Books I’ve Read Recently

Catalyst-Leader-BookThe Catalyst Leader by Brad Lomenick. I decided to pick this book up and read since I haven’t read a leadership book in a while. Brad Lomenick wrote this book while he was the leader of Catalyst, which is an organization that equips and inspires young Christian leaders through events, resources, consulting, and community. In this book, Lemonick puts forth eight essentials that are required for what he calls a “change maker.” The eight essentials (which could also be called characteristics) are: called, authentic, passionate, capable, courageous, principled, hopeful, and collaborative. Each chapter covers one of these essentials. In each chapter Lemonick explains why the particular characteristic is important to leadership as well as ways leaders can grow in that area of leadership. Two of the things I really liked about this book was how practical it was as well as all the stories Lemonick includes of people who demonstrate each characteristic. The stories are inspiriting and serve as great reminders of what being a “change maker” really means. This is a great read for anyone in leadership who wants some practical tips on becoming a better leader.

Amish-Values-for-Your-Family-195x300Amish Values for Your Family by Suzanne Fisher. I have always been intrigued by the Amish. Their simple life and faith has always been something I want to learn more about. One of the areas of the Amish I have always admired is how they view and go about family, which is why I decided to read this book. The point of this book is not to encourage people to “go Amish.” It’s an encouragement to look into the family life of the Amish and see what values we can take from them and apply to our own families. Fisher says, “There is much we can learn from these gentle people about raising our families well: to help prioritizes what’s truly important, to simplify decision making, to slow down as a family, to safeguard time together, and when age-appropriate, to let go” (page 13). The book covers four broad “values” the Amish have in regard to family: children are love but not adored, great expectations, daily bread, and letting go. Each chapter gives a short story of a family living out one of those values. The section I really enjoyed and learned the most from was “children are loved and not adored.” As a culture parents put their children at the center of their life and their family. Everything seems to revolve around the child. However, this doesn’t always proceeds the best results. In many cases this hurts the family and the child. The Amish have figured out a way to love their children but not revolve their whole life and family around those children. Instead, those children become a vital part of the family and benefit the family. Also, each chapter ends with a short summary of how families can take that story and the value it teaches and apply it to their family. This is a book I would highly recommend to parents of children of any age.

41wF1qfueZL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_Beyond Small Talk by Rachel Blom. This little book contains extremely helpful information on how to have conversations with teenagers. As the title suggests, Blom helps the reader understand how they can move from “small talk,” which is actually important and needed, to more meaningful conversations about God. What I loved about this book is how Blom doesn’t paint “small talk” as a bad thing or something we should look down on because it’s not “spiritual.” Instead, Blom shares how we can actually become better at “small talk,” which will set us up to move into those deeper conversations. This book contains very practical tips on almost everything someone needs to know in order to have good conversations with teenagers. There are chapters on things like building trust, getting small groups talking (which is a must read for anyone who leaders a small group made up of teenagers), and knowing what to say/what not to say. I’d encourage anyone who deals with teenagers often, especially parents and youth workers, to read this book. It’s short and simple, but very helpful. Talking with teenagers is important and those of us who deal closely with them should strive to grow in this area. As Blom says in the introduction of this book, “It’s imperative that we talk with them, that we succeed in opening up a real dialogue.” This book will help you do just that.

Two other books that I also read that I chose not to review were A Christian Manifesto by Francis Schaeffer, which is an older book but is still a great read that I would recommend to all Christians, as well as The Divorce Dilemma by John MacArthur, which is a very helpful book in understanding what the Bible teaches about divorce.

Book Review: Youth Ministry in the 21st Century

51D-3YevG9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_What is the correct view of youth ministry that youth pastors, youth workers, and churches should have when they do ministry to teenagers? Youth Ministry in the 21st Century attempts to answer that question by bring together five influential leaders in the youth ministry world and having them each share their conviction as to what is the best “view” of youth ministry. Each author passionately shares his view of what youth ministry should look like and then the other authors get the chance to respond to that view. The views and responses are both detailed and honest, but handled with respect and appreciation for the other views. Chap Clark, who serves as the editor, compares Youth Ministry in the 21st Century to an earlier book he was part of called Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church. Clark expresses his gratitude for that work but rightly argues that as youth ministry has moved forward and new issues among teenagers in our world has surfaced it is time for a new conversation to emerge about what youth ministry should look like. Youth Ministry in the 21st Century serves as that new conversation and it’s a good one!

