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Sustainable Youth Ministry: Why Most Youth Ministry Doesn't Last and What Your Church Can Do about It
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Sustainable Youth Ministry: Why Most Youth Ministry Doesn't Last and What Your Church Can Do about It

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  595 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
You're looking for a youth pastor. Again. What goes wrong? Why do youth ministries crumble? And what is the cost to students, parents, volunteers and church staff? Is a sustainable youth ministry possible, even after a youth pastor leaves? Youth ministry expert Mark DeVries knows the answer is yes, because he helps build sustainable youth ministries through his coaching se ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 10th 2008 by IVP Books
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Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: youth-ministry
If you are a youth worker, you won't like reading Sustainable Youth Ministry. But you will benefit from it. That's because Mark DeVries addresses several things youth pastors are notorious for complaining about or avoiding (and he does it with 30 years experience, not posture). This book is a straightforward, tested look at the need for "systems" in youth ministry that last, and DeVries explains these with the same patience it takes to develop them. One of the features I particularly admire is t ...more
Eric Durso
Dec 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really liked this. More than I expected. Lots of helpful stuff to think about.
Jun 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Can you answer this question? ... What is the appropriate ratio for FULL-TIME youth worker to youth in a sustainable, healthy youth program? (See bottom of this review for the answer.) If your youth minister looks more like the last match on the cover than that third match, or if you are searching for a new youth pstor AGAIN, then you, your pastor, and the parents of youth at your church, as well as your search committee, need to read this book. (Answer: 1:50. Yep. It's true.)
Clint Nelson
Dec 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A must read for any youth pastor or youth pastor search committee. Following the wisdom of this book can save a decade of failure.

The last quarter, save the last chapter, are a bit random, but still filled with great advice.
Dave Reiss
Mar 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Awesome book for anyone involved or connected to youth ministry!
Tom Marsan
May 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian-ed
A fabulous primer and go-to for how to do Youth Ministry!
Jake Thurston
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A truly exceptional book on constructing systematic youth ministry. In fact, the principles are so good, that you could apply them in any context of organized discipleship in the church. A must read for anyone involved in youth ministry, from youth pastors, to volunteers, to senior pastors!
Vivien Naomi Lee
Nov 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am going to end up reading this book again.
I was tempted to drop the book after realising it was a book targeted at full-time staff workers, but I think as long as you are a churchgoer who is looking to enter youth ministry to serve or a layleader who is invested in building a sustainable youth ministry - this book will be a super good read. It taught me the importance of rest in good service and the importance of organisational and relational skills motivated by love. It also taught me that t
Sep 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Anyone involved in any capacity with youth ministry should read this book. It delves into why some youth groups succeed and why some fail and most importantly how to help your church develop a sustainable ministry.

The book really deserves FIVE stars for its ideas and insights, so why did I give it four? In a lot of ways it is a total downer; it basically states that all youth groups fail and most ministers aren't really qualified to handle the intense work it takes to turn around the culture an
Scott Frazier
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is the most insightful and practical youth ministry books I've ever read. However, for those looking for a "quick fix" to your youth ministry woes, this is definitely not the book for you. DeVries instead focuses on what's often overlooked by most youth pastors, the systems necessary for long term success.

The only drawbacks were the plugs for Youth Ministry Architects, which is DeVries' consulting company. As a business move, it's genius because you get people seeking your help, but from t
Apr 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian-living
This book simultaneously challenges and affirms those called to youth ministry. The affirmations are plenty (which is so necessary for those who are called to this for the long haul), and the challenges aren't so much convicting as practical. My husband is the youth minister, not me, though I am involved in his ministry wholeheartedly as a volunteer and at-home cheerleader. It was so validating seeing how my husband is not the only one who goes through what he deals with. And it has given me ins ...more
Kreig Durham
Sep 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is honestly one of the most practical books relating to youth ministry I've read. I intend to keep it close by for reference as I work to steps outlined in this book. I appreciate that the author is clear that there is not one exact model that brings success, but rather a process that can fit the needs of your particular ministry. It was quite a reality check to accept that there's no such thing as "the absolute perfect youth pastor," but rather a system that needs to be in place to ensure ...more
Robbie Pruitt
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In 2008, Mark DeVries wrote one of the best youth ministry books available in the field, Sustainable Youth Ministry. This book influenced churches all over the country with a sound theology and understanding of the workings of youth ministry. The practical tools and insights that DeVries provided have increased the effectiveness of many local church youth ministries.

Sustainable Youth Ministry is a must read for every youth minister and pastor, and I highly recommend the book to help train parent
Jun 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
This would serve as a good companion volume to Mike Woodruff’s book, Managing Youth Ministry Chaos. DeVries free up the non-charisma youth worker to build a ministry with confidence. The book serves to temper personality-based youth ministries, increasing the likelihood of true sustainability. DeVries puts his finger directly on the same problems repeated multiple times in many churches. The author looks at:
1. The anatomy of stuckness that keeps churches mired in ineffective youth ministry.
2. A
Dec 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: pastors, any adult working with youth in a church setting
Shelves: read-ministry
Written with a very specific audience in view (mainline to evangelical churches large enough to pay at least one youthworker at least part time), he crystallizes a number of things about church youth ministry that I have been sensing in my current call. The need for long-term perspective, how a variety of social dynamics within congregations mitigate against consistent vision -- or any other form of longevity in youth ministry. Great (selective, appropriate) use of stats, explicitly theological ...more
David Morehead
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book could easily been titled, "Sustainable Ministry", "Sustainable Home", "Sustainable Schools", "Sustainable Life", "Sustainable ______________." The point the author makes is in order to sustain anything worth while, you must have systems in place to do so.

