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Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Culture [Kindle Edition]

Brian Cosby , Harry Reeder
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Foreword by Harry Reeder

The lights dim . . . the smoke rises . . . the band starts playing. It’s a familiar scene, as youth ministries everywhere use entertaining and trendy approaches to draw in teens. But when the lights come on and the fog clears, what do we find?

Over eighty percent of teenagers raised in Christian homes drift away from the church after high school. Why such poor numbers? Could it be because youth groups, in seeking to entertain and dazzle teens and striving to elevate experience over truth, have left teens dissatisfied and hungry for that truth?

Brian Cosby demonstrates a ministry approach that truly nurtures teens and brings them back for more—one solidly grounded in Christ and patterned after the means of grace: the Word, sacraments, prayer, service, and community. Learn how much teenagers not only need a deeper ministry, but want one too.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 749 KB
  • Print Length: 162 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1596383941
  • Publisher: P&R Publishing (24 Feb. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007DA0YJC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #882,329 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 4 Dec. 2012
By Aaromps
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A refreshing and liberating look at youth ministry. As a youth worker i found it very helpful. He points you away fromthe fluff that seems to surround so much of youth work and towards God Himself.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is needed now more than ever 3 Mar. 2012
By N. K. Dunkin - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've been working with youth for over 17 years. During those years I have worked along side other youth pastors and youth leaders. What I have seen is what most are seeing in the church and youth ministry these days, that many churches in America have lost their roots, the means of Grace given to us by God. In his book, Cosby takes us back to what is missing in so many churches today. We tend to think that the means that God has given us to grow is not enough and we need to add our own thoughts, methods, and ideas into our ministry. Cosby takes us back to the basics of Scripture, Sacraments, and Prayer and then adds in Service and Community.

Cosby talks about holding our youth to high standards in teaching and expectations from youth. Don't we all want this for our children. We do this at home as we raise them. We don't try to entertain our kids, well at least I hope we don't, but we try to raise them to be responsible, learned Christians in the world who know Christ intimately and seek to deny themselves and follow Him. Shouldn't we expect the same from our youth ministry and church ministry?

There are some who will read this book and be encouraged because are already implementing this philosophy of ministry. May this spur you on to continue in faithfulness. Some will read this book and immediately shun it because of it's doctrine. The main takeaway from this book is that if we want to capture the hearts and minds hearts of our youth to grow up knowing Christ, serving him, and seeking him in the Word, then we need to take a close look at what Cosby has written.

Cosby's use of Scripture shows that he believes that Scripture is fundamental means that God has given us to know Him, know what He has done for us, and know what He expects of us as his children. Too often I have heard conference speakers, youth pastors and pastors teach and thought they were using Scripture but the lesson was not on the Scripture given, only used to "authenticate" the message. Cosby digs into areas of Scripture in his book that show he believes that Scripture can transform lives. Cosby's use of Scripture shows that he believes that Scripture is fundamental means that God has given us to know Him, know what He has done for us, and know what He expects of us as his children.

My hope is that those who read this book will be challenged to look at what Cosby presents. That they will look at their ministry to see if they are truly faithful to what God has called them to do. And, that youth pastors and youth leaders will be energized and refreshed and end the burnout that is going on in our country from trying to entertain our youth.
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Primer on Reformed Ecclesiology + some youth ministry 2 Mar. 2012
By M. Kozma - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I really wanted to like this book. I pre-ordered it after i read an excerpt online and thought, 'finally, a book that says what I am feeling!' Unfortunately, it doesn't quite deliver on what I expected. It is perhaps for this reason that I gave it 3 stars (though 3.5 is what i would prefer). In full disclosure, I am a youth pastor at a Baptist church in Virginia. Though I do not consider myself a hardcore Baptist (I am not a dispensationalist, a tee-totaler, or into outdated traditions), I do agree with much of baptist theology. In youth ministry i've tried it all, bands, games, gross-out contests, big events, ministry teams, etc. The whole thing is getting tired, expensive and unfruitful. 'Giving up the Gimmicks' agrees. Youth ministry is far too influenced by the entertainment culture. Churches struggle just to keep the attention of adolescents and when we flash enough bright lights, loud music and funny speakers at them to finally grab them, there is the briefest of windows to shove the Jesus pill down their throats and hope it works. But when 88% of youth leave the church after graduating high school, it is clear that our methodology isn't working.

