Books youth ministry

3 Books Youth Workers Need to Buy this Fall

Of all the books that are new this fall, here are three that I’m recommending you buy:


Sticky FiathSticky Faith: Everyday ideas to build lasting faith in your kids – Put together a 6-week parents discussion group with the parents in your youth group and work your way through Sticky Faith together. You don’t want to see students leave the church; parents don’t want to see that either. Kara Powell & Chap Clark put together an amazing study of 500 students and their transition from high school faith to college faith.  Sticky Faith shares their learnings plus robust ideas for helping reverse the trends their research revealed. Check out this article about Sticky Faith in yesterday’s Washington Post.

Small Groups

The Jesus Creed for StudentsThe Jesus Creed for Students – I loved Scot McKnight’s best seller The Jesus Creed. This is an excellent adaptation of that work for middle/high school small groups. Chris Folmsbee and Syler Thomas, two youth workers with years of experience, help students grasp what it means to love the Lord with everything and love their neighbors as themselves.

Youth ministry strategy

Youth Ministry on a ShoestringYouth Ministry on a Shoestring – Let’s quickly have the chuckle. Yes– it’s a bit funny that the Lars Rood works at one of the most resourced churches in the world in one of the wealthiest communities in the world. What the title doesn’t convey is a fantastically freeing strategy: How to do amazing things for no, or almost no cost. Lars’ ministry strength is creating unforgettable experiences and moments in the lives of his students and he will share with you how to do that, generally at zero cost to your youth ministry budget. The back section of the book is full of real-life examples from youth workers around the country applying the strategy.

Question: What’s your favorite new youth ministry resource?

Books Christian Living

How do we minister to the poor with integrity & grace?

It’s taken me nearly a year to work through the book, “When Helping Hurts.” The content and concepts weigh heavy on my heart.

In my neighborhood the poor are easy to find. While not in the open, once you have eyes for it, you see poverty everywhere.

We have people who squat in abandoned houses nearby. Another man lives in old RV in someone’s driveway. There are several people who live in their cars at the park. And the truly down-and-out sleep in bushes next to a fence of an abandoned shopping center. And that’s just the homeless.

Poverty is big and real and within 100 yards of my house. And I wrestle with even the first step of a response to the point of paralysis.

Here’s my current wrestling points:

  • I can’t serve the poor as an excuse to share the Gospel. I don’t have the stomach for it. When I’ve done that it’s felt self-serving. As if the point of serving was so that I could feel good about myself for having shared the Gospel?
  • Putting myself in the shoes of the poor, would I want to be preached at or guilt tripped in exchange for a handout? What if they are more faithfully living out a life with Jesus than I am? Who am I to think that someone else is more needy of a benevolent God than I am?
  • Do handouts really help people at all? Is that the most honorable way we can serve the poor?
  • Maybe serving the poor, taking a posture that I’m OK and they are not, reveals that I worship the gods of comfort and stuff and not the God who died penniless? Is being poor the enemy?

Here are my starting points:

  • It doesn’t have to be big. I’ve started by simply being kind. As I ride my bike to the trolley each morning I’ve slowly gotten to know some names and begun exchanging pleasantries. It seems like just acknowledging someone’s humanity is a plausible first step.
  • Presence and consistency are probably more useful than handing something out. It’s easy for me to make a sandwich to hand out each day or maybe keep a couple dollars in my pocket for along the way. But I would have no way of knowing if that’s what they need or would give them dignity if I don’t actually know them.
  • My car doesn’t help me see them. Life wasn’t meant to be lived in the cocoon of a private car traveling at 35 mph. We are social creatures and we are slow creatures. Walking places in my neighborhood or riding my bike here and there has slowed me down to notice things/people/systems I wouldn’t notice in a car.
Books Social Action

Steps of Justice

If you haven’t yet checked out the Steps of Justice 30-Day Prayer guide you are really missing out.

