Book Review

The Lead Small Culture Book Club

I am really excited to start this new year off by joining many other kidmin and youth min. leaders (last time I checked it was over 900), as we read through Creating A Lead Small Culture together through an online book club. I have already read through this book once fully and the second time was a brief synopsis for another leader in a smaller church looking to implement Orange philosophy and the 252 Basics curriculum into their program. The book is full of great tips on how to connect your leaders with the kids they serve on a deeper level and how they can partner with parents so that together they can create more opportunities for spiritual development and deeper understandings on how God is at work in their lives everyday.

Every kid needs to be known by someone and to belong somewhere.

Most leaders agree. That’s one reason for a shift in the way many churches are discipling their kids and teenagers. Think of it this way: connecting kids and teens to a consistent leader who believes in God and believes in them is something the church can do that nothing else in culture does.

Here is how my next eight weeks are looking.


As I started Session One today I have already had a couple questions jump out at me and cause me to strongly reflect how Life Groups (We use Life Groups instead of Small Groups in the hopes that these groups will continue to grow together and do life together), function in our kidmin department.

The very first question is a tough one for many leaders because they simply want kids and parents to attend everything possible that happens within the church walls.

If kids only show up at church one time a week and experience one environment or participate in one activity, where would you tell them to go?

Wowzers, yep they said what every leader dreads to ask, or even think about. The thought that a family or a child might only pick one of the many great things that your ministry does. I have been wrestling with this question for months now:

How do we plan our ministries better to help families leverage their time together so that they spend more time as a family?

Think about it:

Kids ministry is one day, or night,
Youth Ministry is on one or two other nights.
Men’s ministry happens,
Women’s Ministry is another,
and church is on Sundays,

oh yeah don’t forget about after school activities and extra curricular activities.

Add all those days up and well you have one very exhausted and overwhelmed family.

Your greatest asset to building faith in the next generation is not your Bible study, worship band, facilities, or budget. The most valuable resources you have to help people see God are the people in your church who know God. (pg. 33)

How do you react to that statement? With relief? Hesitation? Excitement? Explain Why?

What are your biggest obstacles when trying to connect every kid with a consistent adult leader?

What are some of your ideas so far for overcoming those obstacles?

Those are the main questions that I am going to be wrestling with this week. I want nothing more for my kids in our kidmin than for them to experience God through the caring adults that are in their lives. That is how they will understand who God is, how we works in their lives, and how He loves them unconditionally. By learning about God in a relational context I hope that our kids learn about a relational God that wants to have a consistent two-way relationship with them.



The Truth About Kids And Social Media – Speaker’s Spotlight Blog


The benefits that Amy Jo Martin points out in her must-read book, Renegades Write The Rules may surprise you – it’s an important read for anyone trying to understand social media.

As most of us already know, there are clear downsides with kids using social media and this topic has been covered for years. Cyberbullying, privacy , and identity theft are only a few negatives that should be considered. Just as we teach our children how to ride a bike, we need to teach them how to navigate social media and make the right moves that will help them. The physical world is similar to the virtual world in many cases. It’s about being aware. We can prevent many debacles if we’re educated.

Question: What are the benefits of kids using social media?

via Speakers’ Spotlight – The Truth About Kids And Social Media.

Books on my shelf

10629658_10152205019986370_6670124045181772431_nThe books that I have recently finished, or I am currently reading. Also on this list would be “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek which I blogged about here.


What books are you reading right now?


Everyone wins when a leader gets better. – Bill Hybels


Book Review – Parenting Beyond Your Capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof

Parenting Beyond Your Capacity

by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof

Oftentimes, parenting can be a struggle full of love. Rather than being another “how-to be a better parent” book, Parenting Beyond Your Capacity focuses on how parents can fortify their parenting capacity by engaging their family in God’s story to the world. Parenting Beyond Your Capacity also has a wealth of helpful insights for those who are hoping to be parents one day, those who are preparing to soon be parents, for grand-parents, those who work with parents, have friends that are parents, or for those that are influencers in children’s lives.

