Rooted’s Top Ten of June 2023

Welcome to Rooted’s 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, which runs every-other month.

If you find an article that could educate, equip, or encourage the Rooted community, please email the editor at

Gospel-Centered Ministry

Walking with Children and Teens Through Doubts About Christianity by Faith Chang (SOLA) 

God is not only concerned with our mental assent to right doctrine— he cares about our relationship with him. Remembering this, we can see our young people’s struggles with doubts as opportunities to not only experience God’s truthfulness, but his patience, presence, love, and grace.

And You Shall Never Displease Me by Tim Challies (Challies)

A great gift we can give to others is the gift of our approval. We can assure them that our desire for them is not that they live according to our standards, but that they live according to God’s. If they heed the will of God and live according to a sanctified conscience, we can, we should, and we must be satisfied. We must believe that the best thing they can do is please God and please themselves. And if they have done that, we must not be disapproving of them or be disappointed in them.l

Partnering with Parents 

Parents Are Key to Youth Ministry by Thomas Walters (TGC) 

Parents and youth ministers both know youth ministry can’t merely be about what students want; it must give students what they need. What if, far from ruining youth ministry, parents are a secret, indispensable ingredient for its health and success? Here are three reasons why this is the case.

Get Phones Out of Schools Now by Jonathan Haidt (The Atlantic)

The problem is not just transient distraction, though any distraction in the classroom will impede learning. Heavy phone or social-media use may also have a cumulative, enduring, and deleterious effect on adolescents’ abilities to focus and apply themselves. Nearly half of American teens say that they are online “almost constantly,” and such continuous administration of small pleasures can produce sustained changes in the brain’s reward system, including a reduction of dopamine receptors. This shifts users’ general mood toward irritability and anxiety when separated from their phones, and it reduces their ability to focus.

Editor’s Note: A recent installment of Haidt’s Substack newsletter is free to read and features an important section for parents the widely-circulated Atlantic article leaves out.

Americans generally give children their own phones in late elementary and early middle school, and for good reasons: we want to be able to reach our children to arrange activities, and we want them to be able to reach us if something goes wrong. So let’s give our kids dumb phones or dumb watches! They do just what you want, and don’t do the things you most fear (providing 24-hour access to addictive social media, and video gaming, and more).

4 Questions to Answer Before Giving Your Child a Phone by Daniel Stegeman (TGC)

The apostle Paul instructed Timothy to “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Likewise, it’s critical for Christian parents to set a godly example for our children. When we wisely steward technology, it can go a long way toward ensuring our kids will too.

Youth Culture

What Would Jesus Say About Pride Month? By Mike McGarry (Youth Pastor Theologian)

As parents and youth workers and church leaders wrestle with what to do about Pride month, I’m praying that we would pray more – not about the issue, but for specific individuals whom we know by name. Instead of advocating for boycotts or sounding the alarm over movements that are genuinely concerning, may we devote our greatest attention to the young men and women the Lord has placed into our lives. It might get messy and confusing and you might not always know what to do or say. When that happens, it sounds like another opportunity to pray for wisdom.

Wade—Don’t Dive—Into AI by Walt Mueller (CPYU) 

What we need in today’s world is a resolve to move slowly, cautiously, prayerfully, and Christianly onto any new digital frontiers.What tools will we quickly latch on to and enlist? What tools should be avoided? And how can we develop the tools of wisdom and discernment so that we erect the correct borders and boundaries around ourselves and our kids?

Ministry Skills  

5 Ways to Cultovate Trust with Teens in Your Ministry by Jen Bradbury (Fuller Youth Institute)

What I discovered—and what our Faith Beyond Youth Group research found—is that trust requires consistency (relational longevity) and closeness (relational proximity). Without these two ingredients you can be liked, but you won’t necessarily be trusted.

Teaching Controversial Passages at Youth Group by Joseph Bradley (Youth Pastor Theologian)

Our interpretations of the texts, as well as the theological systems connected to them, while good to discuss, should not be elevated to equal standing with the story of Christ. Our own views do not carry the power of the gospel.

Addressing the Four Major Gaps in Student Ministry by Shane Pruitt (Gen Send)

There used to be one major gap in student ministry where teens would typically cease being part of a church. It was the gap between student ministry and collegiate ministry…This gap remains a serious concern, but in my exposure to hundreds of student ministries and tens of thousands of students every year, I believe there are actually four major gaps now. Fewer and fewer students are making it all the way through student ministry (sixth grade through senior year) before they even have a chance to drop out after graduation.

Rooted’s Two Most-Read of June

Back to Basics: The Beauty of the Ordinary in Relational Discipleship to Gen-Z Students by Connie Nelson 

With a prevailing attitude of love that seeks to see and understand our students, we become a wordless witness that frames and reinforces the very gospel message we speak.

Jesus Is Rest: Anxious Teenagers Find a Better Story in Christ by Liz Edrington 

Jesus doesn’t ask you to earn his love by performing well in school, by being the ideal son or daughter, or even by getting rid of your anxiety.

In Case You Missed It (Rooted’s June Honorable Mention)

Partnering Along the Way: Deuteronomy 6 as a Framework for Partnering with Parents by Skyler Flowers

While the discipleship of children begins in the home, the overall context extends to the covenant people of God as a whole. The Shema is a command to all Israel. This implies that the whole community takes part in raising children to worship and love God alone. It doesn’t merely take a village, but the whole covenant community to raise a child (Prov. 1:3-4).