Archive for category: Books (Page 2)

Thoughts on writing

25 Sep
September 25, 2012

I love to write. I’ve written dozens of articles, had a column, contributed to two books, and blogged somewhat regularly for years. Even as child I would compose stories. As a teenager I kept a journal and was known for my short stories. In college I wrote scripts that were always well received. I am a writer.

My lifelong dream? To have a book of my own.

Which is probably why I always put it off. Dreams are sometimes easier unachieved. Not because it’s enjoyable, but because it’s safe. Without risking, the safety of never knowing failure is there.

Which explains why it has been somewhat challenging to finally start penning my first book. Is it inaccurate to say penning? Technically there are no pens involved … gotta love the digital age.

Either way, it’s finally starting to flow. I spent a couple days psyching myself out, having writer’s block before I even started. Which is amusing because it’s based on material I’ve already written, just finally being collected, rewritten, and connected in a way I’ve intended to do for a long time.

Anyway, I’m excited about it and looking forward to sharing it with everyone in the months to come. The goal is to have the manuscript completed in the next few weeks in time for a spring release.

College Ministry From Scratch (review)

17 Aug
August 17, 2012

While on vacation I checked out Chuck Bomar’s book ‘College Ministry From Scratch: A Practical Guide to Start and Sustain a Successful College Ministry.’ If you’re not familiar with Bomar, he’s kind of the college ministry expert in the ministry world at the moment.

I actually liked the book for several reasons:

  • It’s not intimidating. It’s not short, but it’s definitely not as long as his ‘College Ministry 101‘ book. In other words, I can see myself handing this to volunteers and seeing them use it.
  • I love that the first half of the book really condenses a lot of his teachings from College Ministry 101. It gives a great overview of the basics of college ministry, the vision and heart behind it, and the urgency/importance of it.
  • The second half was incredibly practical with a lot of step by step guides walking the reader through various pieces of college ministry.

Whether you’re a veteran college ministry leader or a rookie, this really was an all around valuable book to have. We’re currently in the midst of some leadership transition in our college ministry at Brandywine Valley Baptist Church and at this point I’m planning on getting a bunch of copies to give to leaders to help equip them going forward, as well as get us all on the same page.

So, to sum up: Fantastic book. Easy to read. Great balance of big picture purpose stuff as well as hands on practical ideas and tools.

Sustainable Youth Ministry

16 Aug
August 16, 2012

Sustainable Youth Ministry, by Mark DeVries has had the most significant impact on me as a youth pastor since I read Purpose Driven Youth Ministry by Doug Fields thirteen years ago.

Over the last year and a half I have read through it twice; the first time simply to check it out. By the end of it I knew there was more to take and away and apply from it then I could possibly remember on my own. I grabbed the Kindle version and reread it, highlighting my way through and using the Kindle print function to end up with about 14 pages of highlights and notes, as well as a two page checklist of how I’m going to apply the principles in the book to the youth ministry I’ve been called to.

Basically, DeVries gives the administrative and foundational tools needed to set up a youth ministry structure designed for longevity and sustainability. I love that he acknowledges from the outset that most youth pastors, by virtue of the gifting necessary to connect with teens and families tend to not be wired in ways needed to manage the significant and often times unexpected administrative side to student ministry. Because of that, he approaches it in a very easy to understand style, walking the reader step by step through recruiting, training volunteers, building teams, delegating, setting up a structure that enables growth and longevity independent of the personalities. He teaches the reader how to create key documents, vision statements, how to set goals and revisit those goals. He also gives valuable insight on the budgeting process, staffing needs and ratios to students, and more.

To be honest, it was a lot of the critical tools and lessons I needed to be able to speak the language of the professionals that fill my church.