What I like about the guide is that it isn’t just something to read and put down. It’s an action guide. It raises your awareness, leads you to prayer, then gets you doing something about it.

It’s dangerous.

So that’s my challenge. Do something dangerous by picking up Steps of Justice and giving it a try. Better yet, get 10 of them and use them in your small group. Or buy 100 and get your church involved. Or 1,000 and ask your neighbors to pray. You get the idea.

Books Funny Stuff illustrations Travel

Book Cover: How to Share Your Faith on a Plane

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I have a knack for getting an empty seat next to me when I fly Southwest.

On more than 60% of my 2010 flights I sat in the window seat and had an empty middle seat. In January 2011, I flew with Southwest 11 times and had an empty middle seat 7 times. (The other 4 were completely full flights with no empty seats.)

As I bragged about this to my friends, they began to wonder: How in the world is Adam doing that?

I’m not going to share all of my tricks. (Here’s a blog with some decent tips) But one thing that definitely helps looks like this:

  • Make sure you are in the A boarding group
  • Sit in a window seat, then place a book or your iPod/headphones in the middle seat.

It’s the book detail that my friends bring up and eventually resulted in the graphic you see above. More often than not I am reading a non-fiction Christian book like Kenda-Creasy Deans Almost Christian or John Ortberg’s Faith and Doubt. For some reason those types of titles tend to cause on-coming passengers to continue moving towards the back of the plane more than the latest issue of Sports Illustrated or Wired.

That’s the genesis of this fake book cover. My friends and I hypothesized, “If people won’t sit next to me because I’m reading a book with a Christian title, what would happen if I made a fake book cover with an overtly Christian title AND made the book about evangelism?

That’s how this was born.

How to Share Your Faith on a Plane: 25 Scenarios for Converting This Flight from Transportation to Transformation


  • Download the pdf.
  • Print/cut it to the size you need. (The original size is the size of a standard hard cover book with a jacket)
  • Replace the jacket your book came with and follow the tips on the back cover.

Cool book for small groups

Earlier this year I posted a review of Tony’s Jones book about the Didache.

I’m still thinking about this book and its effects on community life.

So take this as a random recommendation. If you’re in an adult small group and you are looking for a book to get your group talking about what it means to be an authentic community– The Teaching of the Twelve is what you are looking for. It’s only about 120 pages, I read it in two sittings.

I know, I know, I know. A lot of people see or hear the name “Tony Jones” and that makes them think of all the controversy. Read my review from February as I hit that head on.

After you read the book you may need to re-think what you think about Mr. Jones. I know I did.

Books Culture garden Manifesto

Why Americans are Going Local

Yesterday Kristen and I listened to an author, Andrew Potter, describe the American movement towards all things local and eco-friendly as conspicuous consumption.

It felt like an elitist slap in the face.

His book is called, The Authenticity Hoax. (I’ve not read it) You can see the transcript to the Marketplace segment, “The new holier than thou” here.

Basically, the author claimed that the real reason why Americans are going to farmers markets, growing their own food, shopping at locally owned business, and otherwise supporting their local economy is really to show off our wealth publicly. The entire tone of the interview seemed to mock and misrepresent a major shift in public opinion. (For a more reasonable interpretation of the same movement, check out this link in Business Week.)

I couldn’t help but wonder if the author was just a tool or if he was a corporate tool who didn’t understand how inverse relationships work? As people’s distrust in “global” increases, their trust in “local” increases proportionally.

