Book Review: Alongside: Loving Teenagers With the Gospel

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Drew Hill’s new book Alongside: Loving Teenagers With the Gospel is a real find for parents, youth pastors, teachers, coaches, volunteers- anyone who lives with and/or works with teens and longs to connect with those kids in the love of Jesus.

Combining a thorough knowledge of the Gospel with twenty years of practical experience discipling teens, Hill offers a wealth of very practical tips about what works with teens (and what doesn’t).

The short first section of the book, “The Runaways,” describes teens and the challenging culture they live in.  The second section, “The Pursuer,” focuses on the Gospel of Jesus, the “God Who Pursues His Runaways.” The longest section of the book, “The Pursuit,” examines the life of Jesus and how He interacted with prodigals (which we all are) during His ministry on earth, taking His ministry as the road map for our own. In the final section, Hill writes of “The Long Road Home,” taking a look at what adults will need to minister well to teens, such as regular time in prayer, a clear sense of one’s limitations, and community with other believers.

Alongside reads like a devotional book. Every chapter is short enough to finish in one sitting. Each chapter concludes with perhaps the book’s most innovative asset: there is a section addressing parents with thought-provoking questions or practical suggestions, and there is a similar section addressing youth pastors in the same way. What Hill is suggesting through this format is a principle that is at the foundation of our work at Rooted: we seek to partner with parents, educating, equipping, and collaborating with parents in the discipleship of their kids. This book is a valuable tool that will facilitate connection between youth workers and parents in our churches and communities.

Finally, each chapter concludes with a beautifully written prayer. Many are adapted straight from Scripture, and some are written by church fathers like John Wesley, or the lyrics to old and beloved hymns. Often the prayers leave blank spaces to pray for specific teens as the Spirit brings different kids to mind.

Alongside is an ambitious work, as Hill addresses a wide audience. This turns out to be one of the great strengths of the book because he creates the sense that if we love teenagers, we adults are all in this discipling thing together. Because Hill is a veteran youth worker and a parent, he combines perspectives seamlessly. For all his experience, Hill never pretends to know it all; he is transparent about his own mistakes and bouts with pride, and his humility makes him a very credible guide for the Gospel- believing reader. He also acknowledges and confronts the very real issues both teens and adults face, from eating disorders to porn to single parenting to approval addiction.  Hill’s authenticity and experience benefit any adult who wants to share the Gospel with teens.

Because the book is so practical, it could be useful in a variety of settings. Youth pastors might use it to train volunteers or new staff members. Small groups of parents in a church, school or neighborhood might find it a welcome tool for advice and guidance during the teen years. Teachers and coaches, Bible study leaders and mentors will all find value in going through the book together in groups, in pairs, or as a devotional practice. Alongside will be a valuable reference tool for anyone who needs creative suggestions or scripture-based prayers while working and living with teens.

The title itself best sums up the intent and achievement of Alongside. As youth workers work alongside parents to walk alongside teenagers, together we learn to live alongside the One who left heaven to love alongside us.

For excerpts from the book, check out today’s youth ministry article here.

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