Meet Generation Z

generation z“Meet Generation Z,” by James Emory White, is a book primarily focused on helping readers understand Generation Z (young people born between the years 1995-2010), as well as give some insight on how the church can better minister to them. Of course, the challenge to any such work on a generation that spans young children through current college students is that research findings are still early, and tend to be focused more on the older end of the generation – we just can’t survey eight year olds the way we can older teens and college age young adults.

The strength of this book is the first third of the book, labeled part one (the book is divided into two parts); White’s summary and exploration of what the research is telling us about Generation Z. He explores the impact on a generation that has grown up with an exposure to technology like no other generation, views on race, their sexual fluidity, and the reality of being a generation that has grown up in a post-Christian culture. It’s critical for older generations to recognize the realities that are shaping young people and the fact that none of us have experienced a childhood like they have. I may have been a teen, but I do not know what it is like for my children to be teens in 2018 America.

Part two frustrated me somewhat. White details his church’s approach to ministry to Generation Z, which is good and has some great practical ideas. But there are also times where he comes across as blaming Generation Z for some of the challenges they present; the reality is, though, they are the product of the culture that has produced them. Their lack of Biblical knowledge, or views on sexuality, are not some sort of generational agenda – it’s simply opportunities for us to learn in grow in our approaches. He also includes the transcripts of three sermons he gave at his church as examples of ways to teach to Generation Z on topics relevant to them; one on gay marriage, one on spirituality, and one on the topic of why we should believe in God. As someone who spends the bulk of his time working with Generation Z, while these are topics they care about – the sermons were more how I would approach it with the congregation as a whole, not as a lesson geared towards teens.

For me, the real value to the book is in the first third; part two is a mixed bag to me. Having said that, there is not much out there on Generation Z and this is a good first step. It’s definitely good for church leaders to check out, but it has limitations.

How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge

how to lead“How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge,” by Clay Scroggins, the Lead Pastor at North Point Community Church (Andy Stanley’s church), is a really strong book on leadership for everyone. The main thrust of the book is the idea that people do not need to wait until they are at the top of the org chart before they start leading; that we actually all have influence and potential to lead from whatever position we serve in, whether at work, the church, in the community, or anywhere.

I love his challenge that being a leader doesn’t mean leaning on positional authority, rather it is effectively leveraging influence and relationships to lead.  He challenges the readers to first lead themselves well, to be active – not waiting for opportunity and blaming others when it doesn’t go as hoped, but to instead be constantly thinking critically about ways to improve and grow and then go after it.

I loved his quote, “Leaders don’t sit back and point fingers. Leaders lead with the authority of leadership … or without it. The authority [a title, positional authority] is largely irrelevant – if you are a leader, you will lead when you are needed.” (p.26) I love that challenge. It really does boil down to recognizing that God gives opportunities to act, God gives each of us influence somewhere, and are we using it to lead? Scroggins does a great job of painting a picture of both recognizing that leadership ability and giving practical advice on acting on it.

As a guy who isn’t the lead guy in my church, I loved reading leadership advice from the man who leads under Andy Stanley – one of the more famous senior pastors in America. It was incredibly thought provoking and really challenged me to rethink the ways I could grow in my leadership while not being the lead guy. The book is easy to read, flows well, and has great guidance for everyone. I highly recommend it!

 

MinistryDownloads

ministrydownloads

MinistryDownloads is a great all-around resource site for those in ministry I recently stumbled across! I feel like there has been a real shift in how churches are resourced over the last decade; instead of a handful of large companies being the only real resources out there with expensive materials, often times with pricing staggered to the size of the church, there has been a real rise in online, digital resources with incredibly low costs that stay the same regardless of church size. Instead of paying anywhere from $30-$120 for a four week curriculum, these kinds of sites provide similar resources for $8-$12. How? By removing a lot of the layers between the content creator and the resource customer.

This is GOOD for churches. I love being able to see the ministry budget I’m entrusted with go farther. MinistryDownloads is one of those sites; with resources for children’s ministry, youth ministry, small groups, and sermon resources for pastors, it is a great all-around resource site. There are a number of free resources available on the site in addition to all of the solid materials for sale (starting at $3 and going up from there depending on the size of the resource). They’ve also started a new subscription service called All-Access; for just $17 a month, subscribers can download whatever they want, as much as they want. It’s a really great deal; and a solid resource that can be shared with multiple ministry areas in the church. Definitely worth checking out!

