Book Review: The XYZ of Discipleship: Understanding and Reaching Generations Y & Z

The XYZ of Discipleship: Understanding and Reaching Generations Y & Z by Allan, Nick, and Marjorie Allan. Malcolm Down Publishing Ltd. 2020. 232 pages.

The churches in today’s Western culture face a significant task of reaching and raising the next generations—young people often overlooked or misunderstood but are critical to the future of current society and Christianity—with the gospel. The XYZ of Discipleship was born from years of steadfast commitment and learning from living and breathing young adult culture. Its overall goal provides much-needed insight into the issues the church faces in discipling Generations Y and Z.

Nick & Marjorie Allan made a mark with their church plant The Well Sheffield Baptist church in the UK, known for its innovative use of social media and for successfully reaching and discipling students and young adults. In this candid book, the couple shared their stories and experiences of years of successfully parenting and pastoring generations Y and Z.

Drawing on 20 years of fruitful experience and carefully analyzing Britain’s present cultural context, this book explores how to disciple today’s Millennial (Gen Y) generation and their teenage/early adult successors—Gen Z. With plenty of positive insights into the opportunities these generations possess, it speaks into how to help build solid foundations of identity and purpose for young adults. It assesses some of the biggest challenges to Christian discipleship in today’s culture. It attempts to equip individuals who seek to mentor, parent, or lead young adults into discipleship in the everyday living, in the church, and those of Y and Z age with passion to understand and disciple their generation.

Divided into four sections of analysis and recommendations, the book started with the positive potential of Generations Y and Z. The authors outlined some common traits in the way they view the world and how they act or express themselves. In this section, Nick and Marjorie challenged some of society’s more negative assumptions about these generations. They highlighted a tremendous opportunity for Christ-like discipleship and outlined how mature Christians can mentor young adults to this end.

Section two emphasized one’s identity in Christ as the foundation of fruitful discipleship. In a battlefield of individualism, it looked carefully at the benefits of community and vulnerability, painting a picture of how young adults can view themselves in the light of Christ.

Section three focused on specific issues that can be unhelpful strongholds in the culture of young adults. It addressed the challenges of relativism, the fear of missing out, and being generously inclusive.

How should the Western Church respond to these challenges? Section four addressed the “How?” Here the authors outlined some strengths to target and some changes to be made so local churches may better reach and raise young adult disciples.

Nick and Marjorie concluded their work with a passionate challenge and some practical guidance to parents, church leaders, and established churches who wish to reach these generations.

Both Generation Y (born between 1981-1996) and Generation Z (1996-2014) are sometimes called the ‘missing generation’ from Western churches, yet they thrive and expand their influence within society. Can we bridge the gap? Can we understand the cultural landscape they inhabit and work out how best to reach them with the gospel, helping them become followers of Jesus? This work inspires the reader to visualize this possibility. Further, it also provides the tools needed to effectively reach and disciple these generations.

I respect the authors’ dedication to defending and advocating for these generations against skeptics and naysayers. Their call to reflective disciple-making creates an enticing culture to join and to grow spiritually. This combines open listening and observation with deliberate, focused, and creative effort.

The “Mentoring Matters” chapter alone is worth the price. The practicality of lived advice and wisdom expands the scope of this book beyond its title. It is a book for individuals who desire to follow Jesus wholeheartedly and pave the way for others to do the same.

The book has some valuable suggestions for practical discipleship. However, it lacks adequate examples of how this is being implemented within established churches. With years of pastoral experience in dealing with teenagers, this book was not only a terrific read but also a much-needed accompaniment to my ministry resource collection on intergenerational mentorship and discipleship. I highly recommend you add it to your library. It is jam-packed with practical information and knowledge to help you understand how teenagers feel, think, and act. Indeed, it has the potential of assisting us all in bringing hope to young people in these perplexing and challenging times.


Dre Thompson, DMin candidate. Currently pastoring a multi-church district in Ontario, Canada. Dre has a passion for discipleship through mentorship.