Book Review: reTHINK by Steve Wright

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.”

rethink.jpgThe 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.

More Reviews of reTHINK

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12 Responses to Book Review: reTHINK by Steve Wright

  1. Derek Simpson says:

    Tony:

    You may want to link to Steve’s website, http://www.lastingdivergence.com — he is offering a free one day reThink conference in May. Good stuff – great site. Keep up the good work.
    DNS

  2. Mike Hall says:

    Tony,

    Your review is an answer to prayer. I never thought that we would be able to have the opportunity to get reThink into the hands of guys like yourself, but the Lord has truly amazed me. I’m sorry that we didn’t meet personally at BOB. If I can serve you in any way, please don’t hesitate to let me know. By the way the registration website for the conference is :http://www.rethinkconference08.com

    Mike Hall
    Executive Editor
    InQuest Ministries, Inc.

    Mike Hall’s last blog post..Getting Them Engaged!

  3. Nathan says:

    Yes! We need more reviews of this book. I know Student Pastors both reformed and not that love the thesis of this book. I plan on writing my own review of it soon, but here are some negatives I have of it:

    “A few more paragraphs aimed toward the church with only fifteen students would have been helpful. ” bro Tony has pointed this out and I thought the same thing. I have less than that in my youth group, so I am doubtful many of the ideas would work well with my youth and parents.

    Another complaint I have is that there is no talk on childhood/teenage conversion experiences. This is HUGE and needs to be discussed more. Many students graduate from God after high school simply because they are not saved. Some of those stats come from churches that do not teach the gospel or if they do, confuse it with psychologically manipulative techniques.

    Plus, unintentionally what it says (by not addressing conversion) is that all you have to do is implement this method and the faith of teens will stick around when they’re adults. Sounds too Presbyterian to me. :)

    An entire chapter needs to be devoted to the issue of conversion and how that plays into the “rethink” model.

    Other than that, the book was a Godsend. I just started my job as Student Pastor and my pastor is requiring deacons, youth leaders, and eventually parents to read this book. That kind of support is going to make my job so much better!

  4. Larry Gross says:

    I was a youth pastor for seven years who spent the last two of those years trying desperately to steer what was obviously an unsuccessful model into a model of parental involvement. I had become convinced through the work of brothers like Grant Layman at Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, MD, that the reason youth ministry was “not working” was mainly due to a model that was almost openly hostile to parental involvement.

    I have not read this book, but from these reviews, I do sincerely hope that resources such as these begin a wave of youth ministries that partner directly with parents and even equip them to be in an active discipleship relationship with their own children. Without fail, the children who did not “graduate from God” in our youth ministry were the children whose parents were directly involved in their spiritual formation and had an active and ongoing dialog with them. The children whose parents were uninvolved or unengaged were far more likely to leave the Church and never return. Parents need help in this and many of them are desperate for it.

    Like I said – I haven’t yet read the book and I am no longer in youth ministry (called out to be involved in a church plant in Austin, TX), but I applaud all efforts to change the failing course youth ministry has taken in past years to a more biblical approach with parents as the primary disciplers.

    Larry Gross’s last blog post..Learning from the experienced

  5. Tony Kummer says:

    Nathan – Good observation about conversion. This is an area that too many churches have just assumed. I could easily see that taking a second book to do well.

    Larry – One line of argument in reTHINK had to do with all the turnover of Student Pastors. I think you’re situation is common, guys who want to serve the Lord and do biblical discipleship but are stuck in a model that works against their calling. Thanks for commenting.

    Mike – Thanks again for making this book available at Band of Bloggers. I hope I’m not the only one who takes the time to read/recommend it.

  6. Pingback: More Resources: reTHINK | Said at Southern Seminary

  7. anonymous says:

    I have not yet read reThink but I would be curious to know if there was any discussion about turnover due to low compensation. You see, most youth pastors are young and either will soon start a family or have started one that will grow. They are expected to do herculean tasks of scheduling, discipling, etc. with only minimal compensation. The only way to increase compensation to move after a few years. I am a youth pastor and have never had to do this but it happens often.

  8. Tony Kummer says:

    He mentions turnover and the stress of it all, but I’m not sure if he goes into compensation as a factor. Thanks for making that point. I know several guys who have struggled with this.

  9. Pingback: reThink Youth Ministry. Is student ministry Working? Decide for yourself… « Believe to Reason

  10. Nathan says:

    Here is a link to my review of the book. Hopefully, this will add to the discussion, since I do review aspects of the book that you didn’t touch upon as much and vice versa. :)

    http://pastordefalco.wordpress.com/

  11. Tony Kummer says:

    Nathan,
    I’m glad to link to your review. My reviews are typically more “book reactions” than reviews. So, having the summary you posted is a plus.

    I think Steve’s book covers some topics we should all be more interested in discussing.

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