Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Only a youth pastor would dream this…

Last night I had a dream. This is not a joke. I really dreamt everything i am writing here….

My wife and I had just received an invitation – via twitter – to spend the week with a bunch of youth pastors at Doug Fields’ house. When we arrived there, Doug’s house was a massion with a layout that I’m pretty sure matched Bill Gates home. Upon our arrival, we sat down for dinner at a ridiculously long dinner table. Seated at the table were Tim Schmoyer, Mike Kupferer, Mark Matlock, Jim Burns, Tic Long, Walt Mueller, Doug Fields, the whole fields family, and 2 other unidentifiable “small time” youth ministry people like myself.

Throughout the whole evening I tried to make really deep, insightful comments regarding all things faith related so that they would let me co-author a book or write a guest blog post. Ultimately all of my mildly insightful comments were skirted as Doug continued to make jokes the whole evening and never really set the stage for me to wow them with my depth. Thanks for ruining my shot at the big time Doug.

And then…. in typical dream fashion, a faceless killer was terrorizing my wife and I. We survived.


“The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus” by Brennan Manning – Introduction


I recently picked up a copy of “The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus” by Brennan Manning. I have never read anything by Brennan, but have been thoroughly impressed by some of his sermons.

I’m going to blog through the book. Now, some people go through a book because the published sends them an early copy if they agree to blog about it. This is obviously not the case. However, after reading the introduction, i thought that this book might warrant some serious reflection and the occasion outsiders perspective. I think this blog will serve those functions greatly.

In forward is written by Larry Crabb. Crabb gives us a guide to wrestling with the ideas in the book:

“Concepts create idols,” wrote Greogry of Nyssa. “Only wonder understands anything.” The eminent German theologian Karl Rahner, who died in 1985, wrote: “Some thing are understood not by grasping but by allowing oneself to be grasped.” As you read these pages, I pray that you allow yourself to be grasped, and that you “pause awhile” and let yourself be broken.

A Book You Must Read

I was given Mike Yaconelli’s Getting Fired for the Glory of God by a pastor who used to work in youth ministry. I’m reading it. Blowing me away. You should read it to. Or maybe you shouldn’t. Maybe it is just awesome because God is using it to speak to me right now. Either way, I’ll recommend it.d_1200

Books you should read

I think I’ve made a list similar to this in the past, but I’m going to do it again. Buy these books. Read them. Eat them. Absorb the nutrients, discard the waste….. OK. That’s enough.

-these books are important to me:

  • The Secret Message of Jesus – Some people think McLaren is a heretic, some don’t. Who cares, I think this book rocks. Changed my faith.
  • How People Grow – Cloud and Townsend are golden. They write great stuff that is SO applicable if your ministry is about helping people grow. Every minister and small group leader ought to read this gem.
  • Youth Ministry 3.0 – Marko writes a manifesto for the future of youth ministry. Sign me up.
  • Sex God – Rob Bell sets the framework for sexuality and relationships.
  • The Great Emergence – Phyllis Tickle paints the past in giant brushstrokes and shows us how faith and culture emerge and change.
  • Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry – If you work for Young Life or Youth for Christ, don’t read it. You’ll either quit your job or hate the entire book.
  • Wild at Heart – Some people hate this book. I loved it. Read it 3 times.
  • Tribes – Seth Godin is golden. Everyone knows it. Deal with it.
  • Death by Meeting – This book made me rethink what by beliefs about the “norms” of office life.
  • Cradle to Cradle – Every government in the world should make this book a law. Would solve all the environment problems in one swoop. Heaven will look like the cities described in this book.
  • Contemplative Youth Ministry – Read this book twice. I wish my ministry looked more like this.
  • Your Money or Your Life – A foundational book about understanding money and resources.
  • The Total Money Makeover – Dave Ramsey is an icon i look to for so many reasons.

what are you inviting people to?