The core of the book is divided into five key family values.

1)      Widen the circle

2)      Imagine the end

3)      Fight for the heart

4)      Create a rhythm

5)      Make it personal

Biblically based from Deuteronomy 6, the values and verses work hand-in-hand. Moses discusses in Deuteronomy 6 that God intended for family and faith-community alike that it takes a village mentality to raise spiritually-healthy children. Through this partnership of family and community mentors, God’s bigger story begins to unfold:

“Your children one day will seek affirmation and approval from adults other than you. Either you can become intentional about enlisting other trusted adults to influence your kids, or you can depend only on your limited capacity. You can leave them alone to discover random influences who will shape their character and faith, or you can help them protectively pursue strategic relationships for their lives.”

If our kids engage Christ with genuine and excited hearts, there is an even better chance that the family relationship can be used to witness to other friends and family – to a world that yearns to be restored. Honorable mention: There is no guilt trip regarding your parenting skills. The authors’ hope is to share the concept that the goal of parenting is not to impress others with your amazing parenting skills, but it is to instill within your children the love and nature of God.

The Story Teen Edition Curriculum Review

The Story Teen Edition DVD Curriculum

First off, the creativity in the story clips is very refreshing. The clips are concise, eye-catching, and easy for teens, or pre-teens in my case to refer back to. I have used a few of these story clips so far with different groups of students and have found that starting with The Story video clips and then following up with some questions that ask students to explain what they saw has been very helpful for them. The clips allow the students to see a broader context of multiple chapters,or even books of the Bible in a short period of time which allows them to see God’s larger story playing out.

Michael Novelli has seen that when teens experience a story, as opposed to it being told or shown to them, they absorb and remember it more thoroughly. This DVD offers youth workers a new way to engage teens in the grand narrative of the Bible.

One of the downfalls for me was that some of the clips cover a large portion of scripture, so it makes using these clips outside of the curriculum very difficult. For example, if you were teaching a 3 week series on Nehemiah, or Revelation there is only one clip that covers these works. Also, the miracles and parables of Jesus are also covered in one section. This is only a minor flaw for me because it goes outside of the intended use of the curriculum, but for a small, or none existent budget for some youth groups the re-usable ability of the clips could be very important.

However, what you do get in this curriculum is very impressive.

The DVD Contains:
31 video sessions (including additional Recap and Rewind videos)
Reproducible Teacher’s Guides for 31 weeks including Reading Scripts
Reproducible Student handouts
Subtitles (please use subtitle option and not the CC option on your tv or DVD player)

The handouts are great and they ask the students to interact with the story with all their senses. This is fantastic for all the learning types that can be found within any group of students. They can draw, listen and engage in simple question formats and I have found that the artistic outlets with this curriculum, especially in a camp setting make this a must for any Jr. High group.

The students are asked to engage the story that they have just heard and to timeline the events, but they get to choose the character whose point of view they would like to focus on. I have had students draw out the major points of Nehemiah’s story from Nehemiah’s criticizers point of view. I love the creativity that this curriculum draws out and it is written in a way that allows this to flow naturally.

As a leader you get a scrip of the story that is a paraphrase of the passages that are covered. We have used these to act out stories as well as to read in a large group setting. I have found that reading has not brought out the creativity and if you are teaching from the front of the room knowing the story so that you can tell it without the script allows for greater use of the students imagination.

Script from Session 15 – God’s Messengers

You also receive a student handout and this is where there is a clear intention to include all learning types. Students are asked on these handouts to engage the story in three ways.

1) See the story.

See the story – Session 15

2) Hear the story.

Hear the story – Session 15

3) Join the story.

Join the story – Session 15

The last written piece that is at your disposal as a leader is the Teacher Guide. The guide is full of scriptural references, context and  personal preparation suggestions. It then breaks down how to break down 75 minutes in order to get the most out of the curriculum. It timelines each step of the night as a guideline for you that allows you to place more emphasis on the key areas that you would like to focus on within your group. You can emphasize prayer time, teaching time, engagement, or small groups as this is meant to be a tool not a rule to go by.

