Richard Ross, professor of student ministry at Southwestern Seminary, has written a new book titled Youth Ministry That Lasts a Lifetime. Combining biblical exegesis with current research and Ross’ many years of experience in the church, the work invites readers to consider a radical new model of youth ministry that is likely to lead many more teenagers to lifetime faith. The book is available at SeminaryHillPress.com.

Below is a Q&A with the author on the purpose and significance of this work.

Q: In just a few sentences, what is the main argument of Youth Ministry That Lasts a Lifetime?

A: The real criteria for evaluating youth ministry is this question: Are we consistently introducing teenagers to Jesus and then discipling them into believers who will, for a lifetime, love God, love people, and make disciples for the glory of God? At present, that description only fits about 10 percent of church teenagers. We now know that small group of lifetime disciples shared three experiences as teenagers: (1) they were reared by parents who adored Jesus, loved the church, and were on mission to see Christ’s Kingdom come on earth; (2) they grew up with a rich web of relationships with the full congregation and were on mission with church members of all ages; (3) they were in a Bible-drenched youth group led by a youth pastor and leaders who carried the aroma of Jesus.

This book proposes a new model of youth ministry that intentionally captures those same three dynamics of life and ministry. Specifically, the book proposes youth ministry that gives: (1) a third of time and resources to accelerating the spiritual impact of the homes where teenagers live; (2) a third immersing every teenager in the full life and ministry of the congregation; (3) a third leading what we traditionally have considered youth ministry, targeted to the youth group. We have every reason to believe balancing these three elements will lead to much higher percentages of teenagers loving God, loving people, and making disciples for a lifetime.

Q: What led you to write this book?

A: With some slight variations, American churches have employed the same model of youth ministry for about 60 years. Some good clearly was done, and some lives were transformed. But all is not well. Every year, we lead fewer teenagers to Christ than the year before. And even with the teenagers who attend church through high school, we only can hold onto about half. A new model of ministry absolutely is essential.

Q: What separates this book from other works on youth ministry?

A: Most youth ministry books call youth leaders to do a little better with the existing model of youth ministry. Some of those thoughts are helpful. But overall, the approach is just rearranging the proverbial deck chairs on the Titanic. Other books, often from the hallowed halls of academia, do authenticate that impacting families and immersing teenagers in the full church are powerful predictors of lifetime faith. But those books tend to be theoretical.

Youth Ministry That Lasts a Lifetime does exegete the Scriptures and does synthesize the research. But then it quickly moves to answer the youth leader’s pivotal question: What can I do with my time this week that has the greatest probability of reaching and transforming teenagers for lifetime Kingdom impact?

Q: Who is the intended audience?

A: The book is intended for youth pastors and any other leaders (paid or not) who coordinate the church’s ministry with teenagers. The book also is intended for senior pastors, personnel committee members, and search committee members who are thinking carefully about the model of youth ministry their church will champion.