One of the questions we had at the Rooted conference livestream Q and A is a question we often get at Rooted: what are the most important books a new youth pastor should read? Our panelists answered in the Q and A, and you’ll see that snippet below. We also asked veteran youth pastor Tucker Fleming what he would recommend, and he shared his suggestions:
The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul
No single book has done more to develop my own understanding of who God is and what He does. Your students’ thoughts about God will be affected (effected?) by yours in a lot of ways, so the bigger and more accurate your own thoughts about Him are, the better. I don’t know of any book which will help youth pastors develop a truly biblical concept of just how incredible and awesome God is on a biblical basis than this one.
Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney
A complaint I hear a lot from my own students is, “I just don’t know how or what to pray,” packaged in various ways. Methods for prayer like the ACTS prayer or the “Five-Finger Prayer” are helpful, but nothing more richly engages the heart than praying God’s words back to Him. Whitney teaches his reader how to do that in this short book. Even if a youth pastor doesn’t teach his or her students this exact method, it’ll be an encouragement to that youth pastor’s own prayer life at the very least, which is reason enough to read and digest it. A youth minister with a healthy prayer life will be a much better youth minister than one without a healthy prayer life.
The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes
There will be seasons of pain and discouragement in every ministry, and ministry to students is no exception to that rule. Sibbes’ book has been a staple of Christian literature for centuries for a reason. He applies Gospel wisdom to the life of the Christian, and he’s been a salve for my soul more times than I can count. If you’re a youth pastor, you’ll feel like a “bruised reed” at times – battered, beaten, and without the strength to stand on your own. But take heart, because Christ will not break a bruised reed (Is. 42:3).
A Biblical Theology of Youth Ministry by Mike McGarry
It’s easy as a youth pastor to wonder to yourself if you’re doing “real ministry.” Read Mike’s book and most of those doubts will dissipate. He does a wonderful job showing that youth ministry is, in fact, biblical, and as such is certainly “real ministry.” This is the kind of perspective-broadening piece of work which is important to read in the early years of youth ministry because it has the potential to lay the conceptual foundation that a youth minister might spend a career building upon.
Desiring God by John Piper
If The Holiness of God helps us think big, biblical thoughts about God, then Desiring God helps us feel big, biblical affections for the very same God. Knowledge about God without a desire to grow closer to Him tends to grow dry and stale, and Piper’s book gives the youth pastor an antidote for that dryness. What’s more, he gives us a helpful grid for encouraging our students to grow closer to the Lord as well. If, as Piper says, God’s glory is magnified by our enjoyment of Him, we’ve got an easy sell to our students. We don’t need to tell them to read the Bible or pray strictly to check a duty off of a list, but to experience joy – joy that we won’t fully get from the varsity soccer team or the Ivy League college admission.
Please see also our Rooted resources for more great ideas.