A Useful Youth Ministry Library

Not long ago I wandered into the Sant Library at CSMSG and noticed a shelf labeled "Youth Ministry." I'd never seen this section before, or had anyone mention it to me, so I looked closer at what was in it.

There were two videotapes, of workshops led by our consultants several years ago, and a sheaf of loose papers. And nothing else.

We're claiming, as youth ministers, that we can help students make major decisions in their lives. We're pressuring parents to share the faith at home, and offering to provide the tools they need. We insist that we know useful ways to bring generations together to share faith with each other. But if someone were to wander into a church library looking for those things, what would they find?

One of the things I want to do is get knowledge about how youth ministry works out of my head and out into the public spaces where it will do some good. I don't need to be the superstar, the go-to guy, the expert. I need it to be easy for every parent, grandparent, priest and gym teacher to find what they need to impact students' lives.

A useful youth ministry library would, at minimum, contain the following:
  • A set of catalogs from all the colleges where the church currently has students, and the schools we want to recommend to our students.
  • Back issues of all the magazines the church subscribes to for the youth minister.
  • Several translations of the Bible, including at least one paraphrase edition, a concordance, a Bible atlas and a one-volume commentary.
  • Scrapbooks of youth ministry events and past youth groups.
  • Books by the theologians the youth minister most frequently reads-- my choices include Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Brennan Manning and Mike Yaconelli.
  • CDs including all the music the praise band plays at worship with the youth group, personal favorites of the group, bands the youth group has been to see live, and any secular music the youth minister uses in Bible studies-- all with index cards with important points noted on them for the songs.
  • Several copies of the worship books the church's denomination uses, and any from other denominations you can track down.
  • A collection of newspaper clippings mentioning youth group members, tracking issues the youth group works on, and recording where the group has seen God at work in the world.
  • A folder of basic spiritual gifts inventories.
  • All the classic storybooks-- Hans Christian Anderson, Grimms' Fairy Tales, Uncle Remus, etc.

If the library has nothing in it, it can't serve anyone. If the material in a library doesn't engage the real lives of the church members, it won't be any use beyond these walls. But if a the books in a library include the passions of the members and change as the group grows, it can be a powerful tool.

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