Brian Cosby's answer: A means of grace ministry. I was interested in this phrase and ignorant of its meaning when I first approached the book. Thankfully, an entire chapter is dedicated to answering this question (chapter 2). Means of grace is a phrase common in Reformed churches referring to the outward means by which Christ communicates the blessing of his mediation on his people. Basically, it is the common avenues through which God establishes and grows our faith and blesses us. The means of grace discussed in this book are: Ministry of the Word (Scripture reading and teaching), prayer, the sacraments (Lord's Supper and Baptism), community, and service. The first three are considered the classical means and the last two are more obvious to contemporary audiences. In the Baptist world, this list doesn't sound foreign at all. We practice all of these in our ministry, but instead of calling them a 'means of grace', we refer to them as spiritual disciplines or avenues to connect with God (though we would call baptism and communion ordinances, not sacraments).

I read this list and thought "great, i totally agree that getting back to these practices will only help grow the faith and faithfulness of students. Now give me some ideas on how to implement them." Here is where it gets disappointing. Cosby is obviously both very intelligent and very Reformed and it shows in his writing. Each chapter begins by examining the Reformed theology behind each means of grace. It usually takes up approximately half the chapter. This means that we get a healthy dose of quotes from the Westminster Confession, which i respect, but do not consider authoritative. I don't actually mind that the author takes the time to do this. More youth ministry practitioners authors should examine the theology behind their practices. But this book is just so incredibly Reformed/Presbyterian and it won't let you forget it.

There is something I just couldn't figure out: I couldn't tell who the intended audience was. At first I assumed it was for a Reformed audience, concerning practices that they can implement to reform (no pun intended) their youth ministries. But as I kept reading I realized that every chapter began with an explanation and defense of Reformed theology, as though the reader wasn't familiar with it. Is the author trying to convince his audience of the rightness of Reformed theology? It became annoying during the discussion on baptism when the author actually takes the time to defend infant baptism, with Scripture references and all, in a book on youth ministry. I found myself constantly having to put the book down and examine the passages and arguments he offered before I could move on. Isn't this a good thing? For me, not really. This is a book on youth ministry, I did not read it to discuss the legitimacy of infant baptism or whether or not Christ is spiritually present in the elements. I don't need a primer on the doctrine of justification or election. Obviously the author is well-versed in his theological heritage and that is commendable, but that's not why I picked up his book. Having to weed through the theological sand of the first part of the chapters would be worth it if there was application gold buried at the end. But that was not the case. Usually the application of the means of grace to a youth ministry were already familiar: Memorize Scripture. Preach the word exegetically. Pray together. Practice servant leadership. Meet in small groups (or D-groups for Discipleship groups). Nothing really ground-breaking here. Nothing fresh. In fact it is probably stuff you are already doing or have already tried. Of course this is good stuff and maybe youth ministries have got away from the simple practices that make disciples. I don't expect the author to come up with new ways to make disciples, that would be contrary to the thesis of the book as it would be by definition, a gimmick. But surely he could have spent more time applying ancient and biblical practices to today' youth culture.

Conclusion: If you are fully Reformed you should have not problems with this book theologically. If not, you will either have to read slower to examine all his arguments the for means of grace or skim over them and admit that we just see some issues differently so you can get to the application section. In the end though, don't expect to be blown away with fresh ideas on how to apply these means of grace, which is sad because in a rather short book (about 140 pages) there isn't much room left for it after the theology is discussed. Having voiced my complaints, which are more like irritations, I did appreciate the message of the book. We need to get away from expensive and ineffective means of entertaining youth to Christ, and get back to the original practices that built the early church. The five means of grace discussed are good foundations to build a ministry upon (Though why not evangelism, mission, worship, etc?) After reading through the first half of it I did begin to make some adjustments to my own youth ministry. For instance: I began taking the Lord's Supper with the Youth on sunday nights. I hope that anyone else who read this book will appreciate its core message and get past its flaws. A better book on the same subject, written by Methodist ministers The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read 3 Mar. 2012
By John - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you read one book about youth ministry, read this one.

