Brian Cosby is not proposing anything new in his book Giving Up Gimmicks. But, that’s exactly the point. Cosby is rightly concerned that the entertainment culture has infiltrated youth ministry. Giving Up Gimmicks, then, is written for youth pastors, volunteers and parents of youth, in order to remind us about what is truly important when it comes to youth ministry.
Cosby traces five main themes, which he refers to as “means of grace” through which God works in His church, and he encourages his readers to implement these into youth ministry. These consist of Word, prayer, sacraments, service and community. Cosby seeks to show how youth ministry will have more depth and effectiveness by focussing on these things that are central to the gospel, than if youth ministry is driven by the entertainment culture.
I expect there are very few youth pastors out there who would disagree with Cosby’s argument. It is obvious to state that a gospel-centred ministry will result in greater depth and effectiveness in discipleship, than one that is focussed on entertainment. However, it is difficult to know how to implement a means of grace emphasis into a youth ministry, especially when the youth live and breath in an entertainment-saturated society. This short book helpfully provides some ideas for how to make youth ministry more gospel centred.
As I prepare to enter a pastoral position that has an emphasis on youth ministry, I found Cosby’s material to be a refreshing reminder of just what I am getting myself into. Although there is very little in this book that will be new to most youth pastors, it is material that we all need to be reminded of, whether we are just starting out or have been pastoring for years. For the less experienced pastor, Cosby provides somewhat of a template for youth ministry, and for the more experienced pastor, he provides a challenge to return to gospel-centred ministry.
For youth pastors, parents, and volunteers, Giving Up Gimmicks is an easily accessible guide to helping provide an environment that is challenging and healthy for the young people God has entrusted to our care.