People join [a tribe] for a journey. They join to be a part of something that matters. 20 years later, people will still talk about something remarkable. ~Seth Godin in Tribes~

If you’re thinking about how to invite people to your church or your ministry or your bible study or whatever, maybe you ought to rethink the way you look at the particular thing you’re inviting people to.

Maybe we ought to stop worrying about how entertained or relevant or comfortable new people will feel, but instead we need to figure out just what it is that we’re calling people to. It is easy to throw in a cliche answer “a relationship with God” or “community” or “worship” or “study the bible.” Instead, what if we really nailed down what we were doing.

Example: there are a variety of opinions about youth ministry. some people do great stuff and then do a gospel presentation in the middle of it. some people feel the need to confront every outsider about how much of an outsider they are. some people nail bible studies. some people nail small groups. some people nail worship music. some people nail games.


the way we frame our activities is critical. do we do a night of contemplative prayer to “break up the routine” or cuz it’s “cool” to allow students the space to simply be with God? do the students know that? would they know that if you didn’t say anything? do your adult volunteers know it? does your senior pastor know it?

love and loathe {intro}

a couple of summers ago, at a willow creek leadership summit, i listened to marcus buckingham talk about finding and operating out of our strengths.

He challenged everyone to take a sheet of paper and create two columns. Label one column “loathe” and the other “love.” At the end of each day, we were to go through our memory of the day and recal things that we truly loved (made us feel alive, “in the zone,” or energized us) and things that we loathed (boring, draining, life-sucking). We were supposed to be very specific about our “loves” and “loathes” (going into great detail about what it was that made us love or loathe an activity).

I did this activity and learned a lot about myself. I learned how I’m wired. I learned that relationships are paramount for me. I learned that I am a very critical thinker and that I love operating with creativity. I also love working on a team and sharing responsibilities.

Since this activity taught me alot about myself, I decided to do it again. I imagine that this time it will be much much different since I am in a brand new context. The first time, I was a college student. This time, it will be done in the setting of student ministry director.

(i’ve also challenged some students to join with me on this and see how it works out for them).

Be Remarkable

Remarkable: notably or conspicuously unusual; extraordinary

I’ve had this idea burned into my mind by Seth Godin. Godin writes a blog and is a marketing guru. He writes about spreading ideas, hitting your target audience, and building an identity. Though his writing is targeted towards the business world (specifically, small businesses), there is so much overlap with church work. 

Personally, i’ve taken this challenge to my whole life. I’m working hard at doing a few things, and doing those few things in a remarkable way. Being different. It is easy to come up with a good idea, but if that good idea is already being done, then it isn’t remarkable and no one will notice it. 

For example, I am a member of PaperBackSwap. I have a listing of my books and if another member would like one, they notify me and I send it to them. I pay for shipping and they get a “free” book. It is a great way to save money on books (i’ve ordered 6 books for free) and builds good “karma” and allows me to be a bit less materialistic. Anyways…. When i mail a book, I mail it priority (costing me a dollar more vs. media mail) and I send a personal letter with my business card. I’m not going to make any money this way, but my hope is that the personal touch and sacrifice makes people notice. They stop and think, “Wow, this person was totally self-less in this interaction.” 

Amy Palko wrote a great article about living life less ordinary.

And this is where our faith comes into play. Willow Creek was remarkable because they were all about “seekers.” But new churches that follow the Willow Creek model aren’t so remarkable.

I’m the director of a student ministry and I work really really hard at allowing students to have a voice in our times together. This isn’t because I think they know more about the Bible than me (I went to a Christian college, so I hope I have a lot of Bible knowledge), but it is because there is no place in a students life where they are given a voice amongst adults. For a student to come to our gathering on Sunday night and be listened to is remarkable 

Jesus was incredibly remarkable. People are still “remarking” about his life today. He lived in this incredibly love-filled way in a time when the “way of the world” was anything but love. We live in a time and place where living out our faith will be nothing short of remarkable. Living out Christ’s love, turning the other cheek, loving others as yourself, giving away money. These things are remarkable. These things will cause the “idea” of Christianity to spread. People will take notice.