Sustainable Young Adult Ministry: Making It Work, Making It Last, By Mark DeVries and Scott Pontier

Sustainable Young Adult Ministry

Making It Work, Making It Last

by Mark DeVries and Scott Pontier

Sustainable Young Adult Ministry
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: August 20, 2019
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 4152
  • ISBN: 9780830841523

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Young adult ministry scares us.

Young adults seem like the elusive Holy Grail demographic in Christian ministry. We often treat them like another species, with an inscrutable culture all their own. To have a thriving ministry to young adults, we're told, we'll need to be up-to-date on all the latest trends. We'll need to change up our worship style. We'll need to make programs. But what if young adult ministry isn't actually as enigmatic as we've been led to believe? What if it actually looks an awful lot like . . . faithful Christian ministry?

Scott Pontier and Mark DeVries know firsthand the challenges of young adult ministry. In Sustainable Young Adult Ministry, they explore six common mistakes churches make in their efforts to reach this demographic—mistakes they themselves have made—and offer six paradoxes that upend our presuppositions and return us to a simpler, more biblical ministry model. Full of practical advice and complete with a wealth of additional resources, this book offers a fresh perspective on young adult ministry that is grounded in long ministry experience and in the timeless gospel of Jesus.

"In their new book, Sustainable Young Adult Ministry, Scott Pontier and Mark DeVries tackle this important topic in ways that far surpass my expectations. Whether you've been working with young adults for decades or you're a curious church member concerned about where all the young adults went, this book is hands down one of the most accessible and practical books available on this topic today. With its winsome prose drawn from a deep pool of ministerial wisdom, Sustainable Young Adult Ministry will no doubt become a classic in the ever-widening swath of literature surrounding young adult spirituality and what the church must do to reengage this generation anew."

Jason Brian Santos, mission coordinator for Christian formation, Presbyterian Mission Agency

"'What do we do about young adults?' There are very few challenges facing the church today that are so regularly paired with a sense of helplessness and panic. Churches are desperate for answers, but they have mostly just given up, assuming the solution is beyond them. Hark! On the horizon! A book with genuine help, honest encouragement, and buckets full of hope. There is, quite literally, no other book that I'm aware of that provides what this book provides."

Mark Oestreicher, partner, The Youth Cartel

"Once again, DeVries and the Ministry Architects team have demystified ministry in a way that leaves us feeling less concerned with how we fit into a pair of skinny jeans and more focused on the healthy (and accessible) habits that lead to a vital culture for ministry. If your experience is anything like mine, you'll twinge at the accuracy of their common ministry mistakes, but you'll laugh enough to know that you're not alone. In the end, I had a punch list that left me feeling like effective ministry to young adults wasn't so impossible after all."

Trey Wince, director of new disciples, United Methodist Church of Greater New Jersey

"Pontier and DeVries offer an integrative and adaptive approach to relational ministry with young adults as they are, not as we wish them to be. This practical and holistic read will help your church build a young adult ministry with them instead of one for them."

Victoria White, leadership education, Duke University

"In the same winsome style of Sustainable Youth Ministry, this book paints a simple and challenging picture of the young adult ministry landscape. However, unlike many books I have read on this topic, Mark and Scott don't just tell us how to think but help you develop a clear plan of what to do. Whether you are a veteran youth worker or rookie ministry leader, this book provides a clear road map to navigate and succeed in young adult ministry. Sustainable Young Adult Ministry is sure to change the trajectory of young adult ministry for the next fifty years. I only wish I had this book five years ago."

James Wilson Jr., Freedom Life Church, Hampton, Virginia

"There are two kinds of perspectives: the outside perspective of the one who studies (the academic and the researcher) and the inside perspective of the one who experiences (the practitioner and the player). In this crucial and desperately needed book, Mark and Scott combine the strengths of both perspectives into a juggernaut case for a radical change in the way church leaders are attempting to reach a disappearing generation. Their systems approach to ministry strategy may sound, well, unsexy—but they've chosen the road less traveled, which is the path of courage. Don't just read this book; use it."

Rick Lawrence, author of Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry, The Jesus-Centered Life, and The God Who Fights for You

"I don't know of many churches that have truly cracked the code of young adult ministry, let alone the issue of sustainability. This book helps unlock the code and lays a clear path to a preferred future. Once you and your team have read it, do what the book says . . . put it down and go meet with some young adults who have so much to teach us. The future of the church depends on this."

