Book review | Consuming Youth

A new book by John Berard

SBTs own John Berard is the lead author of a
new book which launches tonight
We asked Judy Steers to review
Consuming Youth: Leading Teens Through Consumer Culture

There’s no shortage of books on youth ministry out there.  For most youth ministry practitioners, if we’ve been around for more than a year or two, we are looking for a book that doesn’t tell us things we already know. Nor do we need to read about the latest great program ideas or about trends in youth culture.

What we so badly need is a new way to think about and re-vision youth ministry.  Consuming Youth: Leading Teens Through Consumer Culture, a new release from Zondervan/Youth Specialties by John Berard, James Penner and Rick Bartlett, offers just that in a solid, inspiring and very readable way.

Well researched, and peppered with references, quotes, stories and case studies, the book includes excellent questions for reflection at the end of each chapter.  The authors take us through an enlightening challenge to our cultural view of youth as consumers and how that affects identity and vocational formation.

They offer a thorough history of the approach to youth and youth ministry. This is not to just give us facts and figures, but to trace an arc of ministry as a response to culture and give us a better perspective on why we do what we do. Finally, through a case study and analysis, they offer a new way of thinking about youth ministry. They are not giving us a quick fix or a do this approach, but instead getting us thinking about how we can re-imagine these ideas in our own unique context – whether congregation, youth club, organization or simply in our relationships with youth we know.

The book is not perfect. I was disappointed by the lack of Canadian content or examples, despite two of the authors being Canadian. Clearly, marketing to an American audience is what is on the publisher’s mind.  Still, we in Canada are used to translating American books into our own context, and the consumer mentality realities presented are bang on.

The authors also show their own stripes a bit too much in their treatment of the history of youth ministry.  They come across a little biased to their own organizations.   Still, they make their points well and by the end of the book I found myself inspired to apply their solid and accessible conclusions.

I bought copies for some of my youth ministry colleagues and this will be the book I recommend this year, for those trying to work out how to approach youth ministry, whether as a youth worker, solo clergy or a visioning team.

Reviewer: Judy Steers is the Coordinator for Youth Initiatives for the Anglican Church of Canada and the director of the Ask & Imagine Youth Theology Program at Huron University College. She is also a semi-regular visitor at saint benedict’s table when she is in town.

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