The Slow Fade
Authors: Reggie Joiner, Church Bomar, and Abbie Smith
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook
I requested this book from David C. Cook because student ministry is something that the church I work for struggles with. Like most mainline denominations, we lose our youth sometime after high school graduation and the start of college. This is something I too struggle with, but having read this book, I’m more energized and am thinking of ways my congregation can implement some of the suggestions from this book into their ministry.
Most churches and families have programmed a finish line in youth or student ministry at twelfth grade. At church we push our seniors out the door, breath a sigh of relief, and let them disappear for a few years. There is a mistaken assumption that they will spend the next four or five years solidifying their faith, starting careers, getting married, and showing back up at our churches when they are more “complete” adults. (25)
Anyone else spot the problem here? Having experienced it myself, it was an easy spot for me. Let’s be totally frank here. I can count the number of times I went to church during my four years of undergraduate study on two hands (I believe it was 7-8 times). I faded away from the church. I’m probably one of the rare ones that came back. I doubt much has changed in the 11 years since I graduated from college.
The Good: The first thing that really struck me was the real life stories that the different authors told. The one that really stuck out to me was told by Chuck about a guy named Mark. This one really stuck out to me because I had a similar experience a few weeks ago when a parishioner approached me regarding student ministry. At that point, I didn’t have an answer for her. While I still don’t have a specific answer for her, I can offer her some ideas and together we can move forward with this ministry.
The discussion on the “non-mentor mentor” really hit home the fact that youth leaders and adults in the church don’t always carry out their role as mentor the way they should. Even as a trained coach, where I was told over and over again not to interject my answer, I find myself slipping into the traditional teacher-student role instead of the mentor-mentee role.
The whole discussion on passion sounds as if it was lifted from Luther’s discussion on vocation. Being Lutheran, I immediately saw the parallels in the two discussions.
Appendix B was a real eye opener for me. In this appendix, the authors dispel popular myths. One in particular jumped out at me, because it is the exact thought I had regarding the community my church is in.
This is not a college town or community.
More than likely, college-aged people are still close by. Again, many of the people of this age are not in college, in fact, only an estimated 25 percent of eighteen- to twenty-five-year-olds attends a four year college full time. (126, italics mine)
I was shocked and really had no idea. Even in my community, there is a possibility for a college-aged ministry.
The Bad: None.
The Ugly: None.
Overall, I thought this book was great. This book was not a difficult read and read pretty quickly. The advice and suggestions offered are practical and are easily tailored to individual congregations. While not the solution, it very well could be a part of the solution. The solution does involve a shift in perception: If we want to keep our youth, we have to minister to them after they graduate from high school. We can’t let them go and expect them to come back. As the authors put it, we need to “move the finish line from twelfth grade to the age of college graduation.” (27) This book is a must have for any youth leader.
I received this book free from David C. Cook with the expectation that I provide a review for the book. Providing me a free copy in no way guarantees a favorable review. The opinions expresses in this review are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”