Youth Worker Journal review of Good News in the Neighborhood

Jon and I have gotten some very nice feedback on our curriculum, Good News in the Neighborhood. But none quite as big as the one in this months edition of Youth Worker Journal

Often, conversations about introducing our communities to Christ are centered on program development or planning the perfect event. Yet what Adam McLane and Jon Huckins point out in this new curriculum from The Youth Cartel is the best way to reach our communities is to mobilize and equip our students to forget the church event and get in the middle of their neighborhoods.

Out of all the curricula I have used in the past 11 years of ministry,Good News in the Neighborhood quickly rises to the top. This 6-week program is designed to engage students with Scripture, evaluate how Jesus did ministry in His community and provides very practical steps to help students do the same thing.

Each week is packed with materials and options that can be used throughout the lesson. McLane and Huckins start off by providing some great ways to get the discussion started: two options of video clips, an activity option or some icebreaker questions. From there, they dive into Scripture, providing multiple texts to use, a script for a brief talk, as well as a video story that can be played. Each session then has some discussion questions to take the teaching deeper.

The best part of each session is a proposed experiment, which helps put the lesson into practice and gets students out of the church or their homes and into their neighborhoods. Each week increases in challenge and comfort, eventually culminating in putting together a plan to do something to bring Christ to your neighbors. These also provide great content and discussion for the following week.

If you buy one curriculum this year, make it Good News in the Neighborhood. It will go a long way in your ministry to help your students reach the people around them.


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5 Storytelling Podcasts You’ll Love

Photo by Alyson Hurt via Flickr (Creative Commons)

I’m a connoisseur of storytelling. I can’t get enough of the genre. Whether its a personal narrative, or non-fictional piece, investigative storytelling, or fiction– I love it all.

As a communicator I study the method and mode of storytelling. I know that in order to be a better communicator I’ll need to become a better storyteller.

Here are 5 storytelling podcasts I love and recommend

  • This American Life – The granddaddy of them all. Each one-hour show is a series of segments (called acts) built around a central theme. This is a great entry point to the genre as it acts as an aggregator of others.
  • The Moth – The Moth is a storytelling non-profit which holds regular events in major cities around the country called, Story Slams. Participants tell a story live, without notes, before an audience. They take the best of the 15 minute stories and put them on their podcast.
  • Third Coast International Audio Festival – I’m a new fan of this one. Each segment is about an hour. It’s got an investigative reporting/documentary vibe to it. But they thread stories together in a way which fascinates me.
  • Storycorps – I can’t tell you how many times this project has brought me to tears. It’s all amatuer, typically a monologue or a family member interviewing another family member. Each segment is about 5 minutes.
  • 60 Minutes audio edition – I don’t particularly enjoy the TV version of this show. But the audio version (literally, the same show with just audio) is fantastic! The reporting here is second-to-none, and what I learn from this style of storytelling is an economy of words.
What are your favorite podcasts for learning storytelling? (Preaching doesn’t count!)


Tonight I was fortunate to see a screening of the movie Catfish with the San Diego tweetup group. (Another stellar meet-up, the organizers continue to fantastic.)

The story is about a three New York friends who randomly get to know a family in the upper peninsula of Michigan via Facebook. Their relationship grows over several months to the point where the two filmmaking buddies convince the main character that he has to meet his Michigan friends.

At the end, the audience is left with more questions than answers. Which is part of the experience of the movie itself, clearly intended. Namely, it is either a narrative documentary or a screenplay reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project. As we milled about in the narthex of the theater no one could really figure it out. My theory is that part of it really is a narrative documentary but when they went to cut it they realized that they needed more of a plot, so they went back an added some screenplay to it. But that’s just my theory. It could be straight documentary and it could be straight screenplay. If it’s 100% screenplay than the writers went largely unnamed and they wrote something brilliant.

Overall, while certainly entertaining, Catfish is not nearly as titillating as Blair Witch Project. Which means it is probably destined for a limited release in theaters nationwide and a quick entry into DVD-land. I could be wrong– but I just don’t see something there that is going to force a major box office smash.

