Reformers Recommends: Books for Youth Group Leaders

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Youth leaders have the incredible privilege of teaching teenagers the good news about Jesus Christ, and helping them to apply the gospel to every aspect of their emotionally turbulent lives. Like me, you might find this charge overwhelming sometimes. There are so many elements to think about—building relationships with the youth, teaching faithfully from the Bible, and encouraging prayer, just to name a few. 

The books on this list aren’t silver bullets to build a thriving youth ministry, but they will help equip you to approach teaching, pastoral care, and other parts of the ministry while keeping the gospel at the centre.

Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide by Cameron Cole and Jon Nielson (eds.)

This book is a great introduction to youth ministry. Rather than jumping straight into questions around talks and Bible studies, games and camps, they take the time to lay the crucial foundations first. Part 1 of the book looks at the gospel, discipleship, teaching, and other similar topics. Only once that foundation has been established do they turn to practical aspects. Whether you're starting a youth ministry from scratch or looking to assess an established ministry, this book will help you to think through each aspect of your program from a gospel lens.

Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids by Jack Klumpenhower

Preparing to teach at youth group can feel overwhelming. We want to stay faithful to the biblical text while also making our teaching interesting and engaging. This book keeps the main thing as the main thing by giving us one clear aim: show them Jesus. It steers us away from teaching focused on morality, giving practical guidance on how to help kids and teenagers treasure the good news of Jesus Christ. Each chapter ends with actionable steps for different readers: teachers, parents, grandparents, and more.

Caring for the Souls of Children: A Biblical Counselor's Manual by Amy Baker (ed.)

Youth leaders are often on the front line of cultural issues—we need to be equipped to bring the Scriptures to bear on everything from pornography to gender dysphoria, anxiety to anorexia. Our focus shouldn’t be on just countering the cultural tide, but shepherding the souls of the teens God has entrusted to us. Caring for the Souls of Children is an excellent introduction to biblical counselling for young people. The early chapters introduce methodologies, while the rest of the book gives a framework for approaching a variety of specific pastoral issues.

Why Is My Teenager Feeling Like This? and Why Am I Feeling Like This? by David Murray

Mental health issues are on the rise, especially among teenagers. This pair of books by biblical counsellor David Murray is designed to help teenagers to understand, process, and respond to issues with their own mental health in a godly way, and enable parents and other adults to engage in fruitful conversations with young people about these topics.

10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (and Answer) about Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin

When youth ask tough questions about the faith, we don’t always know how to answer them well. But we want to keep encouraging them to ask questions! This new book will help teenagers to ask their hardest questions about Christianity and start to get life-giving answers. McLaughlin covers prickly issues like racial diversity, universal truth, same-sex attraction, feminism, and suffering. This would be a great book to read alongside a questioning teen.

Transformed by Truth: Why and How to Study the Bible for Yourself as a Teen by Katherine Forster

No matter how good our Bible teaching is at youth group, we don’t want teenagers to be relying on that alone. A close relationship with God requires that they are spending personal time in the Bible. But sometimes youth aren’t sure how to actually do that, especially if they haven’t grown up in the church. This book will equip teenagers to read the Bible well, as well as giving them a greater thirst to do so. It’s another great choice to read alongside your youth group members.