Monday, January 19, 2009

Book Review: Youth Ministry 3.0 by Mark Oestreicher

I picked up Mark Oestreicher's new book while at the National Youth Workers Convention a few months ago. I had been looking forward to reading this expanded version of a general session talk he had given the year before at the convention. Having heard the general session talk and read the numerous blog posts on this very subject, I had certain expectations of what I would find within the pages. For the most part, I was not surprised.

Oestreicher has been involved with youth ministry for almost 25 years and is currently the president of Youth Specialties. He has been around the youth ministry world long enough to know the good and bad, and to have been a part of both sides. Now that he mainly sits on the other side of the trenches, watching the youth ministry culture as a whole, he can see a little clearer the trends that have been happening lately and how they will/should move youth ministers into what he calls youth ministry 3.0.

Before jumping into what youth ministry 3.0 is, Oestreicher sets out to explore youth ministry 1.0 and 2.0. According to Oestreicher, youth ministry 1.0 was the era when youth ministry was focused mainly on the proclamation of the Gospel. Youth ministry 2.0 was the era when the main focus was programs. Youth ministry is not completely out of version 2.0, but there are some significant changes occurring across the youth ministry world. The biggest events, tools, or methods in these eras of youth ministry were reproducible. At least that was the thought among both the "big ministries" and "little ministries." The larger ministries were busy sharing their methods with anyone who would listen (or go to the conference). And the small ministries spent a lot of time trying to copy the success of the larger ministries.

According to Oestreicher, one of the biggest changes in the youth ministry 3.0 era is that this "copy & paste" mentality has to go. In youth ministry 3.0, it is not about using the same method/curriculum/program as another church. The new era of youth ministry needs to be about being present within your own ministry context. Being present is the key word for this new ministry era. When a youth ministry is focused on what God is doing within their own ministry context, the focus is taken off of being like anyone else.

Oestreicher does not answer a lot of questions in this book, in fact he asks and leaves a lot of them unanswered. And isn't that the type of book a youth ministry 3.0 youth worker needs to read? A book that does not tell you how to change 7 aspects of your current model to become a newer/better ministry. (I still believe we need youth ministry books that focus on practical application, they are just not the only ones we need) The end of the book contains three stories of youth workers who are struggling with this transition or attempting make this transition within their ministries. These stories bring encouragement and challenge the youth workers who read this book to step out of their current "safe" model of ministry and go where God is leading.

The best way to make the most of reading this book is to read it with a group of youth workers. This is one of those books that is a good read, but a great resource when you discuss its content with others. If you are a lead youth worker, get a copy for everyone on your youth team and take time to read and discuss. If you are a volunteer youth worker, then make sure the lead youth worker knows about this book. Youth ministries have been stirring for a few years now about changes that need to take place within the realm of youth ministry. Oestreicher has articulated these feelings rather well, and you would benefit from listening to his thoughts, along with the voices of other youth workers found throughout the pages.

My advice (rating) –
buy more than one and give out copies (5 out of 5)


  1. Great review Mike. I would agree with you - the lack of "how to" in the book is refreshing and very necessary for a 3.0 style.

  2. @revkevgcc thanks Kevin. I just hope it sparks discussion from people and not complaints.