Some examples of inverse relationships in the going local trend

  1. We are social creatures. With access to worldwide communication, its a natural human reaction to seek out local connections. People going local is an inverse relationship to a global society.
  2. Micro-economics makes sense. It doesn’t take a PhD in economics to understand that if I choose going to a local eatery vs. McDonald’s more of my money stays in my community. People eating locally is an inverse relationship to a global economy.
  3. The general public is coming to understand that our food chain is under-regulated and unsafe. As I’ve written about before, thanks to some great documentaries the general public is now aware that corporations are more concerned with profit than public health. People growing their own food is an inverse relationship to a global, unregulated food supply chain.
  4. The food decision wheel is turning more quickly. Each time there is a flaw in the food chain it just emphasized what the general public is thinking already. Bad eggs leads to “I need to buy my eggs from a farmer I can trust.” Now that people understand that most of our corn products are genetically-modified, people are starting to look for products containing no corn product. Every bad news story about food spins the wheel a little faster for people and centrifugal force is tough to fight for long. People trusting local farmers is an inverse relationship to a distrust of mega-farmers.
  5. Conspicuous corruption leads to local consumption. Look at the case of “special foreclosure courts” being set up in Florida to supersede constitutional rights in favor of corporations making a quick buck. This isn’t some conspiracy theorist… it’s the New York Times! Apparently the 7th amendment isn’t the law when courts are busy? No one in their right mind would trust that the government will rule in favor of a common citizen right now. So, people are investing their money in local businesses and things they know they can understand and trust. People investing in local banks is an inverse relationship to our distrust of a global banking society and the governmental corruption it has inspired.

What are other examples of inverse relationships that are leading more and more of us to go local?

Do you think that the shift to local really is conspicuous consumption? Is this just yuppies finding new ways to show off?

Books hmm... thoughts illustrations

Stop reading books!

No seriously.

Books are great. Reading is fundamental. I’m all about practical resources and history and stories that carry you away to far away lands.

But lets not get to the point where we stop thinking creatively about resourcing ourselves. Or acting in a way worthy of a historian writing about us. Or living a life that is a fantastic story which carries us to far away lands.

You don’t change the world by sitting on a couch and reading a book. Change is an action.

Don’t use books as a way to wuss out.

Think for yourself.

Act for yourself.

You can create.

Put the books down and get outside– live a story-worthy life.

Inspiration is one thing. Inaction is unforgiveable.

Books Video Clip youth ministry

Go and Do Discipleship Model

[video link]

My view of discipleship has radically changed in the last two years. I’m increasingly convinced that my role as a shepherd to high schoolers is about putting them in moments of spiritual crisis so that they recognize that they need to learn more from God’s Word.

This is in stark contrast to my previous model. Before I spent way too much time preparing them to do ministry and giving them information that just didn’t seem relevant to their walk with Jesus yet. The more I turn that upside down, putting them in situations where they know they need to learn more, the faster they grow up. When you couple that with my desire to see students take greater responsibility for themselves earlier in life… you start to see a new view of what we used to call a “description of a discipled person.

As more time goes on I see my role in disciple-making less as a manager of a program and more as a curator of the spiritual life. (see Richard Dunn’s pacing concept in Shaping the Spiritual Life of Students for that concept.)

Here are the three links mentioned in the video:

  • Dedication and Leadership by Douglas Hyde
  • Teens 2.0 by Dr. Robert Epstein
  • Inward, Outward, and Beyond’s “New Heights Project
  • I’d love your feedback and thoughts as I work this out in my life and ministry.

    Books Church Leadership Funny Stuff

    C.S. Lewis is to Christians What…

    C.S. Lewis, famous dead man

    C.S. Lewis is to Christians what McDonalds is to American children. C.S. Lewis is to Christians what beer pong is to college students. C.S. Lewis is to Christians what Dave Ramsey is to those who suck with money.

    I first heard of C.S. Lewis in 6th grade. Lori, the girl who sat behind me and I had a crush on, read the Chronicles of Narnia. Every day during our free time she ignored me so she could read these books. I was trying to impress this girl with my witty humor and dashing 6th grade looks and these silly books were getting in the way.

    From there, I never heard him referred to until college. He was never referred to in an English or literature class. As a freshmen at Moody Bible Institute I got exposed to the cult of Lewis. My roommate had the full set of weathered and dog-eared Narnia books. He claimed he re-read them every year. In classes, people referenced him in nearly every speech and practice sermon. I took a literature class where a professor read from a Lewis book with a quivering voice before reverently closing the book and clearing her throat. I heard story after story from people who had profound experiences with Mere Christianity or the Screwtape Letters.

