Youth Cartel Book Review: Masterpiece- Paul Martin

This starts a series of book reviews from the Youth Cartel. I hope you will check all of these books out in the coming weeks and also check out their new stuff being published in the coming months…the new stuff looks great! (I am in no way being paid to say good things about The Youth Cartel. I just have been impressed with the material coming from them!)

Intro– Where was I as I read this book, context, life, etc.
Summary– Trying my best to be short and sweet to summarize the book as a whole (we’ll see how long this gets).
Quote– I’ll pull a couple of different quotes and expound on them.
Conclusion– This will be different than the summary as I will reflect on why this book should be read.

Here we go…


Paul Martin’s book was one of the first I read from Youth Cartel. I was intrigued because we were in the midst of looking at our Confirmation Mentor Ministry and figuring out what exactly we were hoping to get out of this ministry where we paired a youth with an adult from the congregation.

I was also immersed into a discussion on Confirmation Ministry with my Synod and we were thinking deeply about the idea/need/history of Confirmation in the Lutheran church. (I’ve written on this in the past…)

This book spoke to the idea of needing to recreate the idea of how we disciple young people. Instead of processing our youth through the ministry, in some cases like a school, we need to look at the individuality of the young person and see where God is active in their lives already.

Martin takes on the old idea of teaching young people the Bible and knowledge of their faith will no longer work. Simply teaching about the Bible will not work. Teaching the catechism will not work. Young people today are more involved with their own learning and have information at the ready by a flick of their finger. We need to challenge ourselves to look for God’s purpose in a young person’s life and teach faith in a way that engages the good gifts God has given them!

Martin suggests changing the ideas surrounding discipleship by acknowledging the current and seeking the change. Each chapter is title by x over y, for example: Chapter 1- Process over Outcomes. Then he gives a “How It Works” overview to help you put it into context. This is really the part of the book I appreciate. I can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking about change and big ideas and forget to think about how to follow through. He presents this part of the chapter to give the reader the ability to think about what it looks like in their own context.

Ending each chapter is a Case Study, in which Martin offers a specific example from ministry of what this might look like. Again, I appreciate this as a summary, it helps me think about what this may look like in my own context. Context is such an important piece in any book, and the author’s understanding of this is evident, and I appreciate it!


When I focus more on uncovering the person God created instead of trying to get them to have certain characteristics, then I don’t push for outcomes. As a young person’s unique identity is seen, surprising results happen.

Chapter 2: Process over Outcomes- pg 39

We’ve all been part of the discussion on numbers, whether you think numbers are “good” or “bad”, the idea that youth ministry has an end product can be damaging to our young people. I’m not against goals, or planning what our young people need to experience before they graduate high school. My issue is when we think each individual young person needs to go through the same process (Confirmation) at the same time (Everyone in 9th grade gets confirmed) to achieve the same outcome.

We miss out on the beauty God has instilled in each of the young persons we work with. When we treat young people no more than a number and don’t listen to what they are wondering or asking or thinking, we miss God’s beauty of being made in the image of God. Think hard about this and change your ministry to meet young people where they are in their faith exploration…it’s that important!

Specifics make the difference between discipleship and education. Where teaching broadcasts knowledge for many people to learn, discipling focuses on the individual. You can teach until you’re blue in the face, but until a concept has taken root internally and grows through practice, it has no hope of changing a life.

Chapter 5: Specific over Vague- pg 84

Focus on the individual. This is one of the things I’m trying to wrap my head around more and more within youth ministry. It makes for messy planning, messy questions and more work. But if we refuse to look at our young persons as individuals and continue to “process them through” we are missing God’s beauty again. We miss the masterpiece directly in front of us and we will lose them as they look for importance else where. (You can look at many of the statistics coming out in all of the studies, the church is not engaging the “creatives” and the results are still being defined.)

There is a lot to unpack in this book. But overall the thoughts and the process Martin leads you on in the book will open your ideas to what is next for youth ministry. There is a change that has been coming and more and more books are being published to take on this change in new and creative ways. Relationships play an important role in this change and Masterpiece is another way to engage in a conversation surrounding how this change can take place, one small step at a time.

Have you read this book? If so, what are your thoughts? What does it say about our understanding of God?


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