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Comprehensive, practical and soundly theological. My go-to resource for all of my questions... 

Becky Hepworth, Youth Worker

"A source of profound wisdom and knowledge."

Jimmy Dale, National Youth Evangelism Officer, Church of England

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why i wrote raising the bar:
nearly everything you need to know about christian youth ministry

Why I wrote the book

When I started in youth ministry...

I knew hardly anything. I could only play the 'Try to eat chocolate with a knife and fork' game. In this book, I've attempted to pass on (nearly) everything I've learnt in my 28 years of ministry since that day, so you grow as fast as you can, blessing you, the young people you serve and the Church.

I spent years leading young people, training leaders, I'd built up a load of resources, and people would often get in touch for help and I would send them things I'd written. Still, there wasn't anything around that said, 'This is how you actually do youth ministry from start to finish.' Then, I was given a sabbatical. Raising the Bar came out of nine weeks in the library, between dropping children at school and picking them up again. It took another five years to get it ready to self-publish. Why did it take so long? Sorry, but I'm a full-time church youth worker.

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Raising the Bar is a practical handbook... help you lead and teach young people well, so they grow to maturity as disciples. The book is aimed at both paid and voluntary leaders, regardless of how long they have been in ministry. It's useful, because people have encouraged me, saying it's their 'youth ministry handbook' and their 'youth work bible' (I think they know, there is actually a Bible, but we can guess what they mean). Read more reviews here.

No youth group? The book gives you enough help to start one, and gives you the skills, ideas and encouragement to keep you going long-term. Learn to deal with conflict. Grow values in the ministry. Build a strong team of leaders. Plan a residential. Respond to a disaster. Leave a legacy.

There are stories of good and not-so-good practice to illustrate, provide humour, and inspire you to keep going, with holiness and haybales, forgiveness and fish entrails.

This book is subtitled: 'Nearly everything you need to know about Christian youth ministry.' I think that's a fair summary.

Dave Thornton

“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)

"The most helpful book I've ever read on youth ministry. Practical wisdom, simply written... I wish I'd had this book when I started."

Luke Blakeley, Youth Pastor





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

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"Raising the bar is an essential text. Dave Thornton bridges the gap between theory and practice effortlessly. This book would be an invaluable tool for any newly-qualified youth worker's first foray into practice, as well as an excellent reference for the experienced youth leader. Highly recommended."

Jo Baynham

Urban Saints Westbrook Director

"Raising the Bar gives a step-by-step explanation of what creating good youth ministry looks like. And for those who are well established in their roles, it’s a helpful reminder of both how and why we do our jobs."

Ben Horrex reviewing the book in Premier Youth and Children's Work magazine


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.

Section 1 of the book helps us to think about key biblical values for our youth ministry that will encourage growth, when we are tempted to rush ahead and prepare for next Friday or Sunday. Key values are growing closer to Jesus, sacrificially loving each other, being authentic, serving and being transformed by Christ, to transform the Church and the world, all of this whilst still allowing time for fun! These values are true across the board whether we are working face-to-face or online.

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.


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

About the book

Raising the Bar can be read cover-to-cover (one youth worker did in under two days), but it is also designed to dip into, because each of the 36 chapters makes it clear what it is about. 

This book is written for youth leaders, but feedback has shown that any church minister will find this book beneficial because the skills are transferable, from building values in the church, to writing a Bible talk.

Starting and staying in Christian youth ministry is worth it and God will use us if we stay faithful to him. Let’s keep RAISING THE BAR to make a difference for eternity through Christian youth ministry.

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