One of the first books youth books ever written was Francis Clark’s “Christ and the young people”. His book, originally published in 1916 sparked new thinking about the importance of youth ministry and the theology behind it. To him, youth ministry was all about Jesus Christ.
Fast forward 100 years and Ashley Denton has re-vised the book (updating the language whilst retaining the sense and intention of the original).
I love it for a whole bunch of reasons – let me tell you about them!
Firstly, it is a slim book, 100 pages – there is no waffle or long asides – it brilliantly reflects on different facets of Jesus’ personality and in presenting those to us through each chapter we are led to ask, “am I becoming more like Jesus?” Secondly, it has a timeless quality about it – yes, it was written 100 years ago and yes, some of the language that Denton retains is pleasingly antiquated (I am growing to love the word “winsome”) but, the message from Clark brought to us through this re-vised edition is timeless. We know pretty well that young people find Jesus intensely interesting when we talk about Him, but – er, less so about the church or Christianity in general.
Thirdly, this isn’t a book to rush through and tick of your list . . . it is worth returning to regularly and, as Clark intended the book to be used in small groups, Denton has helpfully included discussion questions at the end of each chapter. I would go so far as to say this makes an ideal follow on to Alpha or an introduction to Christianity course, as through the various chapters – not only are we introduced to Jesus and his character, but we are also shown a mirror and encouraged to look at ourselves as disciples, as youth workers, as young people.
The freshness of the material is incredible – right from the off Clark nails it as we are introduced to the topic of the book and the character of Christ,
“If you want to be an effective leader of young people, begin by becoming pre-occupied by these genuine traits of Jesus. Then being shaped by his character you will naturally draw others to him as well,”
In a world where even Christian books can be hyped or sold, it seems, on a title alone or some great artwork on the front cover – this is a gem I had never heard of. I have a list of 20 essential books for youth ministry on my desk and having read this I now have a problem.
Which one do I dislodge to make room for “The Personality of Jesus”?