2021 Rooted Book Awards: Best New Youth Ministry Books

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“Of making many books there is no end…” (Ecc. 12:12 ESV). While the Preacher of Ecclesiastes made this statement in a cynical way (“…much study is a weariness of the flesh.”), we at Rooted have been energized throughout 2021 as we read a number of great books in consideration of our year end book awards.

Today, I am honored to present the winner of Rooted’s Youth Ministry Book Award, as well as a couple of honorable mentions. Each of these books was published in 2021, and each one is sure to make a valuable contribution to the ministry of youth workers who are seeking to care for teenagers in a grace-filled, gospel-centered, Bible-saturated way.

Without further ado…

Honorable Mentions

5 Views on the Future of Youth Ministry: Perspective on What Could or Should Be, edited by Mark Oestreicher (The Youth Cartel) 

As the title suggests, 5 Views on the Future of Youth Ministry presents the perspectives of five renown youth ministry practitioner-scholars: Chris Curtis, Kenda Creasy Dean, Mark DeVries, Tommy Nixon, and Virginia Ward. Each author presents a well-researched commentary on a particular cultural shift, and outlines how these changing realities impact the execution of ministry to teenagers.

The applications suggested by the book are, in my opinion, overly-pragmatic and project-based. Despite this reality, the sociological research findings make this book worth a read, and earn it an “honorable mention” in this year’s Youth Ministry Book Awards. 

Searching for Grace: A Weary Leader, a Wise Mentor, and Seven Conversations for a Parched Soul, by Scotty Smith and Russ Masterson (Tyndale Momentum) 

Searching for Grace is not a youth-ministry specific book, which is the primary reason it did not win the award for this category. It is, however, imminently applicable to the lives of youth workers, and therefore it is rightly recognized as an “honorable mention.”

Russ Masterson, a young church-planting pastor, catalogs the inner-restlessness of his heart related to topics such as longing for acceptance, craving control, suffering, restlessness, and more. He then shares how his ministry mentor, Scotty Smith (a longtime friend of Rooted!), counseled him through these experiences by proclaiming the good news of the gospel in a spirit of vulnerability.

By reading this book, youth workers of all ages and stages will search for – and find – grace for the ups and downs of ministry to teenagers. 

2021 Award-Winning Youth Ministry Book: Lead them to Jesus: A Handbook for Youth Workers by Mike McGarry (New Growth Press)

Mike McGarry wrote Lead them to Jesus long before he knew the book would ever be published. The book begins with the following dedication: “For the Youth Workers at South Shore Baptist Church. I wrote this book for you.”

While McGarry writes with the tone and compassion of a local pastor, what began as an effort to equip and train the youth ministry volunteers of his local church resulted in a comprehensive guidebook for ministering to teenagers in a grace-filled, gospel-centered, Bible-saturated manner. McGarry begins the book with an introduction entitled, “What is the Gospel?” He covers a variety of essential theological foundations in the book’s first section, while diving into practical considerations in the second section. Simply perusing the book’s Table of Contents reveals how valuable and applicable this book is to youth ministry practitioners: chapters bear titles such as, “Does Committing Suicide Condemn You to Hell?”, “Thinking About LGBTQ Issues,” and “Boundaries, Confidentiality, and Mandated Reporting.”

Because McGarry deals with topics such as these with gospel clarity, theological precision, and simple, succinct writing, Lead Them to Jesus is aptly chosen as the winner of Rooted’s 2021 Youth Ministry Book Award.

Many thanks to Rooted podcast producer Davis Lacey for his extensive work in this category of our book awards. Our team of readers enjoyed a conversation about the winners on the Rooted Youth Ministry podcast- check it out

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