Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again)

I’m not a guy who has a long list of heroes. Perhaps it’s because it takes a lot to impress me. To qualify as a hero for me, someone has to be a real flesh-and-blood person (sorry, Superman!) who has unselfishly pursued their God-given life-calling with single-minded purpose and almost reckless abandon. They also have to have done with great humility and integrity. It’s for that reason that I list Wayne Rice as one of a small handful of my youth ministry heroes.

I was a freckle-faced kid longing to survive life Huntingdon Junior High School and the harrowing transformation from childhood to adolescence when Wayne Rice was blazing the youth ministry trail with his buddy Mike Yaconelli. . . a partnership that would very quickly birth Youth Specialties. Although I didn’t know it, my youth pastors around that time were discovering and tapping into the youth ministry stuff Wayne and Mike had originally been selling out of the trunks of their cars. In a few short years, I would find myself answering the call to youth ministry, a calling that was fueled in large part by the growing volume of resources and training provided by YS.

Over the years, my relationship with Wayne Rice morphed from me admiring him from afar as he led music onstage at a convention, to a highly-respected friend. Wayne Rice has always been the real deal. . . that’s what I love about him. Now, after a few years out of the spotlight spent pondering his own story and legacy, Wayne is sharing his time-tested wisdom and heart in his brand new book, Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again): From Bells and Whistles to Flesh and Blood (InterVarsity, 2010).

Let me be straightforward and blunt about this book – every youth worker needs to pick it up and read it. Reality is that lots of younger youth workers might be tempted to write Wayne off as an old guy who’s a youth ministry has-been, which means that he’s got nothing worry saying to people in youth ministry today. But if you understand the wisdom that comes with having a history and honestly evaluating that history, then Wayne Rice is a voice who needs to be heard. It’s no stretch to say that Wayne Rice had a huge hand in making youth ministry what it’s been since the 1960s and into today. . . . both the good and the bad. Wayne would admit that – and does admit that – himself in this book. Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again) takes readers on an autobiographical and historical tour of youth ministry without the cloudy vision caused by taking the tour with rose-colored glasses. And by telling us all what was done right along with admitting what was misguided and wrong, Wayne helps today’s youth ministry mavericks avoid the mistakes that so many of us made. Instead, he calls youth workers back to a biblically-faithful and mature view of the Scriptures, the church, the family, and what has to be in place for lasting spiritual nurture to take place in the lives of kids.

Some day, everyone of today’s youth workers will arrive at the age where they take a look in the rearview mirror and think about what they’d do differently if they could only have a chance to do it all over again. It’s inevitable. But I believe that today’s youth workers will reach that point with a shorter list of regrets and would’ve, could’ve, should’ves if they would carefully consider Wayne’s words in Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again). All of us in youth ministry owe a debt of gratitude to Wayne Rice. With this book, our debt just got bigger.

–- Walt Mueller

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