A fruit that lasts is a book that unlocks how to develop a fruit that lasts in your youth ministry as you get involved in discipleship. Tim Hawkins, who is the author of the book, gives a biblical standard for running a fruitful ministry. He challenges youth leaders who are caught up in the pressures of running a ‘successful’ ministry by including cheap substitutes for quality fruits. Through the book, Tim highlights practical examples that worked for him and those that failed in his ministry thereby giving the reader an opportunity to identify with real situations
Tim starts by challenging the wrong way of running youth ministry with the aim of making it appealing. He states a whole pack of things that he collectively calls cheap substitutes. These include things like hype, activities, let’s keep them busy strategy, and ‘force-feeding of the gospel’. He calls youth leaders to incorporate such activities carefully lest they override the main purpose of the group. He however doesn’t dismiss them as he agrees that there is a place for such like in bonding.
Like most institutions have vision and mission written down so as to give a road map this isn’t exceptional for youth ministry. What it does is that it puts everyone on the same page and ensures the pursuit is the same for all. Tim continues by saying that it’s worthwhile developing a biblical plan for the group and setting out programs and strategies for achieving the goals. He further encourages us to have an evaluation of how the youth ministry is progressing so as to bring about real success. Questions like, “what is meant to be done in the youth ministry?” “Why do we do what we do?” “How can we be effective in what we do?” “How do you measure or analyze youth ministry success?” I felt these were good questions in evaluating whether you are actually accomplishing the things that God would want you to achieve.
Over the chapters, Tim gave practical examples of what worked for his ministry, what didn’t, and what can be borrowed. From his examples, there are probable solutions that would apply to your failing ministry. He cites that one way of going about the cheap substitutes is by working towards excellence and making the gospel have the highest attention whereas a small amount of effort on making the group attractive. The approach here is to target the already interested rather than the not interested.
Tim challenges the youth leaders to be careful with God’s gospel. He clearly points out that proclaiming a cheap gospel of ‘come and receive’ results in the picking of unripe fruits. Those that come do not respond to the gospel but to a form of the falsehood of what they will acquire and the aftermath is you never build fruit that will last.
Tim calls on all who are in youth ministry to grow a pastor’s heart. Youth ministry is faced with many challenges just like any other ministry and at times it is on a personal basis but how do you keep going in weeks you feel you don’t want to meet that rude or spoilt kid. Since God uses people as the channel through which people get to hear his gospel, it is necessary then that we share our own lives with them and this is depicted in the way we care gently, love genuinely, encourage firmly, and correct sensitively.
Finally, Tim concludes by noting ways in which youth leaders can produce lasting fruit in two ways: By ‘bringing in’ and ‘building up’. Simply this is through evangelism and discipleship respectively. He calls the leaders to be keen on striking a balance test for both, that none is noble above the other and should be given appropriate attention. Tim recommends using the right tools in ‘building up’ and these should be guided by God’s Word. He encourages the leaders to encourage the disciples to go out and make others disciples for Christ through witnessing.
I would recommend the book to all Christians. Particularly to the gospel workers be it to youth leaders in a church or in para-churches who are involved in discipleship programs. The book will give you a road map on how to run a fruitful ministry with clear biblical guidelines and borrowing classic examples from Tim for what would apply to your ministry.
Book Review by Lucy Kiarie