Book Recommendation

Giving Up Gimmicks, Brian H. Cosby (P&R, 2012) Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Culture—now there’s a subtitle that catches my attention. In this book, Cosby makes the valid point that our youth are much deeper than we think. They want to learn theology. Their questions about God are serious and they deserve serious teaching. The entertainment model of youth ministry that has pervaded our culture is not discipling our children in God’s Word. Cosby reminds us that our youth do not grow in God’s grace differently than any other human being (although sometimes we question what planet they may be from!). As a minister of God’s Word, youth leaders should shepherd their flock according to a means of grace ministry. Not only do I get frustrated with the entertainment mode of ministry that our youth are infiltrated with today, but I also have a concern with the idea of youth ministry itself. I think that sometimes we get too carried away in separating the youth from us boring adults, and they are never really assimilated into covenant church life. In trying so hard to let the kids bond and learn amongst their peers, we may be excluding them from much of the wisdom, service, and mentoring that multigenerational relationships provide. It is no wonder when they become adults they find themselves strangers to their own church, and sadly fall away. And yet I can see the value in the youth meeting as a group on a regular basis to study God’s Word together, sharing the particular struggles they face in this culture. Giving Up Gimmicks encouraged me for the future of youth ministry. I ordered the book for our church library, and can’t wait to begin telling all the parents about it. As I read through, I was thrilled with what Cosby exhorts youth leaders to teach, as well as his encouragement to keep the youth assimilated with the rest of the church. Appendix B addresses Shepherding Youth Alongside Families and Church Officers:
MORE AND MORE youth ministries across America are becoming separate enclaves within the greater church body—detached huddles of teenage “mini-churches.” These come complete with everything needed for a balanced spiritual diet—the three “Fs”: food, fun, and fellowship. However, this approach is greatly mistaken and, to be honest, very dangerous. As our culture has separated, defined, and categorized teens into their own separate world, it is absolutely necessary that we find ways to assimilate them into the greater church body so that the hands, feet, arms, and legs of Christ (metaphorically, of course) may appreciate and depend on one another (133).
Cosby then emphasizes the importance of the parent’s relationship with youth ministers, parental involvement and participation in the group, as well as nourishing the relationship of the youth with shepherding elders. I think far too often youth ministers inadvertently become pastor, elder, mentor, and best buddy. The youth can then become closed off, and even intimidated by the rest of the church family. Cosby promotes strong relationships with the whole church body as to avoid this pitfall. I found this short book to be filled with great teaching, advice, and practical tips for both youth ministers and parents. Coupled with this, Cosby’s passion for this highly underestimated age group shines through. I encourage anyone with children to read Giving Up Gimmicks!