The Appeal of Jesus: A Youth Ministry Book by Ashley Denton

Young people need someone who is crazy about them. – Walter Brueggemann

Personality of Jesus

The first youth ministry book ever written was Francis Clark’s, Christ and the Young People. Clark spent enormous amounts of time with kids. He studied them and discovered that there were certain things that they were drawn to in their adult leaders. His vision was to see the development of a robust youth movement that modeled the personality of Jesus. He was convinced that making his dream a reality would depend on recruiting and then training volunteer youth leaders to have the heart and skills of relational evangelism….

RELATED: 8 Ways to Recruit and Retain More Volunteers for Your Church or Non-Profit

Clark embarked on a study of adolescents in the early 1900s that culminated in a list of some of the most attractive qualities young people were drawn to in their youth leaders. He discovered that all of the qualities young people were most attracted to in their leaders were also personality qualities of Jesus. Francis Clark believed that Jesus was the embodiment of everything that young people longed for. The challenge of every generation is simply to give young people an accurate picture of Jesus Christ. Clark believed that if young people could just see the winsome personality of Christ, they would naturally be drawn to him, like a magnet is to metal.”


His book (originally published in 1916) sparked new thinking about the importance of student ministry and the theology behind it. To him, student ministry was all about Jesus Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I cut my teeth in student ministry years ago as a volunteer and staff person in the mission organization of Young Life. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to encourage and equip volunteer leaders and staff in organizations like FCA, Cru, Intervarsity, Navigators, YWAM, and dozens of churches and denominations in over 50 countries. I have become convinced that Francis Clark’s ideas profoundly influenced many of the founders of these and other organizations toward a biblical theology of youth evangelism. Yet most people these days don’t even know about Clark’s book. As a life-long youth worker, when I discovered it, it was like uncovering an ancient treasure.


Working with a variety of parachurch organizations, churches, and church planting movements, I believe a common thread throughout most youth evangelism organizations can be traced back to Clark’s theology of the incarnation of Christ and his appeal to young people. As I spend time with student ministry leaders across many different cultures, I believe that in addition to Robert Coleman’s Master Plan of Evangelism, Francis Clark’s book, Christ and the Young People (1916) is the best, most cross-culturally relevant book written to date on the theology and practice of student ministry (focusing on students between the ages of 12-25).

There are a few books that are so profound that I try to re-read them each year. Christ and the Young People is one of them. The original edition of Clark’s book was written 100 years ago, so I have done my best to revise and update Clark’s writing into modern language. I also updated the title to: The Personality of Jesus. I highly recommend reading the original version, but I felt that the old style of his writing could hinder the wide distribution of his book to a modern audience, so I revised it extensively because his ideas are too important to sit on a shelf collecting dust. My method was to retain each and every idea Clark communicated while translating or paraphrasing it into the most modern English possible (without losing his original meaning). A few paragraphs that were impossible for me to translate to the modern context were moved to the End Notes.


Each chapter ends with a list of thought-provoking discussion questions for groups. Clark designed his book to be discussed in a small group setting. He envisioned youth leaders taking groups of students through a semester-long study of the life of Jesus. You may want to use the book’s 14 chapters as a semester-long Bible study. This book is also an ideal training tool for volunteer student ministry leaders who lead middle school, jr. high, high school, and university ministries. It is also a great book for parents. I think this book is so important, I’ve made it available in just about every form possible:

  • Paperback
  • Kindle
  • Free ebook: You can get the free ebook by going to the top right corner of my blog on the home page and entering your email address… it will be emailed directly to you.
  • Amazon Prime: You can borrow and read the book for free if you are an Amazon Prime member.

If you would like to read the original version of the book in its original form (2nd Edition, 1924), you can view it here.

I hope The Personality of Jesus will help you grow in your awe of Jesus. I pray that it will give you a clearer vision for how to filter every aspect of ministry in your church, parachurch, or mission organization through the personality of Jesus Christ. May these ideas, from one of the first student ministry books ever written, continue to fuel the spreading fire of youth evangelism around the world for years to come.


If you know anyone who fits these qualities below, would you consider emailing them a link to this blog post so they can enjoy this incredible resource? You can copy and paste this link:

The Personality of Jesus Will Help You Know How to Introduce Young People to Jesus Christ and Help them Grow in their Faith by Learning How to:

  • Start a Youth Group or College Ministry that Reflects the Personality of Jesus
  • Build Relationships with Adolescents
  • Lead Small Groups Effectively
  • Train Volunteer Youth Leaders
  • Reach Schools with the Gospel
  • Parent Teenagers & College Students in a Christ-Centered Way