Reviewed by Mark Strickland exclusively for thinkyouthministry.ca
The author of Youth Ministry 3.0 is Mark Oestreicher. Oestreicher, or “Mark-O” as he is known to many youth workers, is the President of Youth Specialties (the largest youth ministry resource provider in the world). When the President of the largest youth ministry resource provider writes a book about the state of youth ministry, you better make sure you read it.
Youth Ministry 3.0 is a book that examines both the past and current state of how the church ministers to youth culture. The book is all about pointing a way forward. Mark-O grapples with the question of “why did youth workers do things a certain way 20, 30, even 40 years ago, but today those practices are no longer working?”
Mark-O begins with a short chapter with the premise that “youth culture” has emerged only in the past 100 years. Particularly, it really gained its place in North American society after World War II. From the fifties to today we have seen the priorities of youth culture shift through three different stages. Mark-O contends that in the 50’s and 60’s (Youth Ministry 1.0), adolescents were searching for their “identity” in culture. By the 70’s and 80’s, youth culture had won its identity and shifted focus to gaining “autonomy” (Youth Ministry 2.0). Finally, through the 90’s, another shift took place, and adolescents are now focussed on “affinity” and belonging (Youth Ministry 3.0). Mark-O contends that this shift to 3.0 has left many youth workers baffled and ministries continue to dwindle along by using the program-driven tools from the 2.0 era.
Last, Mark-O offers practical ideas and suggestions for ministering in the 3.0 era. This is tricky business, as there are no models to point to, and Mark-O suggests that the days of pointing to a youth ministry model are now over.
Youth Ministry 3.0 is a concise, well-researched, and straight-forward look at the emergence of youth culture and how the church has responded to it in the 20th and 21st century. Overall, I highly recommend this book. My only frustration is that I feel this new era that Mark-O paints for us has a lack of answers. There is no model to point to, and by definition every youth ministry under 3.0 will be its own unique model unto itself. Mark-O is calling this generation of youth workers to be the guinea pigs who contextualize and figure this 3.0 thing out! This prospect is both exciting and terrifying – and that’s what makes Youth Ministry 3.0 such an important book for serious youth workers to read.