Greg Stier offers the first view, which is “The Gospel Advancing View of Youth Ministry.” Stier holds to the conviction that youth ministry is about developing students who will be “world changers” for Christ. Taken from Jesus ministry (the Gospels) and the book of Acts, Stier paints the picture that youth ministry is introducing students to Jesus and then training them to go out and share the message of the Gospel. Stier says, “If we really want teenagers to be like Jesus, then we must cultivate in them a driving passion to reach the lost” (page 5). Stier also says, “The goal here is not more evangelistic programs but nurturing teenagers to live and give the Gospel in word and deed in their spheres of influence” (page 5). One may wonder where Stier puts helping students grow in their faith when it comes to this view of youth ministry. He doesn’t ignore that facet of youth ministry, but believes that the most spiritual growth in teenagers lives happen when they share their faith and focus on the mission to reach the lost.

The second view, offered by Brian Cosby, is “The Reformed View of Youth Ministry.” Cosby picks an interesting title for his view that  leads the reader to think more about reformed theology than a view of youth ministry. Cosby, who holds to the reformed tradition, doesn’t necessarily give a view that’s tied to that tradition but there is no doubt that tradition influences his view. In the reformed view of youth ministry, the focus starts with God not the teenagers. Cosby argues most youth ministries emphasizes “Home Depot Theology” – “You can do it, God can help.” He debunks that false view by arguing the emphasis of youth ministry must be God working in and through the teenagers hearts to change them. Cosby argues that youth ministry needs to move away from entertainment and focus on a methodology of practicing historic “means of grace” – ministry of the Word, prayer, sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s supper), service, and Gospel community. Cosby argues these are the practices that should shape youth ministry.

Chap Clark offers the third view, which is “The Adoption View of Youth Ministry.” In this view, youth ministry is seen as part of the larger church body. It’s not a separate church of younger people but a ministry of the church to help nurture the faith of teenagers. However, those teenagers should and must be “adopted” into the larger body of Christ through relationships, service, mentoring, and worship. Clark argues that the way to help teenagers posses a life-long faith (one that doesn’t fade away when they graduate the youth group and go to college) is by connecting them to the church. Clark says, “I contend that the primary reason we have lost so many of the hearts and investment of our young when they leave the confines of the high school routine is that we have failed to provide them with the most vital resource they possessed in Christ: the God-given faith community” (page 75). The adoption view of youth ministry strives to make sure teenagers are a part of the larger church community so that even when they graduate the youth program they have a place to belong, grow, and serve.

The fourth view, offered by Fernando Arzola, is quite out of place in my opinion. The view Arzola offers is “The Ecclesial View of Youth Ministry.” This view argues that “Protestant youth ministry has all but deleted ecclesiology from its theological radar” (page 113). This views argues that teenagers should be taught church history and should experience their faith with the backdrop of what has taken place in the church in the past. To be honest (and this seems to be a point made in the responses) I don’t understand what this view looks like practically when it comes to being a view of youth ministry. I appreciate the argument and believe teenagers should be taught how God has worked in the history of the church but to call this an entire “view” of youth ministry is a bit too much.

The fifth view shared in this book is from Ron Hunter and is called “The D6 View of Youth Ministry.” Hunter, who founded D6 and is helping bring a very Biblical family ministry approach to the church, argues that youth ministry should be a partnership between the family and the church to nurture students in their faith. The D6 view is built upon God’s commands in Deuteronomy 6 (and Ephesians 6) for the parents to be the primary leaders of their  kid spiritual development. The youth pastor and the church should train, equip, and resource the parents but should never take the place of them. This view, much like the emphasis of ministries like Orange, believes ministry to teenagers is done best when the parents and church partner together.

