It seems like there is a never ending stream of youth ministry books being published. You can find books on topics ranging from how to plan good youth retreats to how to avoid having your youth program sued. What you could not find in youth ministry books, until recently, were serious attempts to put youth ministry issues and models into a theological framework. It may be in reaction to several years of negative research concerning the effectiveness of youth ministry that have caused this new wave of youth ministry books to find their way onto shelves in Christian bookstores. Whatever the reason, I am glad to see this movement from a reliance on proof texts to validate youth ministry to a desire to develop a theology of youth ministry based on the whole counsel of God taking place.
It is within this new spate of books that Brian Cosby’s Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry From An Entertainment Culture finds itself positioned. Many a youth ministry book has languished in the publishing wasteland because it lacks the content to separate itself from the myriad of books on the same topic. Thankfully, Giving Up Gimmicks does not suffer from that issue. In fact, I believe that it is the depth of the content of this book that separates it above the fray.
Perhaps this quote taken from Appendix A sums up best what Cosby has been able to achieve with the writing of Giving Up Gimmicks, “The aim of this book has been to offer a plea for youth pastors, youth leaders, and parents to reclaim or (possibly) to discover a model of youth ministry focused on the Word of God, prayer, sacraments, service and grace-centered community.” Building on what he has coined a “Means of Grace” ministry model, Cosby develops not only a theologically reformed framework for youth ministry but he connects the reader to church history as he builds his case. Interspersed throughout the book are real life youth ministry examples and practical applications for the youth program in your church.
If you come to this book, as I did, with an understanding that the Means of Grace are the Word, the sacraments, and prayer then you will most likely be especially interested in Cosby’s thoughts on why service and community should also be considered Means of Grace. Whether or not you end up agreeing with him on those points, Cosby’s treatment of service and community as Means of Grace is well-handled and thought-provoking, especially in the context of youth ministry.
My final analysis of Giving Up Gimmicks is that this book should be read by anyone connected with youth ministry in the local church. I found great value (even in the places that I disagreed) in Brian Cosby’s insights throughout the book. Because he is asking the right questions, using God’s Word as the starting point for the answers and has put into practice his theories in the cauldron of local church youth ministry, I believe Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry From An Entertainment Culture can help most local churches who believe that there is something more to youth ministry than pizza parties and games. Danny Mitchell, CEP Youth and Family consultant.