With the amount of books out there today, it’s overwhelming to know what to read and what’s worth skipping. These books run the spectrum from books for youth workers to theology books that address issues youth workers should be aware of.

Since I’m giving you plenty to read below, let’s cut to the chase… here are ten books (other than the Bible, that’s obviously the #1 book for us all) I’m convinced every youth worker should read, followed by a short explanation why I think it’s so valuable.


Gospel Centered Youth Ministry (edited by Cameron Cole & Jon Neilson)
Youth Ministry easily bends towards pragmatism and ‘behavior-modification’ in the name of being relevant and helpful. Obviously, we aren’t in youth ministry for the paycheck, and we’re not in it simply for fun and games either. GCYM presents a biblical and practical argument for what youth ministry looks like when the gospel is kept central. I wrote one of the chapters in this book, but I wholeheartedly stand behind the entire book.

Adoptive Youth Ministry (edited by Chap Clark)
This is a newer book, and I haven’t finished reading all of it yet. But I’ve been really encouraged and challenged by what I’ve read so far. I think this is the direction youth ministry will be heading in the future and works well as a complement to GCYM. The general argument is that youth ministry should be structured in a way that students are adopted into the life of the church (rather than being sectored off into their own separate wing of the church’s ministry). 

Speaking to Teenagers (Duffy Robbins & Doug Fields)
Teaching is important, obviously. I’ve read quite a few preaching/teaching books and this is right up there with the best of them. Robbins & Fields are veterans who know how to deliver a message that communicates. Honestly, I think many senior pastors would do well to read this book!

Encountering the Soul of Youth Culture (Walt Mueller)
I don’t know anyone who studies and unpacks youth culture better than Walt Mueller. This books explains why cultural exegesis is so important and presents a few different ways to study youth culture within a biblical framework.

Think Orange (Reggie Joiner)
What would it look like if the whole church and the family were committed to doing the same thing, in the same way, at the same time… in order to evangelize and disciple their children? The overall vision of Think Orange presents a compelling argument for the importance of integrating parents into your youth ministry.

Age of Opportunity (Paul David Tripp)
This book is written for parents, but it also presents a great resource for youth workers. Put this in the hands of parents and youth workers in your church. Instead of seeing the teenage years as something to endure, Tripp helps us see them as an age of opportunity to point our kids to the gospel of grace.

You Lost Me (David Kinnaman)
Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, presents research and insights from those who once considered themselves a part of the church but have since “dropped out.” With all the discussions of the dropout rate, we have a lot to learn. You Lost Me explores three main groups of people who have walked away from the church and offers a few general suggestions to move forward.

The Church (Edmund Clowney)
Youth Ministry exists for the sake of the Church, who is the Bride of Christ. Therefore, our doctrine of who the Church is and what she is called to do needs to extend far beyond the youth ministry. Yes, this is a theology book. Yes, you should read it.

Early Christian Doctrines (J.N.D. Kelly)
There is truly nothing new under the sun. All of the issues students are wrestling with today have roots that can be seen throughout history. We are not the first to wrestle with false teachings in a godless society. Youth workers who have a good grasp on the issues faced by the Early Church will be better equipped to minister to postChristian teens today. There are a few good options here, but Kelly’s is my favorite (more recent summaries on Historical Theology are by Shelley, Allison and McGrath).

How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth (Fee & Stuart)
This is a great place to begin your training in Biblical Studies. If you haven’t gone to seminary or Bible college, you would be wise to read this if you hope to be faithful to the biblical text. A much nerdier but really good book is Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, but I’d only recommend this if you’ve had quite a bit of training/education in Biblical Studies and you want a good summary (it’s more of an “overview” than a simple “introduction”).