5 Books Every Youth Minister Should Read

The books on this list are not about youth ministry but for youth ministers so you will be better equipped to serve by knowing the culture and lives of youth well and knowing the Gospel and its power to heal even better.

Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton.

This book maps the landscape of the spiritual lives of American teenagers. It is the most comprehensive and thorough study ever done on the topic, and the authors, Smith and Denton, are top-notch sociologists of religion. They find that the “spiritual but not religious” affiliation thought to be widespread among young adults is actually rare among American teens. Smith and Denton helpfully describe “moralistic therapeutic deism,” which they call the dominant religion of most American teens.

Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers by Chap Clark

This book reveals powerfully the painful, lonely inner-world of many teens. Clark explains that abandonment is the defining issue for contemporary youth and traces this throughout family life, school, peers, morality, and other dimensions of teens’ lives. The final chapter, which promotes five strategies to counter the “tide of systemic abandonment,” is particularly helpful.

Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper

Piper explains what God achieved for sinners by sending Jesus to die. This book will help you explain why and how the work of Christ on the cross is central to the Christian faith: “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14). Any one of these chapters would provide you plenty of material for a sermon, teaching, or group discussion.

On Being a Theologian of the Cross by Gerhard Forde

Forde celebrates the cross as proof that God will have mercy on sinners and warns us not to seek God apart from the cross because it is in the cross that God will be found. The only solution for humans bound by sin is the forgiveness that comes from Christ alone. This is what youth feeling the guilt and shame of their sins need to hear, not some horrible message of self-help and behavior modification. If you aren’t preaching salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, you’re probably preaching “moralistic therapeutic deism.”

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change by Paul D. Tripp

There is a deep need for a gospel-centered, biblical counseling vision to influence youth work and the youth worker role. As you’ll be listening to youth talk about their dreams, pains, and struggles, you’ll need to explore the wisdom and depth of the Bible and apply its grace-centered message to them. This book will help you do that.