All that to say, I’ve been setting into motion a lot of the lessons I’ve learned. I’ve been in conversation with my senior pastor about it as I’ve been developing goals and he’s excited about the directions we’re headed in as well. In short:

  • We’re restructuring our volunteer teams in a way that will better prepare us for growth and help us do what we’re currently doing better
  • We’ve been finalizing work on various control documents (job descriptions for volunteers, vision statements, covenants, org charts, seven year teaching plans, etc)
  • Setting realistic and specific goals for this year, the next three years and the next five years

A lot of what is being applied is below the surface and not necessarily immediately noticeable. But the long term effect should be profound and I’m excited about it. One of the advantages of having my senior pastor on board is the prospect of bringing Mark DeVries organization, Youth Ministry Architects, out here in the next couple years to do a comprehensive evaluation of our progress and give us direction on how we can continue to become a sustainable youth ministry. He likes the goals and the value of what we’re pursuing, and voicing the intent for an evaluation now helps prepare the budget needs for it to happen down the road.

All that to say, if you’re in youth ministry and you haven’t read Sustainable Youth Ministry yet, it’s a must.

Free Christian books for Kindle

11 Jun
June 11, 2012

For a limited time, the following Christian books are free for Kindle …

Should Christians Be Environmentalists? By Dan Story. Did God instruct the human race to be His caretakers over nature? If so, is environmental exploitation disobedience to God? Is it true, as many critics claim, that Christianity is the root cause of today’s environmental problems—or are all religions and cultures responsible? How should the church respond? Should Christians Be Environmentalists? systematically tackles these tough questions and more by exploring what the Bible says about the environment and our stewardship of creation. Looking at three dimensions of environmentalism as a movement, a Bible-based theology of nature, and the role the church has in environmental ethics, Dan Story examines each through a theological, apologetic, and practical lens.

True Courage: Emboldened by God in a Disheartening World (Bold Man of God) by Steve Farrar. Steve Farrar reminds us through the story of Daniel that true courage can be ours daily and it comes from the one true Sovereign God. Everyone can recall as a young child having the courage to head out the door—whether it was to your first day of school, your first game in little league, or your piano lesson. Then life takes over and you lose your bravado, giving in to the fears of the world around you. In True Courage readers will discover a God who provides incredible courage to us in the midst of uncertainty, even through treacherous, evil days, and the courage to face lions in their den—or an unexpected job loss, the diagnosis of a sick child, or the return of a debilitating cancer.

Better Dads, Stronger Sons: How Fathers Can Guide Boys to Become Men of Character by Rick Johnson. The relationship between a father and a son is like none other. Dads have a God-given role to protect and provide for their families, always striving to teach their sons the life skills they’ll need to grow into honorable men. But many dads struggle with feelings of inadequacy regarding their fathering abilities. They want to be better dads. Rick Johnson can show them how. In this insightful and practical book, Johnson shows how fathers can be equipped and inspired to be positive role models for their sons. He stresses the significance of male bonding, discipline, and spiritual leadership; discusses important topics such as sexual purity, respect, and self-discipline; and reveals the top ten mistakes to avoid as a father. From commitment and courage to honesty and humility, Better Dads, Stronger Sons helps men strive to be the dads God designed them to be–so their sons can grow to be everything they are meant to be.

A Beautiful Mess | Mark Oestricher

10 May
May 10, 2012

I finished reading Mark Oestricher’s new book, ‘A Beautiful Mess,’ this afternoon. It’s not huge, so it really only took an hour or so to read, but I really love it. In a lot of ways, it felt like a natural progression from his book ‘Youth Ministry 3.0’, which I also love.

I found myself highlighting my way through the book, saving quotes to use for later.

I appreciated his affirmation of smaller, under resourced church youth groups. I agree with his observation that too many fall into the trap of thinking a showy program with expensive toys is somehow better. The reality is – we’ll never be able to compete with the glitzy stuff the rest of the world is putting together. It will always be cooler, hipper, and more incredibly cool to young people than what we can pull off, no matter the budget. Relationships truly are where it’s at. Being those loving adults in a young person’s life that they hunger for.

I think one of the strengths of the book, as opposed to so many books that identify the problems in youth ministry and come up with fixes, Oesstricher instead focuses on what he sees working throughout the country. It’s simple. It’s solid. And it’s affirming, both to the calling of youth ministry and that there are great things happening all over the place whether we realize it or not.

