#GoingSocial by Terrace Crawford

I just finished reading Terrace Crawford’s new book on using social media in ministry, #GoingSocial. It’s a great book, and while it’s just under 200 pages, it’s a quick read – I did it in one sitting.

Crawford does a great job of introducing the concept of using social media for ministry, the value in doing so, and the cultural relevance. He also does a great job of tackling some of the concerns people have that hold them back. The book is ideal for people with little to no social media experience or knowledge, as he carefully walks people through how to start using the major social media outlets out there.

He also gives some great practical advice on how to take advantage of the many outlets out there; blogging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. I actually found myself putting down the book as I was reading it to make some immediate changes to some of the social media outlets our student ministry uses, and then jumping back into the book.

I liked his writing style; easy to read, good pacing, informative but written in a way that those inexperienced wouldn’t be intimidated. At the same time, as someone who has been using all of those tools for years, I still felt like there was some solid advice and direction for me to act on as well. I came away from it feeling good about how we’ve been using Facebook for our student ministry and Twitter, but with a lot of great thoughts on how I could be more effective with YouTube – I’m definitely missing some opportunities there.

All in all, #GoingSocial is a must have for church leaders. It’s a great book, and one that I will be passing on to the other leaders in my church to take a look at. You can find it at the best price here.

Skype + mission trip = essential

My latest must have youth ministry mission trip tool? The Skype app for iPhone (available on other smart phones as well)! I thought I would try it out while leading the mission trip to Jamaica – it surpassed my expectations.

A lot of people assume Skype is only for computer to computer communication; that’s only one part of the Skype magic. You can also use Skype to call a land line or cell phone number from your computer, or through the app and a wifi connection.

So that’s what we did. Instead of paying $2.19 a minute for students to call home and check in with their parents, we paid 2.4 cents per minute and used the Skype app on my iPhone. It was great because it didn’t feel any different than making a typical cell phone call, the reception was clear, and I didn’t sweat the cost if someone spent a while talking to their parents.

The one downside is that it showed up as an unidentified number or as blocked on people’s caller id’s, but usually they picked up the second time their child dialed.

All in all, it’s a must for short term mission trips. Phenomenal cost savings, great tool, and works really great.

On a side note, with all the power packed into an iPhone (and I only have the 3GS), I can totally travel without my laptop now. I even have a portable bluetooth keyboard for typing longer emails on, etc. And using apps like Dropbox enables me to have access to everything I’m working on anywhere. Definitely making travel and leading on the go easier!

Movie Roundup

 None of them are worth their own blog post, but here are some of the movies I’ve been watching and what I think …

  • John Carter: yup, it’s already on DVD. The colossal flop of the year. Mostly due to poor marketing decisions. The movie itself was a fun version of a classic book. I enjoyed it.
  • Journey 2 – The Mysterious Island: fun sequel to the Brendan Frasier original. They replaced him with The Rock. My sons loved it and won’t stop telling each other to ‘pop your pecs.’ This is, of course, hilarious to me.
  • Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol: being a big fan of Mission Impossible movies, I totally enjoyed it. Nothing overly new about it, but still good.
  • Chronicle: another ‘found footage’ film about some teens getting super powers. It was unique, I liked it, and am looking forward to the sequel.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks – Chipwrecked: better than the second Chipmunk film. My kids LOVED it, and I haven’t minded it the first few times I’ve seen it.
  • The Muppets: stinkin’ hilarious. You have to see it. I want an eighties robot.
  • Tower Heist: a lot of fun. Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, a bunch of other comedians. Not a new story of any sort, but still a good time.

Avengers

Heather and I went to see Avengers Saturday night. Here are my thoughts …

  1. It was awesome.
  2. I thought they dragged out bringing them all together – after all, the post credit scenes had already done that in previous films.
  3. Heather thinks point number two is incorrect in that only nerds like me watch the post credit scenes and she didn’t know who most of them were so the beginning was useful for her.
  4. Hulk punching Thor. I about died laughing. I seriously didn’t hear the next few lines because it was so awesome.
  5. Hulk wrecking Loki. See point number four for the level of laughter I once again experienced.
  6. Is a flying aircraft carrier really effective? It just doesn’t seem practical.
  7. It was awesome enough to have two points referencing its awesomeinity. It’s a word.

And now I wait for The Amazing Spiderman.

A Beautiful Mess | Mark Oestricher

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!

Contagion (movie review)

I just saw this the other day.

Now I’m afraid to go anywhere, touch anything, or even breathe in public. All of you need to stop touching your faces. Seriously. Just stop it.

The premise of the movie wasn’t original; the global population decimated by a new disease has been done before (loved it in 12 Monkeys). What made this different was the pacing, the editing style, and even the bent more towards documentary.

It was in some ways slow moving, yet quietly riveting. What was terrifying in it was the believability of the movie – it genuinely felt like it could happen. So in a subtle, yet powerful way, the film grabbed my attention.

