Rare is the youth ministry book that is simply delightful. It is just plain refreshing to read. Like a limeade on a hot summer afternoon.

Rick Lawrence’s Jesus Centered Youth Ministry is that limeade on a summer day youth ministry book. You don’t really have the energy to plow through a tome, but you need a reminder. Something to brighten your heart when you are overwhelmed with things like mission trips, parent emails, and a youth who thinks that her MySpace pictures are TOTALLY APPROPRIATE. On those kinds of days, Rick Lawrence’s first chapters will flow like milk and honey.

He doesn’t set out to be revolutionary. But on many subtle levels, he is. His words go against all of the Bible-study-in-a-box formulas and sets the overwhelmed and just whelmed youth worker in the center of it all–talking about Christ. Yeah, HIM. Lawrence does a fantastic job of taking the work and research of youth ministry cats like Andrew Root who write primarily for a professional audience and making it accessible to those of us whose IQs force us to re-read sentences more times than we’d like to admit. (For the record, I loved Root’s book. It’s just kind of…heavy.) Lawrence helps us to understand that the fundamental question of adolescence, “Who am I?”, requires intensive attention by the youth worker. If we spend too much time on the games, the fellowship, the Bible studies understanding exactly how tall Nehemiah’s wall was, we miss the amazing opportunity to teach youth who Christ says that they are.

Jesus Centered Youth Ministry focuses on one key point: Christ says that we are a beloved, forgiven child of God. That is our ultimate identity. But it isn’t our only. And dagnabbit if the other pieces of our identity don’t try to out-scream the most important. That is especially true for the eighth grader who changes their style/clique/musical preference every three months. They don’t know who they are. But Christ can tell them who He says that they are.

Lawrence laces this point through the various places and types and areas of ministry: small groups, evangelism, volunteers, and so on. The great thing about this format of youth ministry book is that you can choose (GUILT FREE!) to skip chapters that are impertinent to your ministry situation. Now, certainly there is something for every one of us to learn in each chapter, but you can get to those when you aren’t overwhelmed by all of the gobbledigoop that makes Jesus Centered Youth Ministry so wholly refreshing in the first place. For now, let Lawrence help you find the center of your youth ministry: Christ.