Archive for category: Book Reviews (Page 3)

99 Thoughts for Youth Workers

01 Aug
August 1, 2009

I just finished reading Josh Griffin’s new book, 99 Thoughts for Youth Workers, and it’s great!  He’s the lead youth pastor at Saddleback Church (Rick Warren’s church), part of the Doug Field’s Simply Youth Ministry podcast crew and blogging king.  The thought that kept crossing my mind as I read it is that it’s kind of like the youth workers book of Proverbs.  There’s actually 113 thoughts, but whatever, I’m a youth pastor so I like getting 14 for free!  Basically, it’s split up into four big areas; Vision and Leadership, Programs and People, Small Groups and Events, and Everyday Ministry.  They’re short, insightful, and each thought is followed by a brief explanation of why it’s important.  Honestly, I as I was reading it I was seeing ideas for the program I lead, ways I can grow as a leader, and a solid resource that I’d love to get in the hands of all my volunteers.

As a resource for volunteers, it really shines.  It’s short, focused, easy to read, and full of solid advice and ideas that anyone from the lead person to the rookie intern could learn from.  What was really jumping out at me were the thoughts on parents; communicating with them, involving them, etc – definitely an area I want to grow more in and I felt like Griffin was giving me some solid direction!

All in all, I think it’s a great resource, definitely worth the $5 cover price (and if you order before the August 8th release, you get a free digital download – that’s how I got mine!), and a great resource to grab for your whole team as we roll into the new school year!

Praise Habit

30 Jul
July 30, 2009

David Crowder's Praise HabitI finally read David Crowder’s ‘Praise Habit,’ a book on worship.  His basic premise of the book was in expressing the ability and need to be worshipping in all that we do, not just Sunday mornings or during the songs we sing.  Much more of a holistic worship mentality.  The concept itself isn’t anything new, but it doesn’t make it any less relevant or important.

What makes this a great book compared to others on the topic is Crowder’s quirky writing style.  If you’ve ever seen him in concert or speaking, you know what I mean when I say that his voice comes through loud and clear on this book – the man knows how to capture himself on paper!  I loved his stories, metaphors, illustrations and memories all weaving in and out of what it means to put on a habit of praise throughout life.  A large section of the book is him expounding on some of his favorite Psalms and the worship that is in them – I looked at scripture passages in ways that I have never done before!

All in all, it’s a great book.  Easy and fun to read with a lot of thought provoking challenges and ideas.

Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community

29 Jul
July 29, 2009

Love is an OrientationLove Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation With the Gay Community, the new book by Andrew Marin is probably the best thing out there that I’ve read on the relationship between the church and the gay community.  Absolutely fantastic book and a must read for any Christian!

I loved his emphasis on opening and sustaining dialogue – as opposed to the tendency usually seen to fight and set up battlefields.  What was so fascinating to me was the Biblical case for a loving discourse, without setting aside scripture or in some way compromising.  By elevating the conversation, he refers to actually having a conversation instead of the arguements and lines in the sand that normally seem to happen.  As I read what Marin wrote, I found myself over and over thinking this is what I’ve been looking for.  There is absolutely something broken in how the church as a whole in the United States has responded to and interacted with the gay community.  My frustration has always been that I am fairly conservative theologically, but even in that feel that the application of that theology has been misguided and directed wrong.  I feel as though we’ve had our priorities all wrong.  Is God more interested in making America a sinless haven or is His biggest priority the heart and lives of all His children?

But I digress!  The book is incredible.  Absolutely a must read, if for no other reason than to challenge your thinking.  This ‘issue’ isn’t going away and as a church we need to stop just reacting, demonizing those who don’t agree with ‘us’, and begin to seriously consider how Jesus would walk our communities and the responses that would come from Him.

Prepare Go Live mission trip pack

18 May
May 18, 2009

Simply Youth Ministry and LeaderTreks have teamed up to create a new short term missions resource, Prepare Go Live!  I’m very interested in it for a couple reasons; I’m a huge SYM fan – their stuff is always high quality, and I’ve bought and used mission trip resources from LeaderTreks in the past and have been consistently impressed.  They really know how to take the spiritual development side of the mission trip to the next level!