Alex Shanks, assistant to the bishop, Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church

"So many voices, academic institutions, research organizations, and denominations are sounding the alarm about the decline of young adults in church. However, very few are looking at this issue from a holistic, systemic, developmental, cultural, and common sense perspective. Mark DeVries and Scott Pontier's Sustainable Young Adult Ministry is a wellspring of fresh, yet sensible thinking about the spirituality and formation of emerging young adults. This book is filled with both accessible practical concepts along with thoughtful theological considerations. Instead of offering faddish and gimmicky program strategies that are too-often embarrassingly inept, the authors put processes, procedures, and systems in the forefront of what it takes to curate environments of transformation. Having ministered with young adults for four decades I highly recommend this important book, not just to youth pastors, young adult pastors, and pastors but to all who love the church and its future."

Mike King, president/chief executive officer of Youthfront, author of Presence-Centered Youth Ministry

"I wish every church that wanted to build relationships with my college students would read Sustainable Young Adult Ministry. This book will help churches avoid mistakes that most make and develop a systemic approach to young adult ministry that works."

Teri McDowell Ott, chaplain of Monmouth College

"There are far too many easy answers thrown around these days about why 'young people' aren't in church, and they tend to be unhelpful. Mark DeVries and Scott Pontier set about the difficult task of creating a nuanced analysis of the pained relationship between young adults and the church, and take on the even more difficult task of providing meaningful recommendations about how that relationship might be restored. Their insights are helpful for anyone wanting to tap into the passion of the younger generation."

Meredith Mills, Westminster United Methodist Church, Houston

Read an Excerpt


1. How Do You Solve a Problem Like Young Adults? A Ruthlessly Honest Snapshot of the State of Today's Young Adult Ministry
2. Mistake #1: Learn About Young Adults
3. Mistake #2: Change the Worship Style
4. Mistake #3: Expect the Youth Director to Do It
5. Mistake #4: Start by Creating a Young Adult Program
6. Mistake #5: Wait Until They're Ready
7. Mistake #6: Give Up Too Soon
8. Beyond Fixing
9. Paradox #1: Succeed by Being Willing to Fail
10. Paradox #2: Focus on Young Adults by Taking the Focus off Young Adults
11. Paradox #3: Reach Young People by Gathering More Old People
12. Paradox #4: Reach One Young Adult at a Time Through a System to Reach Them All
13. Paradox #5: Respond to Lack of Commitment by Asking for More
14. Paradox #6: Attract Young Adults to Your Church by Sending Them Away
15. I Don't Know . . . Yet. Practicing the Long Obedience
16. Failure Isn't an Option—It's a Certainty
Discussion Questions
Appendix: The Young Adult Ministry Roadmap
Additional Resources


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Mark DeVries

Mark DeVries (MDiv, Princeton Theological Seminary) is the founder of Ministry Architects, a consulting team that helps churches and ministry organizations build sustainable ministries for children, youth, young adults, and entire congregations. He served for twenty-eight years as associate pastor for youth and their families at First Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He has trained youth workers on five continents and has taught courses or been a guest lecturer at a number of colleges and seminaries.

DeVries is the author of Sustainable Youth Ministry, Sustainable Children's Ministry (with Annette Safstrom), and Family-Based Youth Ministry. He is also the coauthor of The Most Important Year in a Woman's Life/The Most Important Year in a Man's Life, and he has been a contributing writer for Josh McDowell's Youth Ministry Handbook, Starting Right, and Reaching a Generation for Christ. He and his wife, Susan, have four grown children.

Scott Pontier

Scott Pontier is a senior consultant at Ministry Architects, a consulting team that helps churches and ministry organizations build sustainable ministries. He is also the lead pastor of Jamestown Harbor Church, a multi-site church in western Michigan.

Scott has led multiple teams in ministry with high school and middle school students and helped form the Young Life college ministry at Grand Valley State University. He has also worked as a youth pastor with three churches in Michigan and Columbus, Ohio, where he also oversaw the development of new ministries with college students and young adults. Scott also served as campus pastor, developed a growing campus of eighteen to twenty-five year olds, and began college ministries on the campuses of Grand Valley State and Michigan Tech Universities. He’s also served as an executive pastor, designing systems of ministry for church multiplication.

Scott and his wife, Cindy, have two sons and live in the suburbs of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is passionate about leading the next generation through equipping, leadership development, and church multiplication.