"When a student in our ministry becomes a Christian do we treat it as an ending point or as a beginning point?...Similarly, if a young person doesn't experience God's love and grace beyond a spiritual experience at the altar, are we doing youth ministry?" (p. 38)
Efrem Smith challenges readers with these questions and others in Raising Up Young Heroes. A former youth minister and current senior pastor, Smith sees youth ministry as deficient as it's commonly done. He argues that instead, we need to be involved in youth development with a clear eye to discipling heroes for Christ through ministering to their bodies, souls, and spirits.
Writing with dynamic intensity, he packs the book with anecdotes of young people and effective ministries. Drawing from biblical examples, he confronts legitimate weaknesses in the church and evils in the culture. He offers many suggestions for youth mentors, some of which readers will agree with, others they will oppose, and others which will provide springboards for their own ideas. He calls for churches to welcome young people from different ethnic backgrounds and break down the racism and ethnic divisions within the church.
His chapter, "Serving: Nurturing Young Kingdom Builders," is my favorite. He recognizes and urges encouragement of the quiet young people in our midst, the ones so often overlooked because of the charisma of their friends. He points out the celebrity worship inherent in Christian TV, para-church programs, and mega-churches.
I am uncomfortable with some of his suggestions, such as young people's performing rap and hip-hop in church, but he does promote and challenge discipleship of young people and offer many suggestions. His ideas and suggestions that I agreed with greatly outnumbered the ones I disagreed with and made this a challenging book. Readers may want to read Raising Up Young Heroes, and then read The D Factor: Youth Discipleship by Liz West and Paul Hopkins (Monarch Books, ISBN: 1-85424-580-5) for further ideas on mentoring young people. -- Debbie W. Wilson, Christian Book Previews.com
How can you move beyond youth group?
You already know that youth ministry is about much more than Sunday night Bible study and lock-ins. It's about changing the lives of youth and empowering young heroes to change their world. In this book Efrem Smith provides you with a model for holistic ministry that addresses all the needs of youth--body, soul and spirit.
Powerful stories from Smith's urban multiethnic context shape the content of Raising Up Young Heroes. He shows how the fashion, music and lifestyle of the hip-hop culture are permeating youth culture and how you can enter that culture to help your youth meet Jesus.
The principles that are the foundation of Raising Up Young Heroes are designed to serve the whole body of Christ. So whatever your own youth group context, you can benefit from the Smith's rich storehouse of experience and his huge heart for today's youth.