Veteran youth minister, Drew Hill, has written a new book for anyone who works with or lives with teenagers. Pastors, parents, teachers, and coaches will all benefit from the gospel focus and practical wisdom of Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel.
Alongside is jam-packed with creative ideas and anecdotes from Hill’s personal experience, but his focus is steady throughout the book; he desires that we share the life-giving gospel with teens who desperately need it. In the second section of the book entitled, “The Pursuer; The Story of the Gospel: A God Who Pursues Runaways,” Hill writes:
You’re likely holding this book because you want to be better equipped to share the good news of salvation with the young people in your life. This section of the book clearly lays out the gospel and serves as a reminder that because of God’s presence with us, we already have everything we need. As we pursue teenagers, we go with the Great Pursuer, the One who walks alongside us.
Further on, Hill writes:
Entering the world of teenagers can be terrifying. Thankfully, we don’t just follow Jesus’s example but as we enter their world, we actually go with his power. Just as Jesus has pursued us, he now lives in us. And through us, he pursues others. It’s a mind-boggling mystery.
We can try to muster up the energy to be good people, good parents, and good youth leaders, but eventually, we’ll burn out. If we’re simply trying to emulate Jesus’ example, we will constantly fail and give up. Moralism leads to exhaustion.
But if we are filled with the presence of Christ, we are empowered to pursue others with a fire that won’t burn out. In the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus calls us “the light of the world,” he uses the illustration of a lamp. Can a lamp produce light on its own? No. A lamp carries the light. We are holders of the light. We don’t have to try and shine brighter. We don’t have to produce the light. We already possess it.
Hill demonstrates how humbly walking alongside teens allows us to join in their lives, so that they can see what Jesus has done for us:
We take the gospel to our teenage friends – not as independent adult who have it all figured out, but as beggars helping other beggars find food. We don’t cry, “You heathen, come be more enlightened like me!” Instead, we ask a question: “ Are you tired, hungry, cold, homeless, broke, or thirsty? Me too! Come and see where I found rest, food, and warmth. Let me show you where I found belonging, incredible riches, and the place where my thirst was finally quenched. Let me introduce you to the One who is rest, the One who is the Bread of Life, the One who is the Light of the World, the One who is the Prince of Heaven, and the One who is the Loving Water- Jesus Christ!”
As one who is both youth ministry leader and parent, Hill is able to speak to both audiences with the wisdom of Scripture and his practical experience. Each chapter includes a section that specifically addresses the church worker and one that specifically addresses the parent. The possible uses of the book Alongside are exciting. A youth minister could work through it with volunteers, youth workers and parents could discuss the book together, and of course the book could be read solo, in pairs, or in a small group devoted to discipling teens.
Because Hill is humble and transparent about God’s faithfulness in the ups and downs of working with teens, Alongside will be richly encouraging to anyone who reads it:
One difficult thing about both parenting and ministry is this desire to see dramatic life change happen overnight. While those instances do sometimes occur, I’m learning that far more often, our journey toward Christ happens in small, often imperceptible steps. Perhaps this is how God keeps us humble.
A year ago, I was in the most discouraged place I have ever been in ministry. I felt as if I’d been doing it for so long and seen so little fruit.
“Has anything I’ve done actually mattered?” I’d recently found out that a kid I had invested in had taken his own life at the age of thirty-three. I was beating myself up for not reaching out to him more recently and honestly, I just wanted to quit.
But one Wednesday in August, I was driving to a meeting in Charlotte and got ambushed by God…
I drove down I-85 and the phone rang. And Greg [a young man who had been in the middle school youth group I’d led] started telling me about his last decade – how he ran from God and got a girl pregnant, which led to an abortion. He became an alcoholic, couldn’t get into college, got in a major fight with his dad, and ended up moving to Texas to work on an oil rig. A few years later Greg was finally able to go to college, and through a college ministry, he met Jesus. Then, his whole world changed.
Now he was teaching high school, coaching football, and thinking about going into youth ministry. He told me he wanted to call and thank me for chasing him back in the day. He said that when he was just a middle-school kid, I was the first person who ever showed him a glimpse of Jesus.
I hung up the phone, crying, and just worshipped the Lord…
For a full review of Alongside, check out the link here.