment, feelygood feelings. No, there’s actual HR theory, relational theory and communication theory woven right through the core. Reading this book, even just the centerfold, will make you a better parent, friend, boss, employee and romantic love interest.

Discussion Questions.. From the outset, Mark addresses that you may be reading this book in order to put something in place, to instigate change, or healthy process, to invigorate and build trust with your staff team. So he gives you great, cut to core discussion questions to use, and guides you through the process of implementation and building relationship. This is like a pastoral book that wants to give you really helpful tools.

Process, Practicalities and Positioning Statements.. Mark really clearly addresses the process of deciding why, how, who, what and when that a church goes through in appointing staff, no holds barred, healthy and unhealthy, from every angle. Gives you a look to think about to fit your own circumstances into the spectrum. You’ll feel good and bad. That’s ok. He then speaks practically about basic things to get right and to avoid in the interview and employment process for both sides!! Yes, two ticks. Then he also makes some brave and brief positioning statements about practical choices.. especially in regards to ..

Catalytic Leadership (pg.78) – Most churches want the fruit of catalytic leadership, that looks to them like engaged and passionate young people ought to look, but rarely are they prepared or wanting the chaos and turmoil that a Catalytic Leader brings.

Ideal Youth Pastor Age (pg.81) – Mark puts forward a brief but well constructed, legitimate argument for maturity in youth pastors.

Healthy Churches .. – There is a clear picture of what a healthy church is/isn’t, does/doesn’t. Including the approach of self-revelation it takes in the interview and employment process.

Issues.. Ministry envy and comparison, performance anxiety, communication meltdowns.

My Own Particular Standouts And Notes

1. Characteristics of youth pastor expectations, what’s expected of them and what they expect of the job.

2. Connection between the overspiritualization and emotional connectedness that develops in the interview process.

3. The packaging doesn’t always match the product (ie: how to sell yourself article above!)

4. The Blame Game – performance anxiety and deference, role of responsibility in every aspect of leadership, including church’s responsibility.

5. This book offers invaluable insight into overall church behaviour patterns.

6. The influence of theology on staffing can take you by surprise. Reminds me of the “budget reflects the values of the church” talk I heard Brian Winslade give.

7. The importance and place of unexpressed vision in volunteers.

8. Churches do have strong values that form the organizational ideas around youth ministry, even if it’s not formally expressed in ‘vision’.

9. EXPERTISE – often churches want the approval/rhetoric of a Youth Ministry expert but only to affirm their existing plan of action.

10. Catalytic Leadership – the classic case of be careful what you wish for.

11. Ladder of Inference – often the product of relational neglect, the consequences of Isolation (relationally neutral), Alienation (relationally negative) and Condemnation (the end is near).

12. Young People – what about young people in the process? Chp 17 – 20, look at the relationship with young people.

Conclusion
The next book called the “un-Official Church Staff Manual” is going to be an excellent companion piece, because consistently “Inside the Mind” will lead you think… man, this book is really for the whole church. Not just Youth Ministry.

Check back for the blog tour later on.

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What do you think?