|Youth Leader Training on the Go
By Doug Fields with Kate Edwards
Published by Group 2006
Walk into any Christian bookstore and you will likely find several books written by Doug Fields. He has authored or co-authored over 50 books and spent about 30 years in full-time ministry.
What is included in this resource:
Youth Leader Training on the Go is a 126 page book containing 52 double-sided, reproducible "Training on the Go" pages and 12 "E-couragement Blasts". The training on the go pages are designed to be single-topic training sessions that can be handed out, mailed or e-mailed to youth leader volunteers. The e-couragement blasts are one-page encouraging messages that can be e-mailed to volunteers. There are two discs included in pockets in the back cover of the book. One disc is a CD ROM containing all of the training pages and e-couragement blasts so that you can either print the pages or easily e-mail them to volunteers. The other disc is a CD containing 12 audio training sessions presented by Doug Fields himself. Each audio session is about five or six minutes long. Fields gives permission for the owner of the book to make copies of the audio sessions by burning them onto CDs or sending them to volunteers as MP3 files.
What is great about this resource:
I loved how the author provided reproducible "Training on the Go" pages that can be used in any order. Anyone, even someone with little or no training in youth ministry, could easily make copies and distribute these training sheets to volunteers. The pages could be used either as an outline for a session where volunteers meet together or as a hand-out for volunteers to learn on their own. Because the pages do not build on each other, you can choose to cover topics when they are most relevant to your congregation, like when a specific issue comes up and volunteers are unsure of how to handle it.
The audio CD with 12 training sessions recorded by Doug Fields was a great idea. His enthusiasm for ministry feels contagious when he shares insights and encouragement on the CD.
Doug Fields does a great job of teaching that it is important to see ourselves as life-long learners and to be willing to learn from others through both personal contact with people who have more experience than we do and by reading books about youth ministry. When I was first involved in youth ministry (in my late teens and early twenties), I was embarrassed whenever I made a mistake or had to ask for help. I assumed that because I had been a Christian my whole life, I should somehow just know how to lead a cabin full of campers, a youth group or a confirmation class. I wish the self I was back then could have read Fields' lessons about leaders as learners.
Things that could be improved:
As a Lutheran, I found myself waiting to hear the author emphasize the importance of sharing the Gospel--that we are saved by grace through faith, but his focus seemed to be on helping teens and youth volunteers learn to live a God-pleasing life. At one point (page 26) Fields suggests that the reader think about what it means to "delight in the law of the Lord". His point was to help volunteers think about raising the bar in their ministry rather than just throwing things together at the last minute, but the focus on being motivated by law rather than Gospel made me cringe.
Although Youth Leader Training on the Go provides a lot of helpful tips about youth ministry, I felt it made youth ministry seem more difficult and complicated than it has to be. By not explaining the importance of the Gospel or reassuring the reader that the Holy Spirit helps and guides us as we minister to others, the author made ministry sound like something human beings do on their own rather than something we do in partnership with God.
I liked the idea of "E-couragements" and it was great that Fields thought to put them in Word files on the CD ROM so that they would be customizable. However, as I read the e-couragements, I did not feel especially encouraged or enlightened. They mostly just touched on the same points found in the "training on the go" pages and audio tracks, but conveyed his points much less clearly than the rest of the materials did.
It is clear that the author has spent most, if not all, of his ministry years in megachurches. While the general principles he teaches are important for all youth ministry volunteers, the materials were definitely prepared with large congregations in mind.
So, would I recommend this resource or not?
Doug Fields does share some great advice and encouragement based on decades of personal experience in youth ministry. I really like how he created easy to use reproducible training pages and audio messages. However, the lack of Gospel focus in this resource is a major problem. Our primary goal as youth ministry leaders and volunteers is not to teach teens how to act good, our goal is to help them have a relationship with Jesus, who is the only One who ever has been perfectly good. Even though the materials are not designed to teach doctrine; the author's doctrinal beliefs seep into his lessons when he emphasizes concepts such as being a source of accountability for students or loving the law.
Youth Leader Training on the Go could be a useful supplement to other training a congregation might provide for youth ministry volunteers, but I would not recommend it as the only training.
If you do choose to use this resource, take the time to talk with the volunteers about how your congregation's beliefs are similar to or different from what is presented. In ministry, much like in parenting, it is sometimes good to expose people to views that contrast with their own and then use that exposure as a teachable moment to explain why we believe as we do.