After reading this book I did not come away with the conviction that one of these five views is right and all the other ones were wrong. Instead I came away with a much greater understanding of the scope of youth ministry and an appreciation for the different views of how to do youth ministry. As I reflect on the views I come to a place of realization that all of these five views offer a piece of the greater youth ministry puzzle. One view doesn’t cover all the complexities of ministering to teenagers in our world but they do all offer a significant piece to the overall puzzle. For example, in my opinion and in light of this book, youth ministry must have a great commission focus (reaching students with the Gospel and sending them out to reach others) [Gospel Advancing View] and should be built upon Biblical practices such as preaching/teaching, prayer, service, and Gospel community [Reformed View] while making teenagers a vital part of the church community (Adoption View). This should all be done in partnership with families as we help them fulfill their God-give role to disciple their kids [D6 View].

This is a youth ministry book I would put in the hands of anyone who is currently in or preparing to be in full-time youth ministry. It will sharpen and guide those of us who want to be faithful to God and His Word as we strive to build a strategy for youth ministry in our context.

Sarah’s Story

Have you ever heard someones story about what God has done in their life and it leaves you speechless? There has been a few times in my life so far where I have heard someones story and I was left completely speechless because of the awesome power of God’s grace, mercy, and redemption. One of those stories is the story of what God has done in one of my students life’s.

Sarah is one of my high school students at CCC Stow. I remember meeting her a few weeks after I started working for CCC this past September. Over a few conversations I was able to hear the story of what God has been doing in her life. I was left speechless and all I could think about was how good God is even when the situation or circumstance paints nothing but darkness. Instead of telling you Sarah’s story I want you to hear it for yourself straight from Sarah. Below is the video we showed this past Sunday at all of our campuses. Check it out and be reminded that God is in the business of redeeming every situation in our life, no matter how bad it seems.

Youth Pastor Burnout

I want to share with you a infograph my friend Aaron Helman put together about burnout among youth pastors. Burnout is a real problem among youth pastors and it’s something we must intentionally fight before it happens. Many times we wait until after we are burnout to do something about it, but the best time to fight burnout is before it happens. Check out the infograph below and let the facts open your eyes to the real world of youth pastor burnout. You will probably find a few things below that identify yourself. After you look at the facts below, I’d encourage you to read this post I wrote awhile ago about how pastors can avoid burnout.

YP Burnout Infograph

Top 10 Signs You’re Not the Spiritual Leader at Home

In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, we see a clear call to parents to love and pursue God then pass that on to their children. God has called parents to be the top spiritual influence on their children. Going a little deeper, the men are called to be the spiritual leaders at home. They should love and influence their wife’s for Jesus and then do the same with their kids.

Sadly in our culture, there are becoming more and more homes that just have one parent. So I’m sharing this post specifically for fathers, but at the same time knowing there are women who are raising children on their own who need to be spiritual leaders to their kids as well.

I’m convinced one of the biggest problems in the church, and Christianity as a whole, is parents, especially dads, not being the spiritual leaders in their homes. Some parents may be reading this and thinking “nah, not me!” Well let me share with you a list of the top ten signs you’re not being the spiritual leader at home. This list comes from Chris Sprad over at EpicParent.tv.

10.  Your kids can’t find the Book of Galatians in their Bible.

9.  Your kids science paper stated that dinosaurs roamed the earth 150 million years ago.

8.  Your kids sleep through worship at church because they don’t understand worship is a time to give back to God.

7.  You can count on one hand the times that you taught the Word of God to your kids this month.

6.  The statistic (60% of kids walk away from their faith in college) doesn’t move you to action.

5.  You rely on the Christian school or Kids Ministry at your church to spiritually train your children.

4.  You’re too lazy to go downstairs and pray with your kids before they fall asleep.

3.  You’re too busy to take your kids on a local mission experience this year.

2.  You teach your kids that church attendance equals a relationship with God.

1.  Your kids rarely see you set aside time for prayer and consistent Bible study and worship!

My goal in sharing this list is not to tell you your a terrible parent, but to motivate you to be a better spiritual leader at home for your children. Your children need someone who loves Jesus and then out of that love pours into them. What can you do today to be the spiritual leader in your home?

I encourage all parents to check out Chris Sprad’s site called EpicParent.tv. You will find honest, on the edge parenting advice that is grounded in God’s Word. You can find Chris on Twitter and Facebook.