Church is not about entertainment, and youth ministry isn't either. Brian Cosby, the youth pastor at a conservative Presbyterian church in Atlanta, emphasizes this point over and over in his new book, Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry From an Entertainment Culture (P&R, 2012). Youth ministry works by the same means as ministry in the broader church: God's people must be fed. To the traditional trio of word, sacraments, and prayer, Cosby adds service and community as means of grace. Youth pastors need to get their congregants doing, not just hearing.
Cosby repeats these points so much and so often that at times his book feels more like a systematic theology text than a how-to manual. But that is exactly his point: Ministry is not about pizza, amusement parks, and rock concerts. It's about feeding Christ's sheep-even His teenage sheep-with the truth.
Giving Up Gimmicks is from the Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., and like many books from that house, it largely appears to be preaching to the already-persuaded. Cosby does include a short first chapter on the problems with entertainment-driven "ministry," but quite frankly, this book will appeal only to a narrow segment of the evangelical world-those who have been using the entertainment model and found it lacking, but don't quite know what to replace it with. Cosby tells those folks what to do. But for those who already understand the biblical model of ministry, this book contains nothing new. For those committed to entertainment, Giving Up Gimmicks will be unpersuasive (if they read it at all).
Parents will profit more from this book than youth pastors will. Grandparents, buy it for your children.