I love books that are written from in-the-trenches experience in youth ministry and Thriving Youth Groups: Secrets For Growing Your Ministry is exactly such a book. Jeanne Mayo is one of those youth workers where calling her a veteran is putting it mildly and in this book she shares her wisdom on how to create a friendship culture in your youth group. Because that’s the secret behind a thriving youth group: a friendship culture.
This book is filled with practical advice and tips on how to create and foster an atmosphere of authentic friendship, one that teens will be drawn to and want to come back to, for instance:
- How to make new students feel welcome
- How to get rid of a clique culture
- How to get valuable feedback from your students on their experiences
- How to involve key influencers in your changes
- How to make a plan of attack to change the existing culture into a friendship culture
- How to foster a sense of ownership
And much, much more.
Like I said, it’s a very practical, how-to oriented book. Not all tips and advice will work for every youth group (and Jeanne never claim it’s a one-size-fits-all strategy anyway). The ‘Death of Mr Clique – funeral’ she describes for instance absolutely wouldn’t work in my youth ministry context, though it’s a great idea in itself. You just have to take her advice and adapt it to your context and circumstances, there’s more than enough to try out and see what works.
There are certain aspects I would have loved to read more about, like specific steps to create a friendship culture in small groups. She does talk about this in one chapter, but I would have loved to go into more depth there.
All in all this is a great book for youth pastors starting in a new youth ministry, or who want to change the culture in their youth group to make it more open and friendship oriented.