One quote that I am grabbing and using in my youth leader training was this:

Let me be clear about the thre three things that are necessary for great youth ministry:

  • You like teenagers.
  • You are a growing follower of Jesus.
  • You are willing to live honestly in the presence of those teenagers you like.

I love it. It sums it all up so eloquently and simply. It’s easy to remember, easy to pass on, and opens the door to a lot of great training conversations. You can find the book in both digital and physical formats here; and for a limited time, the digital versions are FREE. Grab it!

Free Kindle youth ministry books!

23 Apr
April 23, 2012

Stumbled across a couple cool free books for Kindle today; not sure how long the special will last so grab ’em quick.

Living with Questions, by Dale Fincher. It’s actually part of Youth Specialties Invert line of books, written for Christian teens on apologetics. It’s a great book and helps equip teens with answers and how to wrestle with questions. GET IT.

Commentary on Mark, by Robert Gundry. It’s a great resource; a verse by verse commentary on the gospel of Mark. Definitely worth grabbing.

Hunger Games | Back to the Future

07 Apr
April 7, 2012

When I was a freshman in high school the second Back to the Future movie hit theaters. I was beyond excited. I loved (and still do) the original film, and was PUMPED about the back to back sequels they had filmed – yes, decades before the Matrix sequels and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Back to the Future filmed parts two and three simultaneously and then released them six months apart. It was going to be epic.

Then my youth pastor ruined everything.

My dad was the associate pastor at the same church, and the two of them were friends. Anyway, Mark (my youth pastor) went to see Back to the Future II with one of the upper classmen and ended up walking out of the theater he was so offended by it. It was rated PG, but apparently deserved way worse according to him. He was furious over how ‘filthy’ it was. He railed to my dad about how it was ‘straight out of the pit of hell.’ The language, the sexual content, the violence. It was a raunchy, trashy, horrible film that would corrupt anyone who saw it.

So I wasn’t allowed to go.

Eventually I managed to see it, and I remember thinking something along the lines of, ‘it’s definitely worse than the first one, but it isn’t THAT bad.’ It just felt like he was making such a big deal over nothing. And besides, a few months later, we were all excited about something else anyway.

That memory is pretty much what has kept me biting my tongue as much as I can over the Hunger Games movie. I find the book and the film deeply concerning. Which is odd because I love stories in that futuristic end of the world scenario; if I can put my finger on it, I think it’s because unlike ‘The Book of Eli,’ ‘Mad Max,’ and other such stories, the Hunger Games was written for kids (in fact, they’ve been surprised by the adult following – they didn’t expect it). A decade ago people were shocked and concerned when J.K. Rowling killed a kid off for the first time in a Harry Potter book. Her body count increased with each book after that, but it doesn’t compare with the level of graphic violence contained in the Hunger Games trilogy – and it dramatically increases with each book. Should this be entertainment for kids?

The disconnect with our young people is who they identify with in the series; Katniss, Peeta, the victims of the over indulgent, wealthy, reality tv addicted dominant culture. Let’s be real. That’s not who our culture and our young people are – we are the villains in this series, but we’re blind to that. The rest of the world is starving while we feast on their labors. There is a strange disconnect where our young people lead a movement to punish Kony for forcing children to be soldiers while entertaining themselves with a story about forced child warfare. ‘It’s just fiction, McNutt. That’s the difference.’ But it doesn’t feel much different than the Roman Colosseum. Two thousand years ago society was entertained by people fighting to the death; today we do the same but with movies and TV. Does it matter if it’s ‘fake’? We celebrate the realism we can achieve and we love seeing it.

But when I say anything, I see the same expression looking back at me that I gave my old youth pastor. It feels like a wasted effort to point out concerns with series. And really, did all the freaking out over Harry Potter do any good years ago? It turns out we didn’t produce a generation of witches and wizards in spite of all the time spent on those books. The bigger goal is challenging young people to ask tough questions about the books and media they are consuming. To actually think about the messages, content, and where it fits (or doesn’t fit) with their faith. They have to learn to see that everything impacts their spiritual life, that there is not some sort of disconnect between Sunday morning at church and Friday night at the movie theater.

FREE Francis Chan books for Kindle!

