Teenagers Matter

Making Student Ministry a Priority in the Church

series: Youth, Family, and Culture

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When teenagers are valued, they bring life to nearly every sector of society, including the church. Although student ministry has come a long way in the last century, few churches have made it a high priority. Veteran practitioner Mark Cannister brings together the latest ideas and research on adolescence to champion student ministry as integral to the life of the church. He explores how connecting teenagers into the church's larger intergenerational community enriches the entire congregation, casting a prophetic vision for what the church can become when it truly values its young people.

This comprehensive yet accessible addition to the Youth, Family, and Culture series has been field tested and written in close consultation with youth pastors. The book outlines the resources necessary for a vital student ministry and includes sidebars and discussion questions. It will be a foundational textbook for student ministry courses and of much use to youth ministers, pastors, and other church leaders.

About the Series
The Youth, Family, and Culture series examines the broad categories involved in studying and caring for the needs of the young and is dedicated to the preparation and vocational strengthening of those who are committed to the spiritual development of adolescents.

1. When Teenagers Matter: Student Ministry Thrives
2. When Teenagers Matter: Transformation Happens
3. When Teenagers Matter: Student Ministry Is Well Resourced
4. When Teenagers Matter: They Become Part of the Church
5. When Teenagers Matter: Programming Is Simple
6. When Teenagers Matter: Parents Matter
7. When Teenagers Matter: The Next Generation Is Unleashed


"Mark Cannister has given his career to cultivating space for love and commitment between budding youth workers and youth ministry, between academic discourse and the field of youth ministry, and between the young people themselves and the church. This book is the manifestation of those many years of deepening skill and passion. On every page you'll see a wise teacher, devoted parent, and ferocious advocate for the young."

Andrew Root, Olson Baalson Professor of Youth and Family Ministry, Luther Seminary

"Many have sounded the alarm regarding the damage done by parents who choose to spend their time selfishly focusing on pursuits that have come to matter more than raising their children. We are correct in lamenting this reality where it exists. But is it possible that in our congregations we've been selfish as well, isolating teenagers in age-segregated ministries without also integrating them in the full life of the church? Mark Cannister makes it clear that teenagers can, do, and must matter in the life of the church. Pastors, youth workers, parents, and church members who read Teenagers Matter will be challenged to rethink and restructure youth ministry in ways that reflect biblical priorities and promote significant spiritual growth."

Walt Mueller, Center for Parent/Youth Understanding

"Youth ministry books tend to make one of two errors: they offer big ideas, but provide very little practical help--they essentially tell youth workers to 'make bricks without straw.' Or they offer all kinds of cool ideas, but without the ballast of thoughtful theological and psychological reflection--they basically offer 'straw' without the 'bricks.' Avoiding both problems, this book gives youth leaders well-conceived, user-friendly counsel for moving beyond ministry that is 'good enough.' I'm always on the lookout for books that combine biblical faithfulness and theological reflection with in-the-trenches relevance, and Teenagers Matter is just such a book. It's thorough, thoughtful, challenging, and practical."

Duffy Robbins, professor of youth ministry, Eastern University

"Reading this book was a profound and unexpected pleasure. Mark Cannister effortlessly connects the dots on behalf of comprehensive youth ministry. At last, here is a book that articulates why and how God's people can step up into a faithfulness that will make a difference for every kid in our communities."

Dave Rahn, senior vice-president, Youth for Christ/USA; director, Huntington University's MA in Youth Ministry Leadership

"Mark Cannister is a fresh voice, reminding the church of the reasons for and the ways to do authentic youth ministry. I love his tone: both helpful and hopeful. This is a must-read book for pastors, church leaders, parents, and youth workers."

Len Kageler, professor of youth and family studies, Nyack College

"Teenagers Matter is a benchmark book for the field of youth ministry, a book that will be widely read and referenced for years. Mark Cannister champions youth ministry's value and mission in a book that will make readers feel like they're getting the 'inside word' on what's happening in youth ministry from one of the leading thinkers in the field. And they are. This book will renew concern for teenagers and provide direction for youth ministry to move beyond 'good enough' as a standard for excellence. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Teenagers Matter and know that it will become one of youth ministry's significant books."

Terry Linhart, professor of youth ministry/adolescent studies, Bethel College-Indiana

"Mark Cannister has made a significant contribution to the field of student ministry. His thoughtful, comprehensive approach shows concern for those within the congregation while also reaching out to the young people of the community. He has provided an abundance of academic research in a way that is accessible for students and practitioners alike. I encourage every youth ministry leader to get at least two copies of this book--one for yourself and one for a church leader who has influence on the student ministry of your entire congregation."

Wes Black, author of An Introduction to Youth Ministry; coauthor of Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church

The Author

  1. Mark Cannister

    Mark Cannister

    Mark Cannister (EdD, University of Pittsburgh) is professor of Christian ministries and chair of the Division of the Humanities at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. He has served as chair of the board of the Association of Youth Ministry Educators...

    Continue reading about Mark Cannister


2014 Outreach Resources of the Year Award Winner

"[A] detailed and well-organized book. . . . This book is a great resource for youth ministry leaders/pastors and even senior pastors who want to learn more about providing effective and impactful student ministry. Another of the book's strong suits is the level of research and variety of voices that went into writing it. Cannister supports his arguments with results of different studies, comments from local youth pastors, and insights and data from trusted voices in youth ministry."

Russell St. Bernard,


"Cannister has issued a . . . clarion call for contemporary church leaders, in particular to youth ministers, to refocus the efforts of student ministry. . . . Two primary audiences would benefit the most from this book: students studying for a career in youth ministry and current youth ministers who desire a long-term ministry. For the first audience, the book is written in an appropriate manner for both undergraduate and graduate levels. . . . This book would be best utilized as a primary text for an upper level course in both settings. . . . For the second audience, this book could be a good resource to help process what a long-term student ministry should look like within the local church. . . . This book is a worthwhile read for any future or current church leader, especially youth ministers, who are interested in the health of the local church."

Scott W. Jones,

Journal of Youth Ministry

"This guide delves into the latest research on adolescence to show how including teens in the larger intergenerational community enriches both the students' lives and the entire church."

CBA Retailers + Resources

"There are many strengths to this work. Cannister's call to restructure the church is grounded on thorough biblical and theological arguments. Unlike many works on rethinking ministry to teenagers, Cannister does an excellent job of articulating a biblical ecclesiology. He takes great care in presenting the most recent research and best practices from leading experts in the field of student ministry. He casts an ambitious vision while providing practical directives and examples of churches that are doing comprehensive ministry. Helpful questions are included at the end of each chapter for student-ministry leaders as well as for church leaders."

Lynn Barger Elliott,

Calvin Theological Journal

"What a valuable, important work, reminding church folks why youth ministry is vital to vital congregations and why we need to cultivate space for teens to be involved in the life of the church. . . . Three big cheers for one of the most important books of the year for the life of the church."

Byron Borger,

Hearts & Minds Booknotes blog

"This book [offers] a powerful and paradigm shifting view of why teenagers matter and what churches and leaders can do to bridge the generational divide. . . . This is not just another book about teenagers or youth ministry. It is a book about cultivating God's heart in us about bringing young people into the presence of God. . . . This invaluable book [is] filled with much expertise, experience, and empowering words. [It] may very well be a must-have resource on the shelf of every church leader."

Conrade Yap,

Panorama of a Book Saint blog