As a social media person, I thought the concept was actually pretty fun. It plays with all of the stereotypes and fears people have about living a digital life. Just for good measure it adds a subplot of what big city people think about rural town folk and visa versa.

You will laugh at the main character because he does stuff that we all do. And you will cringe with him as he shares far too intimate details about his personal conversations via text with his would-be girlfriend, Meg.

If you like quirky independent movies, this is it.

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Picasso Tapas in Hillcrest

Last night Kristen and I discovered a fun little place in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego called Picasso Tapas. Walking around the neighborhood we settled there purely because it was busy when nothing else was. (Little travelers tip right there.) After wiggling our way past the door we found a nice seat and settled in to enjoy this cozy hole in the wall.

If you’ve never done tapas you need to know this is a place to skip the entrees… tapas is all about ordering several “little plate” appetizers. The owner suggested we get 2 each and share, we were hungry and so we ordered 5. Also, tapas places typically have a European approach to a meal. So if you want something fast and have high expectations for minute attention to detail you’ll be disappointed. Since Kristen and I came with the idea that we’d be there a while so relaxed and enjoyed their famous sangria. Originally, we were going to grab a bite to eat then head to a movie but we ended up staying so long that dinner was plenty for one night.

A couple of the things we ordered were good. Tasty but not special. But two items really stuck out and are worth the hassle of parking down on 4th & University. First, the turkey meat balls were about the best thing I’ve ever tasted. Full of flavor and tender, not dry, we actually had to cut the 5th one in half and contemplated another order. Second, the almond shrimp was stellar. I’ve had my fair share of shrimp in my life and I’ve never bit into a shrimp to taste almond. It was a great flavor and this order came with an abundance of very large shrimp. Both items were recommendations and I kind of wish we had just asked for more instead of taking chances on some of their other 37 tapas to chose from. One negative, like was mentioned in a few reviews elsewhere, we never got all of our 5th dish. I’d tell you about the mushroom tapas but it never arrived. That didn’t disuade us though as we just ordered a dessert, flan, and were quite pleased.

The service was quaint and added to the cozy factor. I think midway through our meal we graduated from the owner, a man from southern Spain, to a “real server.” I can’t lie in saying that I preferred the owner talking about his wife (the chef from northern Spain) better than a boring server. All-in-all though the service was very typical of something I expect on the Continent.

The price was right. We ordered a lot and I was stunned that the bill was so little. If you arrive before 7 PM there are some great deals to be had from the $5 menu. I actually suggest coming early as this small place fills up with locals and gets louder as the evening progresses. Also, if you have a party larger than 4 it may be hard to get a table.

Overall, I highly recommend this place. No website and none needed. Check out some other reviews on Google and you’ll get the idea. Locals love it and critics don’t. My kind of place.

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Mario Galaxy: The best game for the Wii

Mario GalaxyThe day after Christmas I went to my local GameStop to buy a video game. I was itching to buy Madden 2008 and was really disappointed that they didn’t have it in stock.

I asked  the clerk, “Of the games you have in stock, which is the best?” The clerk looked at me and said, “You want Mario Galaxy, it’s the best game for the Wii, period.

It was the “period” that he said that was connected to my credit card. I bought it and brought it home.

Within 10 minutes my kids were hooked. Not only is it a fun game to play with loads of levels and a 3 dimensional world of play, it’s also easy for kids to play as player 2. Get this, the main player controls where Mario goes with the Wii remote and nunchuck accessory. But with the second Wii remote a second player can help Mario pick things up. Best yet, the second player can help you but not hurt you. The result is that Megan (6) and Paul (4) feel like they are playing the game… and they really are helping! It’s brilliant.

On top of that cool feature, the game is a blast to play. For anyone like me who grew up with Super Mario Brothers (OK, I played Donkey Kong too) this is a throwback experience on steroids.

If you’ve got a Wii, you need to look into Mario Galaxy. It’s the best game for the Wii.