Jesus presents this question in Luke 14:28: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” Counting the cost before making the leap is the process through which DeVries and Dunn-Rankin take youth workers in The Indispensable Youth Pastor. The book is not near-sighted in its approach but rather provides a bird’s eye view of the reality of life in youth ministry.
In Section 1, youth workers are prepared to land their dream job. DeVries and Dunn-Rankin get personal by calling the readers to be in youth ministry even before they are paid to do youth ministry. During this time, potential youth workers can evaluate the difference between wanting to be with teens and shepherding a ministry for teens. The main ingredient here is helping the reader develop a keen self-awareness. The authors further guide candidates down the interview process, asking excellent discernment questions to determine a good fit before getting too far into the process. The book also provides insights into how to relate to church members as well as questions to ask the search committee. Chapter 17 is perhaps the best of this section which draws the candidate to consider seriously the spiritual component of “landing” a position.
The second section covers details often unconsidered by the new minister. DeVries and Dunn-Rankin readily admit problems and conflicts as part of life in youth ministry. Yet, they skillfully guide the youth worker through clarifying expectations, listening, slow change, and the concept of intuitive leadership. They rightly put into perspective the place of the youth worker in the greater church. “Our job as youth workers is not to sell the church on our vision of youth ministry. Our job is to steward the church’s vision” (74). The authors further deal with the complaining of many youth workers with the reality that “when you step into a hospital, you don’t complain that there are sick people there” (110). Every church has its problems, and so does every youth worker. Relationships with the pastor and leaders as well as adjustments to expectations are laid out as key.
The third section really speaks to the heart by providing insights on how to love the ministry in which you serve. DeVries and Dunn-Rankin provide an outstanding word on seasons of ministry as well as working through personal weaknesses. They also encourage youth workers to let go of the idea that the whole church needs to be involved in youth ministry and focus rather on sharing and repeating positive stories of those involved in the ministry. An essential component of this section is pointing youth workers to God as their provider in a practical way as opposed to focusing on the money or ministry they don’t have. Each of these thoughts are meant to provide hope and focus for a youth worker who is just beginning or trying to determine if their season of ministry is complete.
While the authors provide one chapter (Chapter 31) dealing with parents, it would have been advantageous either to have expanded upon a youth worker’s consideration of their support of parents or to have provided pointers to further resources that would go into greater detail in this area. DeVries and Dunn-Rankin consistently call youth workers to keep from being self-focused; however, even this constant call may tend to bring attention back to self as opposed to serving the bride of Christ. On the other hand, the authors do set forth a clear framework that does not encourage a youth ministry to function in a vacuum but instead places it in connection and relationship with the greater church family.
The Indispensable Youth Pastor is a desperately-needed work for anyone going into, transitioning, or continuing in youth ministry. The brief chapters make reading easy, and the organization allows it to function as a handy text for referencing certain aspects of the job. Most importantly, they call every youth worker to count the cost before making the leap.