Postmodern Youth Ministry by Tony Jones is the book I would recommend to youth ministers if they could just read one youth ministry book. I first read the book in my Foundations and Practices of Youth Ministry class at John Brown University. After the preface to the book there is a page titled, “The Day My World Changed” where Tony tells of a conversation he had with a woman. He was trying to “witness” to her (my words, not his) and brought up the C.S. Lewis tri-lemma: Jesus must be either Lord, liar, or lunatic. The conversation continues:
“Well, I believe he is Lord for you,” came the response.
“I must not have explained myself,” I said. “He claimed not just to be Lord for Tony but for all humanity – in fact, for all creation.”
“That’s fine. I believe that for you, he is Lord of all creation.”
“But he claims to be Lord of all creation for everyone.”
“Okay, for you he’s Lord of all creation for everyone”
After reading that conversation, I realized my presuppositions of youth ministry that I had brought with me into college would need to be modified, at least a little bit. Unknown to me, this book started me down the long road of radically rethinking what it means to be a Christian, do ministry, and be a church. My theology also ended up shifting significantly. For me, this was the book that got the ball rolling.
In the book, Tony sets forth a philosophy of ministry that is sensitive to our current postmodern context. One of the best features of the book is that other authors were asked to comment on the book and their thoughts are in the margins of the book, right alongside the main text. There are comments by Rudy Carrasco, Brad Cecil, Mark Driscoll, Dan Kimball, Brian McLaren, Sally Morgenthaler, Doug Pagitt, Kara Powell, Leonard Sweet, Pete Ward, and Mike Yaconelli. The pseudo-dialogue that this produces is great to observe and think about.
Tony has left the youth ministry scene to some extent, now being the national coordinator of Emergent Village, but he still does a lot of work with youth ministry organizations, denominations, and churches. As of 2006, he was still a staple of the Youth Specialties National Youth Worker Convention. You will be blessed and stretched by reading this book.
More posts on this book to come.