Rob Bell’s “How to be Here”

how to be here

I just finished Rob Bell’s book, How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living, his book challenging readers to live in the present and make the most of their lives.

Meh.

I have to be honest, I was pretty underwhelmed by it. There was nothing bad about it, but nothing that really made it stand out, either. Rob Bell has been a mixed bag for me in recent years; I have significant disagreements with some of his theology, deeply resonate with other aspects of his teaching, and in general love his gift for communication.

I did appreciate his challenge that regardless of where God has placed you, your life has deep value and significance. He writes, “What you do with your life is fundamentally creative work. The kind of life you lead, what you do with your time, how you spend your energies – it’s all part of how you create your life. All work is ultimately creative work because all of us are taking part in the ongoing creation of the world.” (p.11)

Ultimately, though, while it has moments of strength and some great quotes I highlighted to use later, a lot of it felt somewhat trite. It is a short book; I think it only took me a couple hours or so to read – but it pretends to be longer than it is. Most paragraphs are only a sentence or two, most chapters are only a couple pages … there’s just a lot of white space. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; he’s done that very effectively in other books. But this time it felt a little more forced, like he was trying to stretch it into more than it is. And maybe that’s the frustration I have with it; it’s a solid message, but maybe it should be just a message instead of trying to force it into filling a book. It’s okay. And for the first time in a while, I’m not listing any theological issues to look out for in a Rob Bell book. But there just isn’t a whole to it, either.

 

2018 Winter Retreat Recap

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This past weekend was my tenth (!!!) winter retreat with Brandywine Valley Baptist Church; it was definitely one of the better ones! We had a great time. I actually went into the weekend a little worried; the weather was so mild in the weeks building up to the trip that there was no snow on the ground and the frozen pond … wasn’t frozen enough to play on.

So we changed it up. Saturday morning the group went on a hike to the top of a nearby hill, which they were surprised by how much they loved doing. That afternoon we went to an indoor water park; always a big hit in the middle of winter. Our theme for the weekend was “Run.” We had some fun with the children playing signs in our region that bear a striking resemblance to our intern, Zach, pointing out that they aren’t “no running” signs, but rather, alerts that someone IS running. That for us, those signs are now a reminder that we are running after Christ. We even made stickers and shirts to give out as reminders and prizes, which were a big hit.

zach sign

Over the course of the weekend we had three messages; Melissa kicked off the weekend, Pastor Nate spoke Saturday night, and I wrapped it up on Sunday. You can find the messages on our podcast on iTunes, or listen to them with these links:

All in all, it was a really fun weekend. The messages really seemed to flow together and the teens seem to resonate with what they were hearing. It was the largest turnout we have ever had – we literally ran out of beds and maxed the place out! And no injuries! If you want, you can check out the photos on our Facebook page.

Get up!

get up (small)

There is an incredible, counter-intuitive moment in Joshua 7. Basically, the Israelites were invading the land; God had promised them success as long as they obeyed Him, and things to this point had been going well. Then the day came that they attacked Ai; the Israelites were sent packing. Joshua, and the other leaders, were stunned, and immediately fell on their faces praying to God for help.

Which is what we’re supposed to do in times of crisis, right?

But God’s response was shocking; “Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this?” (Joshua 7:10, NLT) God essentially rebukes them for praying! His point? They know the covenant, they know their defeat means there is sin in the camp. The answer was not to simply lay on the ground praying … the answer was to do what they already knew to do: deal with the sin infecting and corrupting their community.

Every time we have another mass shooting and the cycle of “thoughts and prayers,” Facebook debates, media sensationalism, and reassurances that we cannot rush into any emotional decisions but will deal with it when an appropriate amount of time passes … which never seems achievable because there’s always another mass shooting right around the corner, I find myself going back to this passage over and over.

It’s time to get up.

The Bible is full of verses detailing God’s heart for the innocent, those who cannot defend themselves, and the responsibility of those who have the ability to do something. It is also full of instructions to those who claim to follow God regarding our responsibility to put the needs of others ahead of ourselves. In God’s economy, sometimes it is far better to give up something I feel I deserve for the sake of others. I relinquish my preferences out of love for those around me.

We know what is causing death in our community. We know what needs to change; prayers are good and important, but they cannot be an excuse to avoid taking action. Just like Joshua needed to get off his knees and do what he knew needed to be done, we need to move as well.