In A Beautiful Mess: What’s Right with Youth Ministry, youth ministry veteran Mark Oestreicher presents a thoughtful response to those who write of the gloom and doom of the local church youth ministry. As Mark has stepped back from leading Youth Specialties, he claims that he has been able to see youth ministry better from the ground than from the office of a large student ministry organization. Despite those who call for gloom and doom, Mark has seen God using youth ministry in great ways in the lives of students.
A Beautiful Mess does an effective job of speaking to the current works in youth ministry scholarship and calls for a thoughtful approach to how youth ministry should function. Mark argues that the most effective youth ministries have been the smaller ministries that did not lose the focus of relational ministry in the midst of large budgets and programs. It is possible, according to the book, that conferences and programs have undercut many youth ministries by encouraging youth ministers to build greater programs to reach more people. The program-driven ministry model adopted by many large youth ministries has failed to be an effective tool for life change.
Mark calls youth ministers back to the basics in A Beautiful Mess. We should seek to love students and build relationships with them. The goal is to be both intentional and incarnational. As youth ministers invest in students, they should be focused on listening to the Holy Spirit to guide them on how to most effectively build relationships with students.
A Beautiful Mess is an encouraging and thought-provoking book that should be considered by youth ministers desiring to think both practically and theologically about the task of ministering to students.