“This is pure, distilled wisdom that comes from years of experience in youth ministry. It will definitely help someone just starting out but also stretch those with more experience. Definitely on the recommended list for all Christian youth workers!"

Mark Birri

Assistant Pastor-Teacher (Youth)



Nearly everything you need to know about Christian youth ministry

Raising the Bar is a practical, one-stop manual for youth ministry which will be useful for every paid and voluntary youth leader whether starting out or having been in ministry for years. Dave Thornton's 27 years of experience are brought out in stories of both good and not so good practice to illustrate, to provide humour and to inspire you to keep going.

Raising the Bar can be read cover-to-cover, but it is also designed to be easy to dip into. Each chapter says what it is about: if you want to think about developing your leadership team, read the chapter entitled: 'A healthy team' and if you need to write a Bible study, then read, 'Preparing a Bible study'.

If we, as youth workers, keep developing our skills, then we will stay in ministry longer and maybe, by the grace of God, ministry will flourish and young people will move towards maturity. This book is written for youth leaders, but any church minister will find this book beneficial because the skills are transferable, from building values in the church to writing a Bible talk.

Together, we can raise the bar to make a difference for eternity through Christian youth ministry.

"Dave Thornton, a seasoned minister, candidly and vulnerably shares his heart and experience. This Gospel-centred book is both challenging and equipping for the modern minister."

Holly Byles

Youth Minister





Raising the Bar: My Own Life


Key Values for Youth Groups






A Note about Fun


​​Raising the Bar: As We Start

Vision and Strategy

Starting from Scratch

Raising the Bar: Our Organisation

A Healthy Team

The Law, Health and Safety

Working with Parents/Carers

Engaging with the Wider Church




Raising the Bar: Our Programming

Teaching Sessions




Building Disciples

Raising the Bar: Our Teaching Sessions

The Big Idea

Preparing a Bible Talk

Putting Together a Session

Delivery: Being at the Front

Preparing a Bible Study

Leading a Small Group

Icebreakers, Games and Activities

Prayer, Sung Worship and Response

Challenging Behaviour and Conflict

Additional Needs in the Group

Filling a Gap

Raising the Bar: Into the Future

Staying Fresh

Leaving Well



Serving - Spiritual Gifts Overview

Residentials - Sample Residential Weekend Budget

Preparing a Bible Study - Sample Bible Study on Mark 2.1-12


"This book has been an indispensable tool during my first year in full-time youth ministry, not only with its helpful guides on how to do the job and grow in your ministry but exploring the reasons and theology behind what we do. This is a must-have for all youth ministers and volunteers who want to improve how they reach and disciple young people."

Ewen Greenlees

Associate Youth Minister


The grace of God revealed in Christ is a better story than the world is telling young people. We show this by modelling this grace ourselves – God’s ministry through us stands and falls on our character. If we want to start raising the bar in youth ministry, it's where we need to start so that's where the book starts.

We want to rush ahead and do stuff, normally prepare for next Friday/Sunday/Whatever. Section 1 of the book helps us to think about key biblical values for our youth ministry that will encourage growth: growing closer to Jesus, sacrificially loving each other, being authentic, serving and being transformed by Christ to transform the Church and the world around us, all of this whilst still allowing time for fun! These values are true across the board and help avoid our ministry just focussing on the next event.

"I've just finished your book - amazing job! Such a great read. I know it's written about youth work but I think loads of it applies to whole church life! I spent the whole book thinking I want to raise the bar for everyone! I'm certainly going to make sure I keep referring back to this. Actually lots of your vision/strategy/starting from scratch stuff was really helpful as we continue to discern what God wants us to start in our context."

Rev. Hannah Madin

20-40s Minister, UK

Section 2 is an easily searchable how-to section, taking us through key, practical skills in youth ministry. This gives enough content to help us develop across all areas of youth ministry for the whole of our youth ministry career, covering a wide range of areas on which to focus to develop strong ministry:

  1. Starting a group and building a vision, developing a thriving team and moving on well

  2. Additional needs, working with parents, involving the whole church and the always-challenging subject of health and safety

  3. Programming with the end in mind

  4. Teaching the Bible well across the whole programme, including really practical material on getting the big idea out of a passage, structuring a talk and writing Bible study questions, but also less talked about subjects like managing a response time

  5. There are regular '10 Top Tips' to enhance your thinking and practice, but which can also be used to develop the whole team.

A little while ago now you blessed me with your wonderful book! I just wanted to thank you, as the chapter you recommended to me on leading small groups is packed full of incredibly useful information! The countless examples and anecdotes that are intertwined in each section make it really easy to understand how each detail you talk about can be applied in a real situation, and it is clear to see why it took you so long to finish the book! 


17-year-old small group leader, UK

"I’m really impressed. It reads well and is interesting, helpful and encouraging. I would recommend it to those in all leadership, not just youth work." 

Jane Appleby

Church Elder


©2020 by Church Youth Ministry, Winchester, UK.

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