I've worked in youth ministry for the past 7 years and was thankful to be taught early on that I was stepping into youth ministry, not youth entertainment. This distinction has been liberating for me, as it causes me to constantly evaluate what I'm doing. Am I simply pacifying kids, making sure they stay out of trouble and hopefully think about Jesus once in a while?

Cosby's book goes so much further than the advice I got. More than saying what not to do, he gives a helpful, biblical roadmap for what to do; the result is both convicting and freeing.

Read it for yourself, to find refreshment. Read it for those who lead with you, to do war against unhealthy expectations. Read it for those you lead, to help you remove the clutter so you can give them what they need: Jesus.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars time for something different 29 May 2012
By Bill Muehlenberg - Published on
We have a whole generation of kids who have grown up in a culture which disdains involvement, serious thought, deep commitment, real contentment, dedication, and solid content. Instead, image, instant gratification, pleasure, focus on self, distractions, selfishness, and entertainment are everything.

We seem to have an entire generation which is afflicted with ADD. This is not just affecting a few, but the whole lot - and the ability to sit still, to concentrate, to focus, to not have to be entertained, to not have to change topics every few minutes, is simply disappearing.

Kids raised on Sesame Street, video games, pop culture, mp3 players, and MTV have a hard time even just sitting still, let alone being committed to one thing, dedicated to a task, or involved in altruistic and selfless service for others. Our modern culture, in other words, is all about self.

And with the worship of self we have non-stop entertainment, obsessive self-gratification, and constant amusement. No wonder it is so hard for youth leaders to be able to reach and disciple the young in that sort of environment. It is a whole different world out there, and what Jesus demands of us is nothing at all like the surrounding culture.

Yet instead of being radically cross-cultural, so much of the church - and so much of youth ministry - is simply involved in trying to be just like the world. Thus youth ministry is all about entertainment, videos, and parties. The trouble is, the world usually doe a far better job of these sorts of activities, so bored Christian youth eventually just give up their faith.

That is the thesis, and the challenge, of this book. With the subtitle, "Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Culture," Cosby asks some important questions: How in the world are we going to reach young people, and keep them in the faith? Why do most teenage Christians leave the church and lose their faith once they leave home? How can we reverse these worrying trends?

Cosby knows full well that simply relying on gimmicks and entertainment is certainly not going to cut it: "The numbers are staggering for those leaving the church after high school, yet youth ministries across the nation continue to pack in more and more pizza parties and video games to keep youth coming back - thinking that somehow their lives will be changed."

Simply offering our young people yet more entertainment will do nothing. The truth is, "teens are leaving the church because they have not been nurtured and established in the faith through a Christ-centered means-of-grace ministry." The rest of this book is about elaborating on such a ministry.

Cosby believes that youth not only need such a ministry, but in fact want it as well. Despite all the glitz and glamour of pop culture, despite the endless and mind-numbing entertainment and amusement, many young people actually want something more. They want something to hang onto, to commit to, and to dedicate their lives to.

That is just what the church should be giving these young people, but that is often just what they are not getting. Instead they get more mindless amusements and trivial pursuits. No wonder they eventually drift away, bored and dissatisfied.

Cosby offers us a five-fold ministry to reclaim our youth. It is a ministry that "seeks to communicate God's grace through the teaching of the Word, the administration of the sacraments, a life of prayer, gospel-motivated ministry, and grace-centered community."

In other words the very things that nurture the church as a whole, and Christians of all ages, is what must be recovered if we are to effectively minister to our youth. And it must be a family-centred and church-centered approach, bathed in Scripture.

