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Saturday, July 2, 2016

"Student Ministry Essentials" (Steve Vandegriff and Richard Brown)

TITLE: Student Ministry Essentials: Reaching. Leading. Nurturing.
AUTHOR: Steve Vandegriff and Richard Brown
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2015, (256 pages).

Student ministry is crucial not only for the future of the Church but also for the relevant disciple needs of young people. All if not most of us will be a student. For the Church, whether it is a parachurch or a Church-based student ministry, the goal is the same: Equipping and Discipling the young to grow in Christ and to be effective stewards of God's gifts to them. Yet, the years in school are supposedly limited and brief. Apart from the busy academic work expected, there is also the challenge of balancing one's time and resources against the many competing needs and conflicting distractions. In a book that aims to reach, to equip, to lead, and to nurture student leaders, authors Steve Vandegriff and Richard Brown have come together to share their knowledges and wisdom about practical discipleship development; leadership skills; partnership strategies; visions and dreams. The three big thrusts in this book are:

  1. To reach out to students and leaders by knowing their needs
  2. Toward inspired leadership with a knowledge of the culture, the environment, and the fit
  3. To nurture one another with a better knowledge of what student ministry is, means, and needs.
Before entering into the nitty gritty of student ministry, the authors begin with a warning. There is a spiritual enemy that is poised to steal the hearts of people; to kill the aspirations of the young; to destroy relationships; and to damage the integrity of the young. Part One is about Leading. talks about the essentials of leadership roles and titles of student leaders such as student pastor; youth leader; volunteer student leader, and so on. They explore elements of the call, what it means theologically and practically. They study the biblical models of pastor, overseer, and elder to see how each of these titles manifest the attributes of ministry, management, and maturity. Not only are there tips about equipping existing leaders, there are great ideas on how to identify potential leaders. Knowing the need to widen the partnership circle, one chapter covers the critical role of working with parents of students. Part Two is about Nurturing. We look at the changes happening in young people emotionally, socially, physically, relationally, and spiritually. It reveals the potential of intergenerational ministry and support to inculcate a culture of intergenerational dependency. The chapter on spiritual formation reminds us that spiritual development is a process. Nurturing involves teaching, biblical guidance, parenting, and understanding. Part Three is about Reaching. The authors look at programming and describe how they aid our focus on our mission. They give us a 4-level model of student ministry: Entry-Evangelize-Edify-Equip. They remind us again that the best candidates to reach out to others are saved students. That is not all. Intentional outreach efforts, campus ministry, and other methods of outreach are also covered. 

Good student ministries require lots of hard work and dedication. Student leaders are also one of the most unsung (and unmentioned) heroes of the Church. I believe in student ministry partly because I have been a beneficiary of some of the best teachers who have been heavily involved in my years as a student. Often, we only get to see the visible parts of ministry, like the teachers and speakers in front giving speeches or teaching sessions. We see student leaders engaging students in small group environments. We read about the list of programs and activities organized by such student leaders and volunteers. What remains hidden are the many hours of prayer, planning, and people resources behind it all. This book gives us a glimpse of what it takes to do student ministry and more. What I like about this book is how it structures the huge topic of student ministries into three concise elements of reaching out, leading people, and nurturing individuals. Each chapter is long enough to list down the essential skills and knowledge needed. It is also brief enough not to bog down the reader. With lots of biblical material, the authors also provide us with ample web links and reference books for further research.

Leaders must lead. They must also be led. With in-depth secondary research and their own experience, Vendegriff and Brown have given us an important book which I deem a must-have for those of us who are in or are interested in student ministry. Even for those of us who are not directly involved, we can learn how to pray for them as we learn about the many challenges and promising aspects of working with students, student leaders, and adult facilitators.

Steve Vandegriff is Professor of Youth Ministries at Liberty University in Virginia. He has served as a youth pastor in California, Tennesee, and Canada. Richard Brown is Professor of Church Ministries at Liberty University and have served in churches in the MidWest and Seattle.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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