What’s interesting about this kit to me is the real emphasis on the follow up; there is a journal for preparing spiritually for the trip, a journal for the trip itself, and then a follow up journal for after the trip – which in many ways to me is the most important one of all!  If there’s no continuing application, it’s very easy for the students to forget to apply what they’ve experienced and learn to their every day life!

There’s a ton of resources included in the kit, but the thing that jumps out at me the most is the cd-rom.  It’s packed with resources, including the PDFs for each of the three journals and permission to reproduce the heck out of ’em.  So you have the option to buy the journals, or save some money and print them yourself – I love that Simply Youth Ministry consistently does that!  Anyway, read on for the ‘official’ product description or find it here:

Few things will bring the gospel to life for your students like heading out onto the mission field. Spending a day, weekend, or longer in service to God, for his love, and with people in need brings the calling of Christ vividly into focus. With this easy to implement 3-part missions trip curriculum, you’ll get everything you need to get your students ready (Prepare), devotions for the trip (Go), and follow-up materials (Live) to make their experience part of an ongoing, godly lifestyle. And what good would we be if we didn’t include helpful stuff for leaders to make the whole trip more fun for everyone? No good at all, so we’ve given you plenty.

1 Leader Guide with CD-ROM

5 Prepare Student Journals

  • Mission Includes Me
  • Mission is about the Kingdom
  • Mission is about the Team
  • Mission Never Ends

5 Go Student Journals: Study on the Book of James

  • Pushup Perseverance
  • Workouts Aren’t for Whiners
  • Discernment Dash
  • Tongue Crunches
  • Pushing to the Peak
  • Pushing to the End

5 Live Student Journals

  • The Journey Home
  • New Directions
  • Connected to a Cause
  • Life on a Mission

Files on the CD-ROM include:

  • Desktop Backgrounds
  • Slide Backgrounds
  • Ecards
  • Sticker Designs
  • Editable Letters
  • Editable Postcards
  • Promotional Materials
  • GO Luggage Tags
  • PDFs of the Leader Guide & all 3 Student Journals

Guy Talk Girl Talk

18 Apr
April 18, 2009

I just grabbed Simply Youth Ministry’s Guy Talk Girl Talk small group resource and I’m pretty excited about it.  Basically, it’s a ten week small group resource for middle school, high school or college age kids.  I got it for our high school groups; I’m trying to put together all my small group lessons for next school year to add a little more structure and consistency to our small group program as well as give the leaders a little more direction and a better idea of what I’m expecting. 

There are a few reasons why I’m loving this particular resource.  First, it actually has twenty lessons in it; ten written specifically for guys and ten written specifically for girls.  They’re really relevant, and have some great content and discussion launchers.  Here’s what I love even more; I only have to buy one copy.  The book comes with a cd-rom that has EVERYTHING on it.  Everything.  All of the lessons, journals for the teens, leader guides, promo stuff like posters, postcards and signs, and it’s all in PDF form (looks pretty!) or in editable doc form if we want to make some changes.  Even the PDFs come in two different versions; one that is exactly the same as the book right down to the dimensions, and one that has been converted to fit on regular sized paper.  It comes with permission to edit, adapt, and reproduce to your heart’s content, which I LOVE.

REFUEL by Doug Fields

15 Apr
April 15, 2009

REFUEL by Doug Fields

I just finished reading Doug Fields’ latest book, ‘Refuel.’  It’s a short book – only a little over a hundred pages long, but I think that’s part of what is so great about it.  In it he speaks about the need to refuel, to recharge spiritually, and his contention is that it doesn’t have to be these elaborate systems and routines that just add more guilt and pressure to our lives.  Instead, he contends that the answer is to simply stop, be quiet and make a connection (with God).  In other words, throughout the day take moments here and there where you stop, settle your mind and take some time to connect with God.  It could be a few seconds, minutes, or more, but the point is that it is simple.

He writes that we tend to overpack our lives with busyness and noise, whether noise in the car, at work, at home, the television, or noise inwardly, like worry, distraction, unrealistic expectations, etc.  It definitely hit me where I’m at.  And this is where I think the length and simplicity of the book are so great – people with overpacked lives, with too much noise, don’t need a massive book on how to not be busy – that just adds to the busyness.  I love that he writes about connecting with God throughout the day in small doses to refuel our spiritual tanks.  It makes sense that as that happens more and more often, it becomes easier to connect with God in greater doses, or to see more balance in life.