06 Apr
April 6, 2012

For just 48 hours (ends Saturday at midnight), three of Francis Chan’s hit books are available for free for Kindle! Kind of an amazing deal considering all three books are best sellers and still strong today. Anyway, you can find them here:

Anyone know of any other free book deals I should check out?

Traveling through Narnia

26 Mar
March 26, 2012

Part of our night time routine (on nights I’m home at bed time) is once the boys are all in bed I read to them. We’ve mostly been working our way through C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, with a detour to Alice in Wonderland the other month. We average a few nights a week, which means it typically takes about a month to work through a novel.

Tonight we finished The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (in the correct ordering of the Narnia books, it’s the third one). So far it has been the most enjoyable to read, mostly because the boys have been so into it. They’re talking about it, gasps of shock at discoveries, completely into it. Definitely a lot of fun. I think part of it was simply that every chapter or two the characters were on to a completely different adventure – definitely a great story telling decision on Lewis’ part.

One of the interesting things in this one was the silence of Aslan. He was invisible most of the book, and even when he did encounter characters, it was usually one at a time and we would ‘hear’ about it after the fact. The boys were pumped every time he was mentioned, and it was cool seeing them making a lot of the connections between our faith in God and the connections Lewis made in his story. Partially it was more blatant in this book, but they’re also being more intentional in looking for it. I like that they are learning to search for meaning in their entertainment – everything has a message, and we should always be aware of the message we are being given in whatever it is we are watching, listening to, or engaging in.

All that to say, I think it’s safe to safe we’re all excited to begin The Silver Chair and discover how Eustace returns to Narnia.

The Confession Booth

05 Jan
January 5, 2012

Andrew Marin, of the Marin Foundation, has created a new DVD small group study resource called ‘Love is an Orientation‘, based on the book he wrote of the same name. It’s a great new resource exploring the topic of how can the church and Christians build bridges to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community – as opposed to what has gone on. I’m still working my way through the DVD, so that review will come eventually.

I have a lot of respect for Andrew’s work. His writing and speaking has forced me to think through a lot of my views, opinions, and guided me to something healthier and more Christ-like I think. I do have to confess, though, one of the things his organization has done for several years now that has pushed my comfort level has been the ‘I’m Sorry’ campaign. Basically, every year they show up at the gay pride parade in Chicago with t-shirts and signs apologizing for how the church has treated the LGBT community. On the one hand it is a beautiful act. On the other hand, there’s a part of me that has struggled with whether or not it was appropriate, and if it even goes too far in the direction of appearing to agree with all that is being communicated during the parade. As though apologizing communicates some sort of agreement. I’m not entirely sure where my discomfort came from, only that I knew it was vaguely present somehow.

I’m working my way through the DVD which has all of the above fresh on my mind. At the same time, I’m rereading my way through Donald Miller’s ‘Blue Like Jazz’ book in preparation for the upcoming April 13th release of the movie based on it. One of my favorite parts of the book has always been the confession booth; I loved it when I first read the book, it’s an amazing scene in the movie, and it communicates a beautiful attitude that should be present in the church. Basically, he and his friends set up a confession booth in the middle of a weekend of crazy drunken, drug induced, sexual frenzy of a party weekend at a college that hated Christians, and when party goers entered the booth expecting to be asked to confess their sins, Miller and his friends instead apologized for all the ways that Christians in general, and they specifically, have misrepresented Christ. Amazing. The quote that really jumped out at me last night was this:

For so much of my life I had been defending Christianity because I thought to admit that we had done any wrong was to discredit the religious system as a whole, but it isn’t a religious system, it is people following Christ; and the important thing to do, the right thing to do, was to apologize for getting in the way of Jesus.

What was great about it was that I when I read it, I totally agreed with in the context of what Miller and his friends did. It was beautiful. Loving. And the right thing to do – our responsibility isn’t to ‘fix’ the ones we disagree with, it’s simply to acknowledge where we’ve been wrong and to communicate the love of a God who cares more about restoring a relationship between Himself and His lost children then any of the other issues we get worked up about. And for me that was the moment that the ‘I’m sorry’ campaign finally became something I’m no longer vaguely uncomfortable with.