A Practical Guide for Ministering to Teens (Book Review)

Hill, Drew. Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel. New Growth Press, Greensboro, NC. 2018. 192 pages.

The teen years can be an exciting time of growth and new experiences. Yet, the teen years can also be filled with intimidation and loneliness. What is crucial during these teen years is for these young people to have older people, parents and youth leaders, come alongside them to mentor them. This is especially important with discipling youth in the church. Even with this need known, many youth leaders and parents feel ill-equipped to come alongside teenagers in a discipling relationship. In Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel, seasoned youth ministry leader Drew Hill seeks to change that.

Over the course of four parts consisting of twenty-nine chapters, Pastor Hill writes to those who care about youth, helping them to better understand teenagers (part 1) while giving them biblical truths to know and practice (parts 2 and 3) for a sustaining and enduring ministry to teenagers (part 4). Chapters average about 6 pages in length and are structured to include sections pertaining to parents and those in ministry. The chapters close out with a Bible verse and pray on that particular theme or topic. In the appendix of the book, practical tools are listed for working with teenagers.

More Practical than Doctrinal

For youth leader, parent, or person that cares for reaching youth, one element they will quickly take notice of in this book is its practicality. Through the author’s use of personal stories and ministry experience, the reader will hear the real and raw truth of youth ministry while receiving practical ideas to use as they minister to and disciple teenagers. The bite-sized chapters of 6 pages make for an easy read. Yet, the book seems to take on a more practical than doctrinal approach. This does not mean one can separate the practical from the doctrinal, which is a false dichotomy. Rather, to say this book takes on a more practical approach is to say the book is more practically driven than doctrinally driven. Sections in the book are devoted to looking at Scripture and considering how we can follow the method of Scripture, but there are a few important factors that are not emphasized enough.

Wonderful Concepts, Wanting Content

It is because of these neglected important matters the biblical youth leader will be left wanting in the book’s content. There is much to appreciate in the book as Pastor Hill addresses topics such as the impact of Christ’s incarnation for the model of ministry, the influence of a teen’s relationship with their parents, and the importance of speaking on issues of hospitality, anxiety, and insecurity. The problem is not that these subjects were discussed, as they need to be for those investing in youth. The trouble is these topics, especially insecurity, were emphasized to the neglect of mentioning sin. To be fair, the author does mention sin as the number one problem for teenagers (Hill 19). Yet, more room throughout the book appears to be given to the issue of insecurity. One other area where content was found wanting was the numerous times the author uses The Message translation to quote Scripture. This was surprising due to the fact it is a loose translation at best of Scripture (better seen as a commentary on Scripture).

While some of the content is found wanting in this resource, it does have its bright moments. In speaking on the gospel, Drew Hill says “moralism leads to exhaustion” (Hill 30) while the gospel leads to grace. The strongest section of the book is found in chapters 6–9 as the Trinity is laid out faithfully and the gospel is shared through a biblical framework. These chapter portions highlight the potential of seeing the wonderful concepts that provide the overarching structure this book. The parts are structured well, the chapter themes are chosen well, and the author’s stories and illustrates are told well but the content could benefit from further biblical depth.

Criticism of content aside, Alongside still provides youth leaders and parents with practical help in entering in and coming alongside a teenager with the gospel. Alongside can serve as a practical starting point for the youth leader, parent, or adult who wants to begin interacting and investing in teenagers with the gospel.

I received this book from New Growth Press in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

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