Ultimately, this is a book for those feeling some spiritual emptyness or beating themselves up for not being the Christian giants they feel they should be.  It’s a GREAT book, worth the read, and I can’t wait to get the teaching series once it’s released down the road (it must be on the horizon – they’re doing it at Saddleback now!).  Definitely worth getting – I absolutely recommend it!

Reflex (Jumper's sequel)

28 Feb
February 28, 2009

reflexI just finished reading Steven Gould’s ‘Reflex,’ the sequel to his book ‘Jumper’ (which inspired the movie).  Here’s where I’m at; I liked the ideas behind the movie but was disappointed with how it was done.  Learned it was based on a book, so I read it and loved it.  The other week I finally grabbed a copy of his follow up book with some hopes that I would enjoy it, but not really expecting a whole lot.  I was pleasantly surprised.  :)  Within the first few pages, the main character’s wife discovers that she also has the ability to jump, which I thought might be hoakie, but ended up being really cool.  I also like that Gould was able to further explore the jumping ability, add some new aspects to it, and generally expand on it in some significant ways without being cheesy (an example of horrific cheesiness would be Lucas’ attempt to explain the force in Episode I of Star Wars with the use of mitichlorins – massive fail).  I guess the best sign that I enjoyed the book was that it only took me a few days to finish!  Great stuff!

Now I need to grab a copy of ‘Griffin’s Story,’ his follow up book to the movie …

Star Wars Invincible

26 Feb
February 26, 2009

I finally finished book nine, the final book in the Star Wars: Legacy of the Force series.  Here’s the deal; I think the series was about three books too long.  It just felt at times like they were dragging it out, but this final chapter was definitely worth the read.  It was pretty much nonstop action, with Jaina Solo on the hunt for Jacen Solo, her twin brother gone evil, the whole book.  For the uninitiated, Jaina and Jacen are the twin children of Han and Leia Solo. 

What I liked so much with this last book, as opposed to a bunch of the books in the middle of the series, was that the pacing was fast, focused and riveting.  The writing was great, and I kept thinking as these two twins duked it out that I would LOVE to see this in film.  Their lightsaber battles and force duels would be amazing … and probably very difficult to actually film.

Anyway, there you go.  At long last, after a couple years of picking at the Legacy of the Force series, I am finally finished.  I’m sure you’re all very, very impressed.  😉

Rock Solid Faith

11 Feb
February 11, 2009

Barry Shafer and Youth Specialties have put together a great inductive study of 2 Timothy in this book, ‘Rock Solid Faith.’  It’s a ten session study series with everything you need in the book.  What’s unique about it is that it literally contains six different versions of each study; a middle school outline, two high school outlines, a college age outline, coffee house outline and a talk outline.  Not only that, it comes with a cd-rom that has everything in the book on it, so you only need one copy for your whole ministry – unlike most Bible study and small group resources out there that want you to buy a copy for each person.  I love it when companies make it easy, and legal, for youth workers to reproduce their materials – it really shows that they get the realities of ministry needs.

Barry Shafer has a great writing style, the studies are full of creative ideas, solid discussion and study material, and it’s a well put together study of 2nd Timothy.  Definitely worth the cover price!  You can learn more about it here.

Sacred Space

06 Feb
February 6, 2009

Dan Kimball and Lilly Lewin have teamed up to create ‘Sacred Space,’ a great resource for creating multisensory worship experiences for student ministry!   The book opens with a few short chapters on why creative prayer and worship activities are important and valuable, and some of the practicalities behind getting started and making it happen.  The rest of the book is a collection of great ideas with detailed descriptions on what’s needed, how to set up, and how to lead students through the various sacred spaces.  Even more than the book itself, I loved that it comes with a cd-rom loaded with all of the printouts for signs, handouts and more for all of the different worship ideas, as well as hundreds of photos of these different prayer stations in action.  Personally, I love the photos because it was such a great help to have something to not only give me a visual reference to understand what was being described, but it also gives me the ability to print them out and use them as kind of road maps for setting up.    So to sum up, it’s well written, very practical, full of great ideas and definitely worth checking out!