Rooted’s Top Ten of 2021

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Each month we compile a Top Ten list for youth workers, and at the start of a new year, we want to share our Top Ten of 2021articles that we believe will continue to equip youth ministers long after the close of the year. We also shared just a few of our many favorites from the Rooted blog, articles that we feel are evergreen resources for youth workers like you who endeavor to keep the gospel front-and-center, week after week, in your ministries.

The monthly top ten represents ten articles from various sources that we believe will encourage you in your ministry to students and their families. Some give explicit instruction on gospel-centered ministry, while others are included because there is a message of common grace that is helpful to youth workers. (The opinions presented in these articles do not necessarily reflect the position of Rooted.) If you find an article that could speak to the Rooted community, please share it in the comment section below.

Gospel-Centered Ministry

My Dad Taught Me How to Love the Exvangelical by Russell Moore (Christianity Today)

Lets not mistake hurt for rebellion, trauma for infidelity, or a broken heart for an empty soul. We can only convince people not to give up on the church if we likewise refuse to give up on them.

What should older Christians know about Generation Z in order to best disciple them and reach them with the gospel? The goal is not to shame older Christians or suggest we young folks are enlightened. The goal is to offer some fodder for discussion that might lead the generations to better care for, think with, and serve alongside each other in a changing world.

Partnering with Parents

When to Tell Parents What by Mike McGarry (Youth Pastor Theologian)

As youth workers, we have a ministry of mediation. Not between students and God, but between students and their parents. It’s important to cultivate trust and respect with students. It’s also important to do that with parents. Otherwise you’ll hear things about parents and always assume the kids are right, the parents are hiding their dirty laundry, and your heart will be turned away from the parents. This will breed suspicion and contempt, which quickly erode any potential for partnering with parents. In these conversations with students, the following two categories can help you discern how to proceed.

How to Disciple Your Children in Their Emotions by Christina Fox (ERLC)
As parents, we can disciple our children in their emotions. We can walk beside them in their sadness, fear, and disappointment. We can use these opportunities to teach our children about the God who made them as emotional beings.

Helping Students Pray for Afghanistan (and the persecuted church) by Jason Engle (Youth Pastor Theologian)
I have been reminded of passages like 1 Peter 5:9 that calls us to be sober-minded in order to resist our enemy and to be reminded that we have brothers and sisters throughout the world who share in suffering. Our students need to be mindful of this. Christians in Afghanistan are not just believers “over there.” They are our family. They are our brothers and sisters. And the Scriptures call us to be mindful of their suffering. Even more, we are called to share in their suffering!

Youth Culture

It wasnt a profound scene in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings that made me feel instantly connected to the filmnot the Mandarin narration that opened the movie or even the early references to customs specific to Chinese culture like eating zhou, or congee, for breakfast and tomb-sweeping on the annual Qingming Festival. Of course, those storytelling choices told me that the latest Marvel superhero movie was crafted with viewers like me in mind. But it was a moment around 30 minutes in that let me know for certain I was watching my life experiences reflected on the big screen in a way Hollywood has rarely done: when Ronny Chiengs character, Jon Jon, exclaims, “Wakao!”

Gen Z Wants to Talk about Faith by Daniel Silliman (Christianity Today)

According to Reviving Evangelism in the Next Generation, produced in partnership with Alpha USA, 82 percent of Christians between the ages of 13 and 18 say that its important to them to share their faith. And nearly 80 percent say they have had a conversation about faith with someone at least once in the past year.

Dear Therapist: I Staked My Identity on Attending an Ivy League School by Lori Gottlieb (The Atlantic)
Whenever we hope for something and it doesnt happen, we lose an entire future we had created for ourselves. At the same time, though, consider that these futures are imagined futures.

Ministry Skills

9 Wrong Ways to Read the Bible (And One Better Way) by Dane C. Ortlund (Core Christianity)

To be sure, the Bible also has plenty of instruction. But the exhortations and commands of Scripture flow out of the Bibles central message, like ribs flowing out of a spine or sparks from a fire or rules of the house for the kids. Paul said that the Old Testament was written so that through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope(Rom. 15:4). He said, The sacred writings . . . are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus(2 Tim. 3:15). The Bible is help, not oppression. It is given to buoy us along in life, not drag us down. Our own dark thoughts of God are what cause us to shrink back from opening and yielding to it.

