Archive for category: Books (Page 3)

My Kindle lasted 48 hours

29 Dec
December 29, 2011

I got a Kindle for Christmas (technically, I got gift cards for Christmas that I then used on a Kindle). This was, of course, very exciting for several reasons. One, I’m a nerd. Two, I like to read. And three, I’ve been wanting to get one for a while now for ministry related books – they’re a lot cheaper in digital form.

Yes, I like reading fiction as well, and have really enjoyed ripping through books on my Kindle app on my iPhone, but some how it doesn’t work as well for me when it’s books of substance.

Anyway, all that to say that I have been loving my Kindle. I’m reading through Blue Like Jazz at the moment – previewing the film ahead of it’s April’s release date reawakened my interest in it (it’s been a long time since I read it). I wanted to remember it all before the film comes out – I’d like to go with a group and be ready to discuss it all after.

But back to my subject line: my Kindle lasted 48 hours.

Micah discovered it. He started reading The Wizard of Oz and couldn’t put it down.

This is both tragic and awesome all at once. I loved the Oz series when I was his age; Frank L. Baum wrote 14 books in the series a hundred years ago. Literally a hundred years ago – I wasn’t just saying that. After he died other authors continued the series with a bunch more books. All of which I started reading when I was ten. It took me a couple years to rip through all of them (and then I read them all again). So it was fun to see him being captivated by the story – and he was even more excited to find out there was a ton more books (and I was excited to find out they’re all free on Kindle). So what’s the tragic part?

I had my Kindle to myself for 48 hours. And now Micah loves it. And I can’t discourage him from reading, right?

Francis Chan on diversity in churches

04 Aug
August 4, 2011

I just read this on page 120 of Francis Chan’s new book, ‘Erasing Hell.’ It really jumped out at me because I do think it is one of the major flaws in the present day church.

Why is it that only 5.5 percent of American evangelical churches could be considered multiethnic (where no single ethnicity makes up more than 80 percent of its congregants)? Why is that? Five and a half percent! And we’re supposed to be living in the melting pot, the place where hundreds of languages and colors often live within a few miles – or feet – of each other. What’s so sad about this is that many people outside the church are far less racially divided. Consider the military, our places of work, or athletics. Yet there are three places where racial division still persists: bars, prisons, and the American evangelical church.


He’s right on, and it’s something I’ve been struggling with for years – but especially now that I’m in a larger church that has a larger staff than most churches in America (the vast majority of churches are small enough to only hire one pastor, possibly two). We have the ability to have our pastoral staff reflect the diversity of the world around us – and I think it would be incredibly empowering for the young people growing up in our body to be surrounded by.

One of my regrets in my earlier years of ministry is that I graduated a lot of guys that headed off to ministry … but almost no girls. My assumption is that a part of that is they grew up in churches where only men could be full time, paid ministry leaders, so it just never occurred to them as a possibility. For me, I see a lot of parallels when it comes to diversity.

Anyway, just a few thoughts rattling around in my brain while I’m reading at the beach!

Almost Christian

18 Feb
February 18, 2011

I finished reading Kenda Creasy Dean’s book, ‘Almost Christian,’ the other day … and wow.  The book is an absolute must read for parents, youth workers, church leaders in general.  It is astounding.  Basically, it’s based on the results of the National Study of Youth and Religion, a study in which they spent years interviewing thousands of teens, their parents, their youth workers, churches, going back for follow up interviews and checkins, going back some more, and so on.  Basically, what they ended up with was a time lapse picture of young people’s faith development and found some startling results.  It was a massive study.  There were five key findings in the study:

  • Most American teenagers have a positive view of religion but otherwise don’t give it much thought
  • Most U.S. teenagers mirror their parents’ religious faith
  • Teenagers lack a theological language with which to express their faith or interpret their experience of the world
  • A minority of American teenagers – but a significant minority – say religious faith is important, and that it makes a difference in their lives.  These teenagers are doing better in life on a number of scales, compared to their less religious peers
  • Many teenagers enact and espouse a religious outlook that is distinct from traditional teachings of most world religious – an outlook called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