    On and on it went. Through college it just seemed to get more intense. After college the child-like fascination I saw as a student mushroomed into something more bizarre as I stepped into church leadership.

    Here’s what I’ve learned from being in the church 18 years…

    • American Christians have a love affair with C.S. Lewis.
    • We quote him like he’s a 4th member of the trinity. Lewis is that authoritative in most Christian circles.
    • A C.S. Lewis quote book might as well be the 67 book of the Bible in most preachers hands. Not sure how to move a point? Quote Lewis!
    • I’d be willing to bet that on any given Sunday in America there are more references to C.S. Lewis in sermons than there are references to the Old Testament. Do a study… my money is on Lewis.

    As you can tell, I’m a little tired of Clives. (OK, a lot) I’m happy for those who have had profound experiences through his words. It is really cool to me that his books have meaning to so many people. I’m not a hater. I don’t hate Lewis. I’ve read Lewis’ stuff. (How do you think I graduated from Moody?) I just don’t revere his work as magical. I think he’s OK, but mediocre compared to authors of his era.

    But lets keep Lewis in perspective. He is not God. His words are not to be more revered than Scripture. His words shouldn’t be quoted as if they are Scripture. I think he’d probably be ashamed of how highly he is revered in some Christian circles. Let’s call it what it is… idolatry.

    A dose of reality for fans

    C.S. Lewis is not the great literary genius Christians claim him to be. Comparing him to his contemporaries reveals it. Is he of greater literary significance than any of these?

    I could go on. I went through some lists of the top authors/books of the 20th century… you won’t find Lewis in any top 20 list. Random House doesn’t even have a Lewis book in the top 100 of either their editors or readers selections.

    But the point is simple: There’s a lot of hero worship of C.S. Lewis going on.

    Knock it off.


    Vacation Reading

    Yesterday officially kicked off my summer vacation. For the first time since I was 24 I’ll only have two weeks of vacation this year, one of which I’ll use for my July trip to Haiti, so I have to make the most of this one.

    My intention is to disconnect as much as possible. (More on that later)

    Last night, Kristen and I went to Barnes & Noble to load up on some books for our trip.

    Here’s my reading list:

    Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

    I am not sure how it is that I lived to be 34 years old without reading the greatest pirate novel of all time. But I have and I am looking forward to diving into this one. If vacations are about mentally and physically escaping from your day-to-day life… I’m thinking this book can take me there.

    If not, then at least I can check it off my list of books I should have read in high school but didn’t because I was reading other stuff.

    Presence, Arthur Miller

    The only other things I’ve read by Arthur Miller were back in high school, Death of a Salesman and The Crucible.

    Something tells me that Miller is a master storyteller, and a collection of short stories seems like a winner. And the endorsements on the back used a lot of fancy words.

    Broke USA, Gary Rivlin

    My first and only experience with this game came when I was 23. Hard up for cash and too proud to ask a friend for a few hundred bucks to make it to the next paycheck, I went down to a payday loan place and wrote a check for $400 to borrow $300 for two weeks. Before I walked out of there I realized I’d stepped into a world I didn’t understand. 400% interest… yeah, not cool. It was a lesson learned.

    When the review copy of this book showed up last month, I snagged it and thought it would be a good opportunity to learn more about how people take advantage of the economically disadvantaged.

    Born Standing Up, Steve Martin

    When I think of Steve Martin I think of movies like Three Amigos and Father of the Bride. I’m not quite old enough to remember him from The Jerk or Saturday Night Live. Yet, I still have a fascination with his work. He manages to walk the tightrope between hilariously funny and believable drama.

    I first heard about this book when he made the late-night talk show circuit promoting it. I’ve wanted to read it since than but it never quite climbed into my wishlist. So when I saw it on the bargain rack for $5, I grabbed it.