Book Review: Giving Up Gimmicks

Brian Cosby’s work Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Culture would either settle overwhelmingly well with student ministers or overwhelmingly terrible with them. You see, the question of entertainment in ministry happens to be a highly debated question among student ministers in today’s culture.

Cosby writes in the book that he has been a part of both sides of the spectrum. He’s been a part of a student ministry (as the student minister) where the goal was always to “one up” the Wednesday night the week before. He admitted in the book that at one point in time in his ministry, he actually had people swallowing goldfish so the entertainment would still be in the ministry.

Because of the book’s title, it is obvious that he does not consider the entertainment model of student ministry to be effective anymore. He writes,

“88% of kids raised in Christian homes do not continue to follow the Lord after they graduate from high school.”

However, his argument for a non-entertainment philosophy of student ministry does not resonate only with student ministers, but also with teenagers themselves. Cosby conveys that teenagers want the meat and potatoes of theology and sound doctrine over the entertainment, and the way to achieve such ministry is through the means of grace ministry. The “Means of Grace” ministry can include service projects, bible studies, question and answer times at waffle house, etc. The “Means of Grace” are the ways in which God works to “nurture believer’s faith and apply the benefits of redemption to believer’s lives.”

Cosby communicates that the best ways to include the “Means of Grace” into your student ministry is to include the “Means of Grace” into your methodology. The “Means of Grace” are the Word, prayer, and the sacraments. After you’ve applied these three areas to your ministry and methodology, it is important to create gospel community among your student ministry, Cosby says.

This book has challenged me to create a gospel-centered student ministry that is saturated with the Word, prayer, and sacraments. I believe this should be the goal of every ministry in the church, not just students. I am convinced when the ministries of the church make priority with the Word, prayer, and sacraments that we will see what Jesus promised in Matthew 16:18, that  “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

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