Tag Archives: teenagers

Review | Two Sides by Darren Sutton

Two SidesFirst off, a disclosure – Darren is a close friend, so maybe I’m not being entirely unbiased in my review of this book.  But here’s the deal: I’ve had the opportunity to work with many student pastors over the years, and Darren’s insight, passion, and love for students make him the best of them.

Two Sides is not a book that is designed to give you a specific model for any facet of youth ministry.  Rather, it gives you views from both sides (hence, the title) of different issues that are commonly faced by youth pastors.  The topics range from office hours (fixed or flexible) to curricula (pre-written or write-your-own) to the age of volunteers (older or younger) to summer schedules.  And the contributing authors are experienced youth workers from a variety of backgrounds.

It’s an easy read at 74 pages and isn’t incredibly complex.  The format is straightforward, just as you want a book of compiled essays by a variety of contributors to be, and it provides questions to ponder after each topic.

The book does well what it sets out to do: it gives the reader ideas to chew on.  What does my ministry look like?  How do the views presented here mesh with that?  Which view or combination of views would be the best implementation for me?  Don’t expect to get the answers to those questions from Two Sides, but expect helpful guidance in forming your own answers and strategies.

You can buy the Kindle edition of the book by clicking on the image above.  If you need a hard copy, try here.

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Review | An Exposé on Teen Sex and Dating by Andy Braner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

An Exposé on Teen Sex and Dating: What’s Really Going on and How to Talk About It is something of a misnomer for Andy Braner’s latest book.  Braner does give us the low-down on the sexual behavior of teens and what “dating” really means to this generation, but an exposé would provide us with some hard evidence.  Braner simply tells us, “Teenagers have told me all about hooking up and what their dating relationships look like, and it’s scary!”

Not only does he offer nothing more than anecdotal evidence – and not a lot even of that – but he presents it as though ALL teenagers are involved unimaginably sordid behavior.  The lack of evidence and the abundance of alarmism were off-putting for me.  I found myself doubting whether teens were really involved in the kinds of behavior he was talking about and doubting his insights into dealing with them.  (The question isn’t whether they’re engaging in these types of behaviors.  It’s whether the behaviors are as prevalent as Braner’s rhetoric makes them seem.  They may very well be, but he gives the reader no real reason to believe so.)

In the end, though, the title and the alarmism do a disservice to this book.  There’s a lot of good material to chew on.

The fact is, teens ARE engaged in sexual hookups that are completely devoid of commitment – among other things – and the strategies that youth pastors and parents have used for years to help their students stay pure just aren’t working.  Many teens have no problem going to a purity rally Friday night and having sex with their significant (or not-so-significant) other on Saturday.

Braner’s idea is that we cast aside the notion of courtship (he calls special attention to Joshua Harris’s well-known book I Kissed Dating Goodbye) and help teens engage in a type of dating that centers around communication, getting to know each other, getting to know themselves and learning what it means to be in a committed relationship.  I found myself agreeing enthusiastically.

There’s much more going on here, including how student pastors and parents can communicate the realities of marriage and sex to their teenagers as well as how we model some of these behaviors for them.

I’d encourage any youth pastor or parent of a teen (or younger – my girls are four and one, and I found a lot to think about) to read this book.  Just remember, it’s not really an exposé, but it can be a big help in the battle for students’ purity.

I received this book for free from NavPress for this review as part of their blogger review program.