Those of us who are connected with adolescents on Facebook know exactly what OMG means to them. As Kenda Creasy Dean mentions in the introduction to OMG: A Youth Ministry Handbook, her objective in giving this book that name was not to profane the name of God, but rather to redeem that phrase for those who have ever loved an adolescent as a “prayer, a plea, a petition, a note of praise, or an unbidden entreaty that escapes our lips as we seek Christ for the young people we love.” As a 20-year veteran of the trenches of youth ministry, I resonated with this plea. I’ve whispered it as I have seen students come to faith and walk away from the faith, sometimes returning and sometimes (so far) not. I’ve whispered it on mission trips and countless camps and retreats. I’ve whispered it as they transitioned from middle school to high school, at high school graduations and at college graduations, as I contemplate the unbelievable challenges to their faith that await. I’m whispering it right now, as I prepare for the wedding of a special young man I met when he was 14. In fact, to be honest, I find myself whispering this prayer multiple times a day as God brings different names to mind. OMG: A Youth Ministry Handbook is for those of you who completely understand what I mean.
OMG is essentially a contemporary theology of youth ministry at 30,000 feet. What you will not find here are programming ideas or practical tips for growing your group. Instead, you will find the deep reflections of Dean and her six contributors – all youth ministry veterans – about where youth ministry in the church is and where it is going. Although it is a relatively short read, it is not a particularly easy one, as there is a lot here for the thoughtful youth worker to ponder. Dean and company consider, in successive chapters, “Haunting Questions,” “Daunting Challenges,” “Enduring Themes,” “Promising Possibilities,” “Emerging Competencies,” and youth ministry as “A Maturing Discipline.”
OMG will stretch your thinking and may force you to re-think the effectiveness of what you’re doing. It certainly did that for me. When we signed up for ministry to adolescents, like it or not, we signed up for constant change and re-thinking of our methodologies and approaches to a changeless mission: teaching the next generation to observe all that Christ has commanded us (Matthew 28:20). This book won’t help any of us figure out what changes we may need to make, but it will certainly prod us all to think about how we can all be more effective at that mission. And that is a good thing.