"I’d definitely recommend Dave’s book. It’s full of all sorts of useful things for youth workers at all different stages!"

Andy Cook

Youth and Families Worker

Christ Church, Fulwood


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“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

UK Assistant Pastor-Teacher (Youth)

“Raising the Bar is a MUST READ for every youth minister. Dave Thornton leans on his nearly three decades of experience in youth ministry to give a practical and organized look at how to take your group to the next level. Built on a balanced and thoughtful approach for reaching teens, Dave also delivers a treasure trove of practical tips that even the most seasoned youth workers could benefit from. I highly recommend you take the time for this easy, organized, and valuable read.”

Matt Wendal

US Youth Pastor with 14 years of experience

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"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

UK Associate Youth Minister

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From Premier Youth & Children's Work (December 2020)

Reprinted in its entirety with permission from Premier YCW magazine.

Check out the magazine here.

In a world where youth practitioners are frequently thrown into the deep end when starting a new job, 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.

As a youth minister myself, I know the challenges of bringing the gospel and discipling teenagers. All of our contexts are so different, with young people needing a unique approach to relationships and programmes. And yet, Thornton’s book acts as a manual of best practice, showing us that we can lead both a fun and Bible-centred ministry. His key values for youth groups remind us of why we do what we do, and particularly, why it is important that the methods we use reflect that foundation.

Raising the Bar is a manual from an experienced youth professional. As a self-published work, it feels a little longer than perhaps it needed to be, meandering a little at times, but it’s a book I don’t intend to read thoroughly every time I open the cover. Instead, it’ll sit on my bookshelf, with Post-it notes in the chapters I want to go to in specific situations. From those big moments thinking strategically about the vision of the ministry to the times when I need to consider the financial planning of a weekend away. It’s the most complete ‘manual’ that I’ve seen written in the British context.

The book’s premise, that we need to raise the bar, shines through. We should be expectant that God will use our ministries to transform the lives of many. Shaping our ministries to be authentic spaces where we share the joy and community that comes from an outworking of the gospel will lead to lives saved for eternity.


Ben Horrex is assistant minister for Lutterworth, Bitteswell and Cotesbach Churches in Leicestershire.

“Youth ministry is hard work. Even after 25 years of being a youth leader, it takes time to prepare a Bible study well, to write a talk, to draw up a programme, to plan a social event or to take care of an individual.”

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"There is no book like this on the market. Never have I read a book on youth ministry so accessible in nature, weighty in theological reflection and practical in content.

Dave has compiled 25 years’ worth of knowledge, wisdom and reflection into a single volume. Raising The Bar touches on everything from a Biblical mandate for youth ministry to practically launching a vision and strategy, as well as preparing Bible studies, talks, socials, residentials and sustaining longevity in youth ministry.


Raising The Bar is an essential part of any youth leader's toolkit. I read the whole thing cover to cover in just a few days but will spend the rest of my career flicking through specific chapters as and when I need them. Dave’s heart and passion for youth ministry is so evident in his writing; it is clear that his desire for young people to know the Lord Jesus as Saviour is at the centre of all his work.

Dave has been there. He has spent two and a half decades working face to face with young people, through thick and thin, experiencing all kinds of practical issues and pastoral emergencies. Raising The Bar shares anecdotes and testimonies of the many highs and lows of Dave’s career so far. As someone who has been in youth ministry for less than one decade, Dave’s insights, wisdom and practical advice make Raising The Bar an easy-to-read, theologically sound, complete handbook for those just starting out in youth ministry or those who have been in youth ministry for years. 


To all youth leaders (paid or voluntary) out there: if Raising The Bar is not currently on your shelf, it needs to be.

It is an invaluable resource."

Scott Rushby

UK Youth Pastor with 7 years of experience

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"Raising the bar is an essential text for those seeking to establish a modern impact-driven practice of Christian youth work from scratch. Dave Thornton bridges the gap between theory and practice effortlessly, offering clear examples, strategies, pitfalls and anecdotes regarding effective, reflective youth work practice in clear and accessible language. 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 seeking to sharpen their practice and increase their organisation's impact. Highly recommended."

Jo Baynham

Urban Saints Westbrook Director

"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

UK Youth Minister

"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

UK 20-40s Minister

"This book is probably the starting point for staff training going forward, as it's straightforward and all in the same place."

Andy Williamson

Gaines Manor Centre Director

"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 UK small group leader

"It is interesting, helpful and encouraging. I would recommend it to those in all leadership, not just youth work." 

Jane Appleby

UK church elder