This book is the story of the challenges that Gina Abbas has experienced as a woman in youth ministry. Whilst the title refers specifically to youth ministry it is about much more than this and I think it would be useful for women in leadership generally. Throughout the book she is able to grip the reader with stories of her experience working as a youth pastor in a variety of churches. The stories she tells are sometimes funny, sometimes poignant and sometimes very sad as she tells of the way some women in youth ministry have been treated.
She covers many different topics that a woman working in ministry might face from the importance of good networking and breaking bad boundaries to having good health insurance and what it feels like to be boycotted for being a woman. She tackles these issues with confidence and humor.
It is a very easy book to read and I would recommend it for men and women, as if we want to see women and men work together as God intended then we need to see men understanding the issues women face and vice versa. There are many practical examples that other women give as they contribute to this book, which I found very helpful.
One of the main strengths of the book lies in the explanations of the different theological views that churches can take on how men and women should interact e.g. hierarchal, complementarian and egalitarian. Many women and men I know struggle with these concepts or have never heard them before and so to state what they mean at the beginning of the book helps the reader to gain an understanding of the big picture before going into the detail. The author discusses the fact that Jesus did not keep women at arms length in his ministry and asks the question why women in leadership should be disadvantaged over their male colleagues, by not having male mentors etc?
Another strength of the book is the questions for reflection at the end of each chapter. These questions help the reader to think through their own experience of youth ministry. The questions enable deeper thinking rather than just a superficial nod to the subjects raised.
There are some big generalizations made in the book about men and women, which I do not think is helpful if unity between the genders is to be encouraged. Most of the examples given were from big churches where there are teams of paid youth workers, so many of the stories would appear to have little to say to those who are the lone paid youth worker in a church.
The author's intention in writing the book is to inspire women to see that they can be involved in youth ministry and even be ambitious for the role of the youth pastor rather than the assistant. This is done by giving examples of women who are already doing this in a variety of churches with the different views mentioned above. I think that it does achieve its purpose to a certain extent. However, it does tend to do this by pointing out some of the negatives that women will experience e.g. loneliness, women being labeled as 'bossy', and that keeping men and women separate in ministry can make it feel wrong to be female. I can understand what the author is trying to say here, but would also like to have seen the other side of the coin and have the positives of this amazing ministry for women.
As a single woman in youth ministry there were several chapters that seemed a little irrelevant to me and I would have liked to see more on what it is like being a single woman in youth ministry. I think the book would be very useful for women who have to juggle a house and family as well as their youth ministry.
Having said this I would say that the book is worth reading, as it does make some very good points and will help women in leadership to feel that they are not alone. It will also help those who are thinking about a calling to ministry to understand some of the difficulties they might face in the future.
Chairperson of Sophia Network Trustees