Straightforward and practical, Samuel L. Bierig’s Fulfill Your *Student Ministry: A Manifesto and Field Guide succeeds in addressing contemporary challenges to the mission of student ministry while proposing hands-on application for greater Christian faithfulness for a lifestyle of ministry. Bierig is a veteran student pastor and Dean of Spurgeon College at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For this work, he assembled a team of seven student ministers whose reflections unite in one high-octane anthology of exhortative addresses to the twenty-first century youth minister struggling to maintain Scriptural credibility in the ever secularizing world of evangelicalism.
Bierig reminds readers in the introduction that the book’s seven contributors: Rechab Gray, H. Jared Bumpers, Bierig himself, Royland Kirkwood, David Bronson, Joel Muddamalle, and Joel Cowart are just “jovial dudes”. Though they are fun loving, they do not restrain their solicitude for this topic. In fact, they aspired to writing this manifesto with “a great burden and conviction that student ministry should be pursued” within “biblical categories.” Each of the book’s ten chapters begins with a clarion statement, positing that chapter’s argument against the norm. This thesis is followed by a hard and fast exegesis in defense of the author’s position and concluded by noting “beginning steps for change”, taking the reader beyond mere theory and toward praxis.
The book’s thesis can be summed up in this simple dichotomy: biblicism trumps pragmatism. In the foreword, Rev. H. B. Charles Jr., pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, boldly asserts that, in contrast to the seeker sensitive pragmatism of the contemporary moment, Bierig’s anthology “offers a Christ-centered, Bible-based, gospel saturated philosophy of student ministry.” Charles further emphasizes this assertion with an anecdote from his father, in which he described the church as a train with “the young people of the congregation” as the “locomotive” and the pastor as the “caboose.” Charles sets the tone for the book’s argument: The direction of your church rests on the direction of the church’s youth, and it is the student minister’s vocation to point them in the biblical direction.
The book deserves praise for its careful elevation of the Scriptures above all else. In fact, every chapter, in title and in composition, has “the Bible” at its center. The reader is taken through various topics of interest to ministers such as discipleship, worship, sexual holiness, mission trips, multi-ethnicity, and evangelism. Bierig’s team deserves congratulations for their ecclesiocentric mooring and bibliocentric devotion. This anthology is highly punctual as it argues for the elevation of the Scriptures among students in the local church.
Although this book provides thoughtful analyses of various pressing topics concerning ministry, there are marks that this book was a rushed endeavor. Besides the occasional spelling error, adequate time is not given to address the alternate viewpoint on any issue. In fact, it seems the authors would believe that any student ministry that did not hold to their manifesto would be erring on the side of biblical inaccuracy and would be less than a viable student ministry. Chapter four, written by Charles’ Student Pastor at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church, Royland Kirkwood, entitled Student Ministry, the Bible and Preaching, renders any other form of didactic methodology that isn’t expository preaching as “just appetizers” to the “main course”. To put it bluntly, trappings that indicate any affiliation with the contemporary church or the seeker sensitive movement such as “ProPresenter, student bands, icebreaker games” are cast as trivial next to a certain “seriousness toward biblical interpretation and proclamation” without any move to reconcile or synthesize the two. Readers will likely attest that these schools of thought are obviously not contrary to one another. In fact, many student ministries instruct via ProPresenter weekly and can use these common devices as tools for teaching and discipleship.
Overall, however, the book’s strengths outweigh its weaknesses. Noting the current imbalance on the side of seeker sensitivity that exists in the world of evangelical student ministry, this book is a welcome read. Anyone thinking about working with students in their church would benefit from this short work (comprising a total of 156 pages). Ministers can trust that men of the Word wrote this book and that the Author of Salvation can use it to create a more biblically conscious approach to student ministry in the local church context.