Writing from a Reformed perspective, he seeks to wed biblical principles to youth ministry. The five components are detailed in the bulk of this book, and helpful appendices round it out. Although a brief volume (under 150 pages) it does move us back to the basics - something which has been missing for far too long.

His chapter on the importance of Christ-centred service for others is itself rather unique. How often are our young people being told it is not about them? Not too often I suspect. Instead, it becomes all about them - they are pampered and coddled and made to feel like little gods, with plenty of self-image and self-esteem teaching, but little about giving your life away for the sake of the Kingdom.

Far too often we have pitched Christianity as a sort of divine therapy to our youth. Says Cosby, "God is a cosmic therapist and divine butler, ready to help out when needed. He exists, but isn't really part of our lives." With that way of thinking, no wonder most Christian youth are self-absorbed and blind to the needs of others.

Teens are taught - even in our churches - that the main thing is to be happy, and if your happiness wanes, then it is time to move on. "Both churches and marriages have seen the devastating effects of this anti-commitment tendency."

That has to change, and getting young people to become aware of the needs around them, and doing something about it, is part of the road to recovery. Instead of providing yet another movie night or games weekend, why not take the young people to a local poverty-stricken area, or on a short-term missions trip to a nearby country in the developing world?

Let them know that there is more to life than just themselves. Let them see real needs, and how they can be part of rectifying those needs. Jesus of course taught his disciples about this by actually doing it. He performed acts of service all the time, and modelled for his followers what the Christ-centred life is all about.

At the end of the day, much of what is found in this book is just basic old Christianity. But we need to have this reemphasised because we have simply lost track of so much of this basic Christianity. For those frustrated with entertainment ministry and lukewarm youth, this book may serve as a way to get things moving in the right direction.
4.0 out of 5 stars A God honoring approach to youth ministry 2 April 2013
By Paul & Miranda - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Brian Crosby, author and experienced youth minister, has an idea which to some in youth ministry will be as common sense as putting your pants on before your shoes, but to others his idea of God-honoring and effective youth ministry will be radical and revolutionary. Giving Up Gimmicks, according to Crosby, "is not designed to be an exhaustive manual, but rather an approach to leading and nurturing teenagers by ushering them unto the green pastures of God's transformative grace."

Crosby's approach is simple, "God has given to the church means by which he communicates his steadfast, committed love and grace to his people. God uses these `means of grace' for saving his elect, nurturing their faith, and applying the benefits of Christ's redemption to their lives." There are five of these means of grace, according to Mr. Crosby, which God uses to build up his church, and they are: the Word, Prayer, the Sacraments, Service, and Community. Where his understanding of the role of these means of grace may seem so revolutionary to some is that Crosby believes that these means of grace are not only given to the adult believers in the church, but to the youth as well. If we believe that God has given the church his Word, prayer, the sacraments, service, and community as instruments of his special grace then we fail in our duties as parents, youth leaders, and pastors if we do not use them to engage the hearts and minds of our youth.

Our youth are not starved for entertainment. Even the most diligent youth leader, who's goal is to maximize the entertainment value of the youth group meetings will find himself constantly involved in a frantic search for something to out-do what was done at last weeks meeting. If he fails to do so on a regular basis the teenagers will drift away, or so he thinks. But even if they don't drift away what impact will all those gross games and slapstick have on the lives of our young people? What our youth are so often starved for is not more entertainment; it is the clear preaching of the Gospel and a clear display of what it means to live in a sin-cursed world as a devoted follower of Christ.

With each of these five means of grace Crosby does an excellent job giving a brief explanation of what they are and why they are so vital to healthy youth ministry, as well as providing for the reader many youth-specific applications of these means of grace. There is a balance to his approach which stresses not only the importance of teaching these things, but also in living them out in front of your students.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone wanting a well thought out and clearly articulated approach to student ministry, which is rooted in God's Word and motivated by a desire to see teenagers become life-long servants of their Savior.
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