When I received my free copy of reTHINK by Steve Wright, I wasn’t excited. It was a free book at the Band of Bloggers fellowship, but that was the first I had heard of it.
At first, I thought it was just another book of cool youth ministry techniques. Then I scanned the endorsements on the back where Dr. Randy Stinson (my dean at Southern) had this to say:
“Youth pastors all over America will be exhorted by Steve’s humble and insightful critique of current trends in youth ministry based on his many years of experience. If you care about teenagers, families, and the church, you must read this book.”
When Dr. Stinson comes out this strong for a book on youth ministry, I take notice. So I began to read, not knowing exactly what to expect. It wasn’t long before I was really impressed and in full agreement with Dr. Stinson’s endorsement.
Wright states the essence of his book on page 194, “To see parents in charge of the spiritual formation of their children and the lives of young people transformed.” Again on page 201 he writes, “This book is about change – changing the current model of student ministry to a biblical framework.”
The subtitle of the book issues a challenge: Decide for yourself, is student ministry working? The first chapter convincingly answers that question in the negative by appealing to research and leaders in the field of Student Ministry. The teenagers produced by the American church do not demonstrate discipleship in any relevant measure. A wide majority of these students “graduate from God” and never return to Christianity. But Wright goes beyond mere pragmatics, in the next two chapters he demonstrates the unbiblical values and methods that dominate contemporary student ministry.
This book forced me to taken notes. There was so much helpful research that I’ll return to it often as a reference. I also marked his collection of bible verses dealing with parental responsibility in family discipleship. Even though I read the book in two days, this book is in no lightweight when it comes to content.
The remaining five chapters are a guide for churches ready for change. This part of the book was very helpful. Our church is working through these issues and moving toward a family discipleship approach. Reading about Wright’s experience was encouraging. I appreciated his emphasis on prayer and patience when leading change.
The book did leave room for criticism. This may be unavoidable when treating broad issues in a small volume. I didn’t find a clear definition of the Student Pastor. It would have helped me to see how Steve differentiates the biblical function and qualifications of the Senior pastor from that of the Youth Pastor. Also, at points I felt the book was assuming structures present only in larger churches. A few more paragraphs aimed toward the church with only fifteen students would have been helpful. My concerns here are minor and don’t diminish my excellent opinion of Steve’s book.
Without reservation, I recommend this book to any church that wants to be more faithful in family ministry. Wright’s treatment is well researched, balanced and accessible. He writes with a pastor’s heart, concerned for the souls of his flock and ultimately the glory of Christ. Don’t let the catchy design fool you, this book is solid.
You can buy reThink at Amazon.com
Update: Steve is offering a free one day reTHINK conference in May 2008. Dr. Stinson will be speaking too.