Definitely worth checking out. Especially if you want to be afraid of contact with any other human being ever again.

I’m also not happy with pigs or bats, either.

In Time

In Time was kind of an odd movie for me. On the one hand, I mostly enjoyed it, but for the most part it all felt like too much of a stretch for me. Even the basic premise, that everyone has a clock on their arm with time ticking down to their death. If we’re advanced enough to halt the aging process at 25 years old, and then potentially live forever if we acquire enough time, wouldn’t it be done it a more subtle manor? Would it really be a giant, glow in the dark clock covering an entire forearm that then requires all of the characters to try and hide their clocks in various ways?

On top of that, with time being the currency instead of cash, it just seemed way too easy for people to steal and transfer it. If you doze off someone could just wipe out your clock? Would it really be set up to be that easy? It’s easier to protect our currency now than in this fictionalized future.

And finally, the whole relationship between Justin Timberlake’s character and Amanda Seyfried’s character felt like a stretch to me.

But other than all that, it was fun enough to keep me interested until the end. But one viewing was enough.

Real Steel

I’m gonna admit it. This movie caught me off guard. The only reason I watched it was because it’s science fiction and I like Hugh Jackman, but I really thought the whole premise was a joke. Basically the classic rock’em sock’em robots game, right?

Wrong.

The movie had a LOT of heart. It was basically Rocky (which I love, by the way – all six of ’em). Literally. The story line totally mirrored it, but in this futuristic world where humans control robot boxers that are able to battle it out to the brutal end in the ring. What caught me so off guard, even though I knew it had to go this way, was just how much it had my heart beating in the final moments of the film, and even finding myself emotional in a few moments.

Besides the whole Rocky thing going on with the robot, I also enjoyed the whole father/son story that played out between Hugh Jackman’s character and the child he had abandoned at birth who was now temporarily with him.

Cheesy? Maybe. But it was still surprisingly good. And probably one of the cleanest PG-13 films I’ve seen in a while. I would totally watch it again.

Great games resource

I bought this Minute to Win It ‘Ultimate Party Pack’ earlier this year and loved it! It has about 15-20 games in it from the show with all the props and equipment to pull it off, as well as an instruction booklet and a timer.

The downside is that it is set up to play one person at a time, however, with all the props being simple things like cups, ping pong balls and playing cards, it was easy enough to use it as a guide and replicate it so I could have four people competing with each other to see who could finish a challenge first (instead of the minute time limit). It was definitely a big hit – all of the games we did up front for our Fall Retreat were based on this, and there are still a bunch we haven’t done. Part of what made it great was the audience response – the teens watching and cheering on their friends thought it was hilarious.

Anyway, all that to say it’s a fantastic game resource for youth pastors and it’s under $20. If you want to save time, you can order multiple copies of it so you can multiple contestants at once, or you can be like me and use it as a reference for buying the materials yourself (which was crazy cheap). You can find it here.

Love is an Orientation Small Group DVD

I finished working my way through all six sessions of Andrew Marin’s new DVD study resource based on his book, ‘Love is an Orientation.’ The short review? It’s a must buy. Well put together, thought provoking, amazing DVD that lives up to the book it is based on and the topic of elevating the conversation with the LGBT community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender)

It’s actually three resources in one, which I don’t think I totally realized until I finished watching the whole thing. The first four sessions are a great exploration of what it means to make love the priority, how to build bridges – and why it’s so Christlike to build bridges. And finally, in the fourth session after laying the critical foundation of love and priorities, Marin gets into the tough questions. He does it eloquently, with passion, and in a way that is both provoking and challenging – especially to those who have grown up in churches that have not been loving to the LGBT community.

The fifth and sixth sessions are not ones we’ll use with our small groups – not because there is anything wrong with them, but because they are the second and third resources I was referring to above. Session five is an amazing training session for youth workers and parents on how to respond to adolescents who are coming out, or are questioning their sexuality. I loved that he brought in a couple other experts to weigh in and help give some guidance in an area that is become an increasingly real scenario for many families and churches. And session six is a guide to creating your own ‘Living in the tension’ group like what the Marin Foundation does in Chicago.

I think one of the significant things Marin has done in this resource is include the stories of six individuals representing different places in the LGBT community. I think it’s important because for many conservative and/or legalistic church goers watching this series, it humanizes the conversation. It’s a lot easier to resort to hate and angry rhetoric when you don’t know the other person’s story or heart.

Maybe this is the best way I can recommend this resource: literally within moments of finishing session six, I got online and ordered several more copies of the DVD and study guides. This is the one topic that more of our high school small groups are asking to work through, but my leaders don’t feel like they have the resources to tackle it well – now they will. While it’s targeted at an adult audience (hence Zondervan publishing it instead of a youth ministry company), it will certainly work in a student ministry environment.