For me, there was a lot of key information in the pages of the book.  I found particularly interesting the common elements found in the small minority of young people with strong, committed faith.  They were:

  • Attends religious services weekly or more
  • Currently involved in a religious youth group
  • Prays a few times a week or more
  • Reads scripture once or twice a week or more

Those first two are why for years I’ve told parents they need to make their child attending a worship service a priority!  I firmly believe we make a huge investment in a child’s future faith when we bring them to a worship service (the vast majority of college age students that do plug in to churches have one thing in common – they attended their home church’s worship service as a teen).  And we make a huge investment in a teen’s current faith when we prioritize youth group with age specific topics and needs.  It’s a powerful combo.  And there’s no replacement for actual regular presence – just being at the church building is not enough.  Service in other areas should be in addition to those core components!

I actually ended up highlighting quotes throughout the book – something I never do.  There was just so much and I wanted to make sure I remembered it all.  Here are just a few that jumped out at me right away:

“Since the religious and spiritual choices of American teenagers echo, with astonishing clarity, the religious and spiritual choices of the adults who love them, lackadaisical faith is not young people’s issue, but ours.”  One of the key findings of the study was that for the most part, young people’s faith reflected their parents faith.  Which does then beg the question, if we see them being ambivalent, what does that tell us about the rest of the church?

“We have successfully convinced teenagers that religious participation is important for moral formation and for making nice people, which may explain why American adolescents harbor no ill will toward religion.”

“We have not invested in their accounts: we ‘teach’ young people baseball, but we ‘expose’ them to faith.  We provide coaching and opportunities for youth to develop and improve their pitches and their SAT scores, but we blithely assume that religious identity will happen by osmosis, emerging ‘when youth are ready’ (a confidence we generally lack when it comes to, say, algebra).”  I love that last bit about algebra.

“We have received from teenagers exactly what we have asked them for: assent, not conviction; compliance, not faith.  Young people invest in religion precisely what they think it is worth – and if they think the church is worthy of benign whatever-ism and no more, then the indictment falls not on them, but on us.”

“Do we practice the kind of faith that we want our children to have?”

Jumper: Griffin’s Story

07 Jan
January 7, 2011

I finally got around to reading Stephen Gould’s ‘Jumper: Griffin’s Story,’ the third book in his Jumper series.  Basically, I watched the movie, ‘Jumper,’ and wasn’t impressed – but when I realized it was based on a book by the same name I read it and LOVED it.  I read the sequel, ‘Reflex,’ and loved it as well (read my review here) but never really rushed to read the third book since it was tied to the movie.

Basically, the movie diverged from the premise of the first two books significantly, and in ways that really hurt the story.  ‘Jumper: Griffin’s Story’ is a prequel to the movie, not a part three to the other two books, so it really has to be approached has having no connection to the other novels.

What was surprising is how well Gould took what seemed like poorly developed ideas and bad story in the movie and made a riveting and intense story starring a secondary character to the film, Griffin!  I really, really enjoyed the book – so much so that I devoured it in two days.  It’s a tragic story and you end up feeling for the main character, but it’s all done so well – his exploration of his jumping abilities (a form of teleportation), the discovery of the Paladin’s and their merciless and deadly pursuit of ‘Jumpers’ and the build up to the movie.  It left me wanting more – there’s definitely more stories to tell in the Jumper universe!

Christian bookstores are disappearing

22 Apr
April 22, 2010

The other day I noticed another Christian bookstore had ‘going out of business’ signs up – it’s the second one for our area to close down in the last half a year or so.  From what I’ve heard, this is going on all over the country.  Of course, Christian bookstores aren’t the only ones disappearing; bookstores across the nation are disappearing with the advent of online shopping and more significantly, digital book readers like the Kindle and iPad, eliminating physical book sales all together.

There’s a part of me that is sad to see these bookstores disappearing.  I think we miss out on something when we don’t have bookstores reminding us to read – just having them as visual reminders influences people.  And of course, as a pastor, I hate seeing Christian bookstores closing up shop – there is pain in that for the owners that started them, usually with a heart for equipping people with tools for following God, not visions of becoming rich.  Those stores are a labor of love.