Why It Matters What We Do With Our Bodies by Sam Allberry (Crossway)

If we make the soul the focus of our spiritual life and downgrade the body, we can argue that the body is spiritually irrelevant. God (we might assume) is only interested in the spiritual side of me; the body is of no concern to him. The mentality might be common in the church today, but it is profoundly unbiblical. We might think it doesnt matter what we do with our bodies, but the Bible repeatedly and powerfully shows us this is not the case.

In Case You Missed It (Rooteds 2021 Honorable Mentions)

What If I Had Known the Love of Jesus As A Teenager? by Charlotte Getz (New Growth Press)

​​What we learn from Christian Smith and his colleagues is that many teenagers today, even ones whove been raised in the church, are not receiving a theologically robust, grace-centered, or biblically grounded discipleship at church or at home. This should alarm you. If young people are growing up on a faith centered on being niceone that reduces the God of the universe to an occasional back-up dancerkids are missing out in an enormous way on the immense freedom and intimate love, joy, and forgiveness that is there for them in a personal, saving relationship with Jesus.

What If I Realized I Didnt Have to Be Perfect in High School? by Cameron Cole (New Growth Press)
First: you may not realize this, but, because of our sinful nature, we all live with an impulse to create our own righteousness through performance. We all have this sense that we are not quite good enough. This sense, this fear of imperfection, is actually true. As sinners, all people fall short of the glory of God(Romans 3:23b). In order to enter into relationship with a holy God, we must have all of our sins washed away. We need his righteousness to cleanse usso we can be completely loved and accepted by God.

Editors Note: In the name of disclosing our biases, these two articles promote Rooteds new book, The Jesus I Wish I Knew in High School. We are so excited to get this resource into the hands of teenagers and the adults who love them! And we think the articles are immensely helpful in their own right as you share the gospel with students. 

From the Rooted blog

In the middle of the uncertainty that changes bring, it is common to face feelings of fear and anxiety. But our students are not left without resources, for the gospel meets us in every single facet of our lives. We have an unchanging God who is with us. He is not only with us, but He is unmatched in his sympathy toward us.

One of the most foundational teachings of Rooted is that the power of youth ministry is the grace-filled Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Spirit not clever ideas or strategies. Yes, we do believe faithful obedience means trying to become better youth ministers and better parents and this does mean trying to grow in knowledge and competencies. Yet, our hope must remain in the Gospel of Jesus and the Spirits work in and through us including in and through our flaws and weaknesses.

 It is absolutely essential that we ask instead of making the assumption that our student probably isnt thinking about taking his own life.

Caring For Your Soul As A Youth Minister by Mark Upton
Youve got to follow Jesusinstruction to walk away from ministry to a remote place of solitude where you can rest for a while and hear from God. This can take a wide variety of forms from regular exercise to regular vacations to regular retreats or to regular visits to the doctor, dentist, counselor, or spiritual director. But wherever you go, the goal is the same, to put yourself in a place where you let God love you the way you are instead of the way you think you should be and where you listen for His voice.

Jesus is the one driving. He always was. He always will be. Jesuspromises in John 10 remind us that He is the onewho leads students to himself. At the end of the day, our students belong to a Good Shepherd who will lead them and guide them exactly where he wants them to go in exactly the way he intends.

​​To form women with this theological and biblical depth requires female mentors who can help other women grow in Gods word and truth. But this endeavor must start early. Girls and young women need explicit encouragement to flex their intellectual muscles as they grow in Christ. We need to recognize that historically somehow the opposite message seems to make its way to young women. Countering that message requires a deliberate effort to tell girls (and all children) that their brains are a central part of their discipleship.

One Biblical Truth To Teach Students In the Aftermath of the Ravi Zacharias Report by Rebecca Heck
Lets teach our students that the courage to speak truth in the face of sin comes from the gospel working in our lives. The gospel gives them permission to not act in their own power or to wait for the perfect words. The gospel tells us that Jesus acted as the one with perfect character and perfect courage to enter into the darkness for us and shine the light that would bring salvation for us all.

Just as we are created in Gods image, we were also created for life with him, to be seen and known and loved fully. Our union with him was severed but is possible again now through Jesus, not abstractly in ideas and words only but also in our presence together with him and with each other. Lets not neglect to meet together.

Our Favorite 2021 Blog Series to Read and to Share

Check out this series, in which we unpack Rooteds vision statement: To transform youth ministry so that every student receives a grace-filled, gospel-centered and Bible-saturated discipleship in the church and the home.

What is Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry? by Chelsea Kingston Erickson

We wrote this series in response to a Barna study about the six leading reasons young people leave the Church.

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