He talked about "Crisis of Capacity" where you can only grow to the capacity that has already been built in. He then begins to give steps on how you can increase the capacity of your organization. This is a great read for ANYONE in le
Nathan Wells
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If you are looking to hire a youth director for your church or you are a youth director and you want to have some insight into navigating church politics this book is useful. Sustainable Youth Ministry takes a direct look at how many churches and youth leaders set themselves up to fail before they even begin by having unrealistic expectations and unplanned direction. This book will walk you through principles of being intentional and strategic about your organized youth ministry, whether you are ...more
Nathan Smith
Feb 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the best youth ministry book there is. Period. Youth ministry has historically been unsustainable. Youth minister comes in, does good, but when he leaves, the ministry falls apart and the next person must start from scratch. This is cyclical in many churches, but what DeVrie has done is examine some of the traditional pitfalls of unsustainable youth ministry practices, and then show us ways to make youth ministry work.
Jul 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
YES! YES! and YES! I met Mark at a conference in October, 2011, and purchased this book on Kindle before we left, devouring it within a week. DeVries details important concepts for churches to consider when looking at their youth ministry goals and the ways they approach those goals that may not be consistent with achieving them. The research shared is encouraging. DeVries has been in youth ministry for 28 years. He knows what he's talking about!
Aug 27, 2015 rated it liked it
I'm not a Youth Minister (though I'm married to one) and I learned an incredible amount not just about Youth Ministry but the planning, energy, patience, and strategy behind building all ministries. This should be required reading for pastors and all congregational leaders seeking to build stronger programs for young people. It is a mix of heavy doses of reality, useful anecdotes, and rich images for understanding the development and function of ministry. Highly recommended.
Chris Esposito-bernard
Dec 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
"Big's Brother is my big brother." - Kanye West.

In Mark's book, I felt like Mark was wrapping his arm around my shoulder, like a little brother, and letting me in on how things really work. It was hard to read at times, but like a big brother, he told me what I needed to hear for my own good.

Sustainable Youth Ministry is a great resource for churches trying to figure out how to love their teens well. And I whole heartedly recommend it.

Rob Petersen
May 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Referred to me by several youth ministers whom I respect, this book was an excellent source of foundational information regarding the pursuit of establishing a long-term, fruitful youth ministry that will outlive one's own tenure. DeVries helps the reader to understand the thinking behind certain key documents that help "square the corners" of a ministry built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.
Aug 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Great book. Insightful and very practical. It deals with the structures and heart behind youth ministry - that we cannot just charge into the future doing things that 'we have always done'. Lack in ideas and finances are not the key reasons that youth ministry is a basic structural problem and a lack of endurance for the long haul!
Andy Goodrich
Sep 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Lots of good things to say and apply. His methods do not seem fluid enough. I love the idea of having a plan and well thought out strategy but sadly I find the plan always changing do to shifting participation and needs of youth. This being said following his steps and building the foundation that he describes could never hurt a ministry it just seems a little daunting.
Jan 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-nf
I haven't tried any of the concepts in this book, but it all makes sense. It's well written and easy to read, with some good examples. As a lover of stories, he cited some examples w/o telling the whole stories, which I found disappointing, but I'm sure the remainder of the stories didn't illustrate his point, thus his decision to terminate them.
Mar 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is a great read for people who want to do effective youth ministry. Building slowly, for the long term, is the core of Devries message. He promotes a spiritual way to have discplined planning and execution. Some books will give you more use it this week ideas, but nothing I have read yet does a better job with the 'how' and 'what' questions of youth ministry.
Robert Smith
Apr 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: youth-ministry
This is a book that made me realize to a great extent my own failures as a youth pastor. I was the camp counselor rock star youth pastor who burned out almost as quickly as I started. This book talks about the structures necessary for maintaining and running a sustainable, healthy youth ministry. Highly recommended for all youth workers, pastors and search committees.
Feb 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
great theory and insight that can be applied to all ministry. mark is a clear writer. I found it helpful as I seek to support youth ministry in a corporate church and as I evaluate future calls that involve pieces of youth ministry.

every pastor should read this...and all youth volunteers as well.
Nate Brown
Jul 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great read!

Great read!

this book has a lot of great and helpful tips for bringing a strong sustainable youth ministry to churches of any style. Very well written with a great flow that made it a very easy read. I plan on using this book as a helpful start to new leaders and "stakeholders" to help share a little insight to the things I would like to do!
Jul 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book to help a congregation take ownership of its youth ministry instead of hoping that the next youth leader they hire will be "the one." DeVries provides excellent foundations for youth ministry, guidance for developing a vision, as well as practical steps for structure and organization.
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“We encouraged volunteers to think of themselves not as people who run errands to keep a program going but as spiritual directors in the lives of students. Chris Folmsbee” 2 likes
“Imagine what would happen if schools taught with the same approach to curriculum that most churches use. One year, a teacher stumbles onto an engaging curriculum on verbs, with some really cool videos on gerunds. When the kids and teachers get bored with that curriculum, they cut it short, and the teacher runs to the curriculum store, finds a compelling study on algebraic equations (narrated by Rob Bell-Curve), and starts to teach that the next week. When that study is winding down, the teacher decides it’s time to teach on rocks or medieval knights or Christmas around the world.” 0 likes
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