Review: Youth Ministry: What's Gone Wrong and How To Get It Right by David Olshine

Jen Bradbury
Aug 22 · 5 min read

Youth Min What's Gone Wrong

This month, I began my 13th year in youth ministry. While I'm fairly good at what I do, I'm a strong believer that leaders are learners. To that end, you can almost always find me with my nose in a book, often one about youth ministry.

Recently, I read Youth Ministry: What's Gone Wrong and How to Get It Right by David Olshine. I had Dave as a professor at Huntington University and based on my experience with him there, was excited to get my hands on his new book.

Truthfully, I was initially taken aback by it's title. I was surprised to see – at least from it's title – a book focused on what's wrong with youth ministry.

While Dave's book examines 12 problems facing American youth ministry (ranging from “the paid youth worker's temptation to be a rock star” to the fact that “the caretakers are not taking care of themselves”), it's not actually a book about those problems. Instead, it's a book about fixing those problems, based on solutions Dave's gleaned from more than 30 years in youth ministry.

Two things that differentiate this book from others like it are it's accessibility and it's scope. Though Dave is incredibly wise, this book is accessible to a wide-variety of youth ministry stakeholders, including volunteers. Most chapters blend compelling stories with very practical action steps. To make it even better, Dave is funny. Among other things, his description of a church staff meeting was so true to life that it had me laughing aloud.

The scope of Youth Ministry: What's Gone Wrong and How to Get It Right also makes it unique. In it, Dave deals not only with youth ministry, but also with other ministries, including children's ministry. He challenges church leaders to take risks in reaching out to youth and reminds us of the importance of collaboration. He also reminds us of the importance of family ministry but once again, uses a unique approach to to do so. Rather than focus on family ministry, he focuses on learning how to understand family dynamics by studying family systems (complete with descriptions from well-known movies in order to make them more understandable). He underscores the importance of this by reminding us that “the future of youth ministry is the entire church ministering to the whole family.”

Whether you're a rookie or veteran, a paid or volunteer youth worker, Youth Ministry: What's Gone Wrong and How to Get It Right will equip you to be a better youth worker. And instead of being yet another sad tale about the death of youth ministry, Youth Ministry: What's Gone Wrong and How to Get It Right is a book infused with hope and a reminder of why the church needs youth ministry.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of Youth Ministry: What's Gone Wrong and How to Get It Right from Abingdon Press in exchange for an honest review of it.