About | Bibliography

Sam Magdalein
Playing Games with God
7 min readAug 16, 2016


Excerpts from Playing Games with God: How to Avoid Shallow Youth Ministries and Find a Biblical Group for Your Kids. Print version is available here.

About The Book

Just like all schools are not the same, all youth groups are not the same.

But how can parents know that their kids are going to a good, Biblical youth ministry? And what makes a group “Biblical”? In “Playing Games with God,” Sam Magdalein lays out a simple framework that parents can use when searching for and examining a youth group for their teens.

But what about modern youth ministries? Parents may have a feeling that something is wrong in these churches, but can’t quite put their finger on the problem. Sam includes a thorough examination of the foundations, philosophies, drivers, and everyday practices of modern youth groups. Using numerous quotes from youth ministry seminary textbooks, lessons plans from youth ministry conferences, ministry resource books, and articles, you’ll read in their own words what modern churches are actually doing with our kids.

About The Author

Sam Magdalein answered the call to preach in 1997 when he was 17. Since 2002 he has served as the Youth Minister at Bible Believers Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, where he lives with his wife and two children.

He holds a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Pensacola Bible Institute, and a Master of Theology degree from The Bible Doctrine Institute.


Anthony, Michael. Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.

Berard, John and Penner, James and Bartlett, Rick. Consuming Youth: Leading Teens Through Consumer Culture. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010.

Black, Wesley and Clark, Chap and Nel, Malan and Senter III, Mark. Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001.

Borton, Jeff and Geiger, Eric. Simple Student Ministry: A Clear Process for Strategic Youth Discipleship. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009.

Burns, Jim. Uncommon Youth Ministry: Your Onramp to Launching an Extraordinary Youth Ministry. Ventura, CA: Regal, 2001.

Celebration Church, Fuse High School Ministry. Celebration.org. September, 2013.

Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/june/5.13.html June, 2008.

Chromey, Rick. Youth Ministry in Small Churches: Creative How-Tos, Plus 28 Involving Activities. Loveland, CO: Group Publishing, 1990.

Clark, Chap and Dean, Kenda Creasy and Rahn, David. Starting Right: Thinking Theologically about Youth Ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001.

Cox, Harvey. The Future of Faith. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009.

Dean, Kenda Creasy. Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010.

DeVries, Mark. Family-Based Youth Ministry. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994.

— Sustainable Youth Ministry: Why Most Youth Ministry Doesn’t Last and What Your Church Can Do about It. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008.

DYM, Download Youth Ministry. http://www.downloadyouthministry.com/shop/sermons-series/pretty-hurts. 2015.

— DYM 2, http://www.downloadyouthministry.com/bringing-sexy-waaay-back. 2015.

Fields, Doug. Purpose Driven Youth Ministry: 9 Essential Foundations for Healthy Growth. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.

— and Duffy, Robbins. Speaking to Teenagers: How to Think About, Create, and Deliver Effective Messages. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007.

Franklin, Doug. The Disconnect: Bridging the Youth Pastor and Senior Pastor Gap. Loveland, CO: Group Publishing, 2011.

Gipp, Samuel. How to Minister to Youth. Northfields, OH: DayStar Publishing, 1999.

Grunlan, Stephen A., and Mayers, Marvin K. Cultural Anthropology: A Christian Perspective. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1988.

Hall, Stuart and Stanley, Andy. The Seven Checkpoints for Youth Leaders. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2015.

Halverson, Richard. Perspective Magazine, November, 1971.

Ham, Ken and Beemer, Britt with Hillard, Todd. Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do to Stop It. Green Forest, AZ: Master Books, 2012.

Hawkins, Greg L,. and Parkinson, Cally. Reveal: Where Are You?. Barrington, IL: Willow Creek Resources, 2007.

Hayden, Thomas. “Gotcha.” U.S. News and World Report, August, 2002.

Heflin, Houston. Youth Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Youth Ministry. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2009.

Hesselgrave, David J. Communicating Christ Cross-culturally: An Introduction to Missionary Communication. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991.

Jones, Tony. Postmodern Youth Ministry: Exploring Cultural Shift, Creating Holistic Connections, Cultivating Authentic Community. Grand Rapids, MI: Youth Specialties, 2001.

Kinnaman, David and Lyons, Gabe. unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…and Why It Matters. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008.

— “The State of the Church and Family Report: How Parents are Rethinking Their Connections with Churches”. Web: Barna Research Group, 2010.

Lawrence, Rick. JesusCentered Youth Ministry. Loveland, CO: Group Publishing, 2007.

Lyons, Gabe. The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World. New York, NY: Crown Publishing, 2010.

McConnell, Scott. “LifeWay Research Finds Reasons 18- to 22-Year-Olds Drop Out of Church”. http://www.lifeway.com/Article/LifeWay-Research-finds-reasons-18-to-22-year-olds-drop-out-of-church. 2007.

