Welcome to the Top Ten, a curated reading list for youth ministers. Each month we find ten articles (and sometimes videos or podcasts) from various sources that we believe will encourage you in your ministry to teenagers and their families. Some give explicit instruction on gospel-centered ministry, while others are included because there is a message of common grace that is helpful to youth workers. (The opinions presented in these articles do not necessarily reflect the position of Rooted.) For more articles to share with the parents in your ministry, make sure to check out our Parent Top Ten.
If you find an article that could speak to the Rooted community, please share it with us in the comment section below.
by Joseph Bradley (Youth Pastor Theologian)
Studies continue to indicate an increase in teenagers who leave the church after high school, and those who stay have a deteriorating grasp of biblical convictions and lifestyle. I believe our hyper-emphasis on the beginning of salvation may actually be fueling some of these phenomena. The continuing of salvation is called the doctrine of sanctification, where the outward life of a Christian begins to coincide with the change that has happened within.
by Leia Joseph (TGC)
Perhaps you instinctively assume the youth pastor or Sunday school teacher engages youth more effectively than you would. Maybe you think youth don’t want to talk to adults anyway. Whatever the reasons, too often, in my experience, relational intentionality doesn’t extend to the youth in our churches. Here are two reasons that engaging youth is important and two practical tips for doing so.
Partnering with Parents
by Tim Challies (Challies)
Being a Christian was always a challenge for me, but it wasn’t really until high school that it became unmanageable for me. I think the public school system in Canada has taken a very sharp turn in the past few years. Suddenly half my day became about the LGBTQ+ community, about racism and various similar topics. While I was willing to listen and learn different opinions and views related to these topics, I think where things have changed are in my ability to have an opinion different from everyone else. I’m not really allowed to be a Christian anymore. I was feeling a constant pressure to conform to these beliefs and lifestyles, not only by my friends but by my teachers as well.
Protecting Teens From Big Tech: Five Policy Ideas for States by Clare Morell, Adam Candeub, Jean Twenge, and W. Bradford Wilcox, IFStudies. “We have enough evidence on the harms and dangers of social media use by children that a state would be well-justified in limiting social media by law to only adults, or at the very least to people 16 years and older.”
by Yulee Lee (Fuller Youth Institute)
Mostly out of love and good intentions, we parents offer support in ways that our teenagers experience as stress because our support can come with qualifiers. It’s easier to support our kids if they make the grades, or if their plans align with our vision for their lives…I took the opportunity to ask them, “If your parents could only say one thing to encourage you as you start the new school year, what would you want to hear?” They all unanimously agreed it would be, “I support you.”
Derek Thompson with Jonathan Haidt (The Ringer)
…I think the most poisonous, dangerous, damaging process is you post photos of yourself, your body, your face for strangers to rate … and then the pain you feel when people make a critical comment, or when they say nothing at all. So I think what we have here is a platform that is unsafe at any speed….There is no way, no tweak, no architectural change that will make it OK. We didn’t know this in 2012. We thought, “Oh, what a great outlet for creativity.” But now we do. We have this mental health catastrophe unfolding, there is no other explanation.
by Helen Lewis (The Atlantic)
This fire-and-brimstone language might initially seem odd, because society is becoming less religious—in the U.S., church membership dropped below 50 percent for the first time in 2020, down from 70 percent in 1999…We might expect that religious concepts—repentance, hellfire, heresy, apostasy—would have become less salient as a result. But that’s not the case. For some activists, politics has usurped the role that religion used to play as a source of meaning and purpose in our lives, and a way to find a community.
by Andrea Palpant Dilley (Christianity Today)
While biblical sexual ethics most definitely apply to SOGI—as well as marriage and singleness—they start with the simple act of protecting women and men from exploitation. Everything else follows from that. Put another way: Abuse prevention is the most basic form of faithfulness to God’s edicts about the body.
by Jason Chao (SOLA Network)
I think with all the conversations, not just on sexuality, we need to hold high, what is our end goal for all of us. And it is not at all behavior management. It is not just don’t sin. But it is becoming more and more like Christ. Christ always has to be our all in all, he has to be our ultimate goal, our Telos, and so I think that’s important for every person.
by Brad M. Griffin (Fuller Youth Institute)
Now more than ever, young people need us to be with them and for them in new ways to help them develop faith for today, and faith that sticks and grows with them into the future. Here are five changes any leader can make this year to face our challenges, better connect with teens, and give our ministries new energy.
Rooted’s Two Most-Read of August
by Chelsea Kingston Erickson
The strongest possible affirmation anyone could give of women is that they get to be like Jesus. That’s what Peter says to the women he addresses in this passage, and it’s the good word we get to proclaim to our students today.
by Bradley Blaylock
We get to tell our students that one day death itself will die. Not only that, but sadness, evil, and darkness will be no more. There is hope! One day, senseless acts of violence like school shootings will cease and God will wipe away every bit of anxiety. The promise of Heaven reminds us that our suffering is not to last forever.
In Case You Missed It (Rooted’s August Honorable Mention)
by Steve Eatmon
How sad is it when youth workers trade in the approval of the Father for the admiration of church elders or desperate parents! I will admit, I can struggle with this as well. But as youth workers, we have to ultimately remember who we work for and who has the power to reward us.