At the same time, I know it’s part my fault.  Obviously, I wasn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back, but I order resources mostly online.  With free shipping, and places like Amazon significantly underpricing the storefronts, it’s hard for me not to.  Especially when my ministry budget is a fraction of what it was just a year ago!  With so many people making the same decision I did, to value the immediate monetary savings over the long term benefits of Christian bookstores, it was bound to happen.  It makes sense to me, things change and the reality is that people are still getting tools for following God, but there is a part of me that is incredibly sad every time I see another Christian bookstore going out of business.

Must-have Youth Ministry books

10 Mar
March 10, 2010

There are five must have books in student ministry for me – they’re the ones I keep buying in bulk and giving to my team and teens.  Each one of them has value in specific ways that for me are critical for adults and students in our student ministry program to be aware of.  Part of it is my own wiring when it comes to student ministry – I’m definitely a purpose driven model kind of guy, although I’m kind of quiet about it.  I’ve found ways to make it fit our existing ministry statements and goals that I inherited here – although, I have to admit, it was pretty easy to do so since the ministry was already following a similar model.  Anyway, here are the books that I keep buying and encouraging people to read:

Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry, by Doug Fields.  This book is the one stop guide to youth ministry; he covers all the bases, talks about philosophy of student ministry, the how-tos, and great solid advice.  It’s really well written, easy to read and great for twenty year veterans, and rookies on their first day.  I’ve read it multiple times over the years – and am working through it again now.

Emergency Response Handbook for Youth Ministry.  While I have some bigger, more involved books for my own reference, this pocket size edition is a must for volunteers.  It covers various situations and scenarios that can arise in teens’ lives and gives solid advice for how to respond.  Topics covered include grief, depression, suicide, addictions, divorce, abuse, crisis pregnancy, academic problems, family conflict, stress and anxiety, destructive behavior and gender identity and sexual choices.  My favorite thing to hear when a volunteer calls me about a situation they’ve encountered – and if you work with teens, you will encounter these – is them referring to the advice they read in the book and followed.  Awesome.  That’s why I give a copy to every volunteer.

Hope and Healing for kids who cut, by Marv Penner.  I’ve read a lot of books on cutting, self injury, etc., and this one is far and away the best.  Penner knows his stuff and it shows in this well written book.  He has obviously done his research, but has a pastoral side to the book that makes for a perfect combo.  While I don’t give this to every volunteer, I have a pile of copies kicking around because is an issue that is prevalent and leaders love having access to the book.

Help! I’m a Student Leader, by Doug Fields.  This is written for teens that are leaders in the group.  It’s full of leadership advice, tips on being a servant, and full of great training for students who have leadership roles.  We’re currently working our way through it with our Joshua Team, a group of students in 8th-12th grade that serve as student leaders.

The Youthworker Book of Hope, edited by Tim Baker.  Okay, this is just a shameless plug.  I was one of twelve authors that wrote this book!  We each tackled different areas in ministry that we had experienced failure and wrote about what we learned from it and where we found hope.  I might be biased, but I think it’s a great resource for finding encouragement, hope, and motivation to push through difficult times that we all are bound to experience in youth ministry.

Do Hard Things (review)

07 Mar
March 7, 2010

I finished this book a couple weeks ago and have been meaning to blog about it – Darby recommended it to me, and she was absolutely right about how good it is!  ‘Do Hard Things,’ by Alex and Brett Harris, two 18 year old twin brothers, has a GREAT theme: teenagers rebelling against low expectations.  Their contention is that teens are capable of so much more than what they’re given credit for – and what they give themselves credit for.  Using examples of teens who have led movements, political campaigns, conferences, written books, become public speakers, and more, they write powerfully about the incredible potential that young people have!

I love the examples, the stories, and their powerful argument for the ability of teens to do hard things, and the tremendous payoff that it results in.  Personally, as a youth worker I’ve been blown away time and time again by what teens are capable of.  I’ve seen them teach, preach, lead teams, serve on church committees, take on tasks adults would avoid, and demonstrate time and again the potential the Harris brothers write about.  One of the reasons I’ve always loved multi-generation mission teams is that the adults always come back amazed at what the teens accomplish on the team.  Personally, I would absolutely love for adults to read this book and challenge the stereotypes they have about teens … and I would love to see teens read it to be challenged and inspired to rebel against low expectations!  Definitely worth reading!