MacDonald, Gordon. Who Stole My Church? What to Do When the Church You Love Tries to Enter the 21st Century. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007.

Manser, Martin H. Zondervan Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser, 2009.

Mauro, Philip. The World and Its God. London: Morgan & Scott, Ltd., 1908.

McCann, Jaymi. “Parents and children spend less than an hour with each other every day because of modern demands”. www.dailymail.co.uk. 2013.

McKee, Jonathan. 10-Minute Talks: 24 Messages Your Students Will Love. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.

— Getting Students to Show Up: Practical Ideas for Any Outreach Event — from 10 to 10,000. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007.

McNeal, Reggie. The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2003.

O’Gieblyn, Meghan. “Sniffing Glue”. Web. Guernica Magazine, July, 2011.

Oestreicher, Mark. Youth Ministry 3.0: A Manifesto of Where We’ve Been, Where We Are, and Where We Need to Go. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.

Paul, Jon. Youth Ministry in Modern America: 1930s to the Present. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000.

Peacock, Dr. David. The Man, The Message, The Ministry. Nashville, TN: WestBow Press, 2014.

Pierson, Arthur T. The Divine Art of Preaching. New York, NY: Baker & Taylor Co., 1892.

Pollock, John Charles. A Foreign Devil in China: The Story of Dr. L. Nelson Bell. Minneapolis, MN: World Wide Publications, 1988.

Rainer, Thom S. and Geiger, Eric. Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2006.

Reising, Richard L.. Church Marketing 101: Preparing Your Church for Greater Growth. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006.

Robbins, Duffy. This Way to Youth Ministry: An Introduction to the Adventure. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2004.

Root, Andrew. Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker: A Theological Vision for Discipleship and Life Together. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014.

— Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry: From a Strategy of Influence to a Theology of Incarnation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007.

— Web. https://www.faithandleadership.com/andrew-root-take-it-bonhoeffer-there-no-christian-youth. September, 2015.

Ruckman, Peter S. Ruckman’s Battlefield Notes. Pensacola, FL: BB Bookstore, 2003.

— The God-called Preacher. Kindle Locations 1268–1272. Pensacola, FL: BB Bookstore, 2011.

Saddleback, High School Ministry. Saddleback.com. September, 2013.

Simply Youth Ministry. www.simplyyouthministry.com. September, 2013.

Senter III, Mark. The Coming Revolution in Youth Ministry: and Its Radical Impact on the Church. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1992.

Smith, Christian and Denton, Melinda Lundquist. Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Stanley, Andy and Willits, Bill. Creating Community: Five Keys to Building a Small Group Culture. Random House, Inc..

Stetzer, Ed and Rainer, Thom S. Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2010.

Strommen, Merton and Jones, Karen E. and Rahn, Dave. Youth Ministry That Transforms: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Hopes, Frustrations, and Effectiveness of Today’s Youth Workers. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2001.

Stott, John R. The Contemporary Christians: Applying God’s Word to Today’s World. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

— and Coote, Robert, editors. Down to Earth: Studies in Christianity and Culture. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980.

TS4YM. “The Source 4 Youth Ministry”. http://www.thesource4ym.com/movieclipdiscussions/default.aspx. 2015.

Twitchell, James B. Shopping for God: How Christianity Went From In Your Heart to In Your Face. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2007.

Ward, Pete. God at the Mall: Youth Ministry That Meets Kids Where They’re At. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999.

Weaver, Jack. “Paul Washer, Lordship Salvation and Repentance”. www.expreacherman.com. 2011.

Webber, Robert E. Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999.

Webster, Douglas D. Selling Jesus: What’s Wrong with Marketing the Church. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

White, David F.. Practicing Discernment with Youth: A Transformative Youth Ministry Approach. Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press, 2005.

Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Strong (Joshua): Putting God’s Power to Work in Your Life. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996.

— and David Wiersbe. The Elements of Preaching: The Art of Biblical Preaching–Clearly and Simply Presented. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1986.

Williams, Peter. Opening up 2 Timothy. Leominster: Day One Publications, 2007.

Willimon, William. Growing Up Postmodern: Imitating Christ in the Age of “Whatever.” Princeton, NJ: Princeton Theological Seminary, 1999.

Yaconelli, Mark. Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus. El Cajon, CA: Youth Specialties, 2006.

Zander, Benjamin. http://www.benjaminzander.com/teacher/. September, 2015.

http://www.ted.com/talks/benjamin_zander_on_music_and_passion/transcript?language=en#t-66844. September, 2015.

Excerpts from Playing Games with God: How to Avoid Shallow Youth Ministries and Find a Biblical Group for Your Kids. Print version is available here.

Copyright © Sam Magdalein 2016.



Sam Magdalein
Playing Games with God

Sam Magdalein has been the Youth Minister at Bible Believers Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida since 2002.