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April 1973 · Vol. 2 No. 2 · pp. 61–62 

Book Review

You and Youth

Lawrence O. Richards. Chicago, IL: Moody, 1973. 128 pages.

Reviewed by Peter M. Hamm

Allegedly a “specialized” book for teachers whose ministry is with young people, You and Youth is part of the Effective Teaching series and follows the first book of that series, You, the Teacher, which also contains the more basic guidelines for Bible teaching. With helpful suggestions in the “React” and “Act” sections at the close of each chapter, You and Youth will serve most usefully as a guide for individual or group study. Although Richards’ analysis is not as incisive, nor his proposed action as creative, as in his earlier works on church renewal and Bible study (see A New Face for the Church, Zondervan, 1970; Creative Bible Study, Zondervan, 1971), this booklet deals more specifically with the question of communication, and is in fact specialized only in this one area of youth concern. For a more comprehensive guide to all youth work, one will need to refer to his Youth Ministry: Its Renewal in the Local Church, Zondervan, 1972.

Divided into three sections, the book first points to the need for better communication by portraying three different and imperfect youth Bible classes in which there are shortcomings in the teacher-student relationships, teen motivation and involvement, and lesson purpose and content. He thus depicts the likelihood of most youth Bible classes and leads the condemned rather to analyse further the reasons for the failures and the road to correction.

In a second part (chapters 2 to 4), Richards attempts to understand youth today in pinpointing the “push and pull of culture,” youth’s “strain towards independence,” and their “concern for the now.” Even for those who have but a superficial understanding of the psychology of youth today, these chapters provide little that is new. Nonetheless, they restate {62} well youth’s desire for popularity, the identity crisis, and the need to conform; and they delineate well the context in which authority is exercised and love must be demonstrated to lessen the tension between parent and youth. They further show how in their concern for the now, youth retreats from pressures exerted by yesterday’s strictures and tomorrow’s hopes and finds a dreamworld in the now of novels, television, and the drug culture. Somehow Bible teaching must meet the needs of youth where they are.

Richards’ main contribution comes to the fore in the third part, “Communicating the Word” (chapters 5 to 9). Most significant to this reviewer is his chapter on “Building Mutual Respect.” Here is the key to successful communication which in turn becomes the key to successful teaching. The kinds of questions which are asked (whether or not they lead to discussion) and the type of control which is exercised (whether it builds trust or antipathy) demonstrates the respect a teacher has for his students as persons and determines the response of the students not only to the teacher and lesson, but also to God. Another chapter is more strictly methodological and provides for hints in structuring a class in keeping with the module of “hook” (getting attention), “book” (engaging direct Bible study), “look” (eliciting practical discussion) and “took” (securing resulting decision). Yet another chapter deals with relevance, a term much overworked these days, and examines the hazards and merits of self-revelation in an attempt to meet real needs. Still another chapter seeks to develop wholesome attitudes towards Scripture to facilitate teaching. The book concludes with an appeal to encourage a response to God in Bible teaching.

The book’s claim to be a specialized work should not frighten a parent, nor any non-specialist from studying this guide. It is very readable, and with its charts, sketches, and study questions, easily understandable. Here is another must for youth workers, pastors, and church school teachers, for it touches upon the most basic concern of all who deal with adolescents—how to communicate with them.

Peter M. Hamm
Mennonite Brethren Bible College, Winnipeg, Manitoba

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