I love the Kindle app!

21 Jan
January 21, 2010

I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while, but I am seriously loving the Kindle for iPhone app that Amazon put together!  I don’t have an iPhone, but I do have the iPod Touch which it also works on.  I downloaded it because it was free and then I grabbed a few free books (there are a couple free Star Wars books on there!).  I was honestly shocked to find that I enjoy reading on my iPod almost as much as holding a book!  When I’m at my desk or on the couch, I still prefer an actual book, but being able to carry around a library in my pocket rocks when I’m waiting to meet up with someone, sitting at the doctor’s, travelling, or whatever else.  It’s actually cheaper buying digital books vs physical, too, which is a plus.  What I really love is that I’m able to read youth ministry resources on the go, grabbing a few minutes here and there.

Anyone else out there using the app?  What do you think about digital books in general?  I never would have thought that I’d be into them!

The $5 Youth Ministry

18 Dec
December 18, 2009

I’ve been reading through Todd Outcalt’s new book, The $5 Youth Ministry.  And yes, I’ve heard all the jokes about the book costing more than the title ($9.99), but for all the ideas in it, it’s a GREAT deal.  I like his style in how he laid the book out; it’s almost 200 pages of idea after idea, all costing around $5 to pull off, and everyone of them is categorized in several different ways making it very easy to track down specific types of ideas.  The categories Outcalt uses are: Activities, Camp/Retreat, Food, Games, Ice Breakers, Mission/Outreach, Support (fundraising), Teaching, and Worship.  The categories are all indexed at the beginning of the book, making it easy to skim through and track down your specific needs, which I liked.


There are countless similar resources out there; my shelf is full of different books packed with student ministry ideas.  What separates this one from the rest is that every idea in it is low cost, or even free.  I like that I don’t find myself worrying about how much of a hit my budget will take if I use one of his ice breakers or games.  The book is easy to navigate, well written, with a ton of solid ideas.  Over the last year my student ministry budget has taken a significant hit, making this a very timely resource worth grabbing.

Family updates!

04 Nov
November 4, 2009

Life has been out of control lately!  Here are some random updates and thoughts in no particular order …

  • Micah, our oldest turned eight on Sunday (see above video).  Seriously?  Where did those eight years go???  It’s terrifying to think he’s half way there to having a driver’s license.  Not cool.
  • The flu stinks.  It’s pretty much ripped through our kids.  In theory, we might be on the tail end; first Micah had it, then Caleb and Zachary had it, and now Noah has it.  It’s possible that Heather had it too at one point – my brain is hazy on it.  The count is just getting too high.  It certainly would have been easier if they all got it at once.  The dreams of a tired parent!
  • Facebook needs to add view counts to their videos.  I would upload all my videos to them instead of youtube or blip, but there’s no way to track if anyone is watching them!  Unless there actually is, and I just haven’t noticed it yet.
  • Heather and I celebrated our ninth anniversary yesterday.  It’s pretty amazing to think it’s been a solid decade since we started dating, and thirteen years since we met!  I think we both would have laughed at the thought nine years ago that today we’d have four sons and I’d be working at the church across the street from the restaurant I waited tables at when we were first married (Macaroni Grill)!  It’s strange and fun to see the unexpected turns life takes!
  • I’m reading the third book in the Twilight series.  I’m not proud of it, I’m just being honest.  In my defense, there is a lot more action in the second and third book than the first one.  I do have to wonder about this bizarre girl, though, that is in love with a vampire, best friends with a werewolf, and s immune to all their special powers.  Weird.
  • If I was a werewolf, I think I would have fur the color of my hair.  And since I’m already really tall, I think I would end up around seven feet tall.  And my eyes would stay blue.  I’m just saying.
  • In closing, here’s some shots of Micah and Caleb at our church’s fall festival!  It was also the kick off of a new ministry we’re starting up on a regular basis in January called Family Fusion.