Part 1 –  Rewind

  • Intro and prayer, video of the previous week and brief response
  • 5 Min

Part 2 – See the story

  • Explanation and handout, session video, create symbols, share symbols with group
  • 10 min.

Part 3 – Hear the story

  • Story reader scripture reading, student response to scripture, break into small groups.
  • 25 min

Part 4 – Join the story (small groups)

  • Discuss story, create personal responses, share the response, closing prayer.
  • 35 min.

There is an even more detailed breakdown for a typical session in the Teacher Guide that is really helpful. I have found that this helps volunteers manage their small group time and to keep the focus on the scripture. I do think that if small groups are a focus in your ministry there needs to be time built into the schedule that allows for time for personal sharing of the weeks activities for the students.

I would recommend that any youth group that wants to teach on the metanarrative, or even any group that is looking for an affordable curriculum. You can find the DVD curriculum for around 50 dollars in most locations and can be found on The Story website. One perk is that you can teach this curriculum without any of the other Story products as the scriptures are given to you. I would give this curriculum a 8/10.

Review – The Gospel According to Jesus

The book centres itself at least in my perspective around the term “shalom.” Chris Seay uses this term to describe this state of restored relationship with God and with those around us. For the author are all called to live in and embrace others in shalom and help others find shalom in their own lives.

The gospel is the good news that God is calling out all people to be redeemed by the power residing in the life, death, and ultimate resurrection of Jesus the Liberating King. These ‘called-out ones’ are rescued from a life of slavery, sin, and failure to become emissaries in a new kingdom set to join the redemption of the entire creation, groaning and longing to be redeemed. 49

I really did enjoy this book and I found that it did challenge me in my faith and how I live it out everyday. However, that being said I found it to be a difficult read as I found myself losing interest at times. I found that odd because it was not as if it was not helpful, or interesting, I just found that it was a book that you would read a bit and then set it down to think over the challenges that were laid before you through the words of the author.

Chris Seay is attempting to right a misunderstanding between understanding the true meaning and actions that define a righteousness. The conversation and I would say the conclusion that Seay came to is that the majority of church going individuals define righteousness through their understanding of morality and not through the message of the gospels.

The best simple translation of the word righteousness is ‘restorative justice.’ God is stepping into our brokenness and making things right, taking fragments shattered by sin and restoring them to fullness. The reality is that God is calling us to take part in his glory, which comes from heaven to earth, and to live in his abundance, together. Seeking his righteousness is about being an active agent for his restorative justice in all of creation. 12

I will say that I did lose most of my interest at the end of every chapter when their was a manuscript of an interview between one or two individuals and the author. At first I liked the premise of this idea, but I found that they did not provide the necessary ah ha moments for me that I hoped a practical discussion around the chapter would have provided.

I really enjoyed the discussion on how we can jump the gun and call things of this world, or individuals evil without thinking through what the connotations of that statement really represent in the eyes of God.

Modern Christians have taken a previously integrated world and subdivided it into the sacred or secular, physical or spiritual, good or bad, profane or religious—categories that do not serve us well because they are simply untrue. God created the physical, and that makes it uniquely spiritual. The so-called “bad people” are also created in the image of God. 146

The author wants the reader to imagine seeing people as “shalom” or “broken shalom” rather than good or bad. If you see them as broken shalom, you’re not allowed to look down on them; instead, you are called to join God in his redemptive work in their lives.

I would not say this is a must read. I probably would not have read it if I had not heard him speak at a conference I attended, but I wanted to go deeper into his ideas of righteousness and shalom.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the <; book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <; : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

April Reading List

Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings

I know it is weird to want to read a book all about the love of geography, but that is exactly why I read it. I love old maps and I could study them for hours on end. This book plays right into that love. Ken Jennings of Jeopardy fame, goes into detail about why we are drawn to maps in our youth, but usually fall out of love with them as we age. It was a very insightful read, but I would not recommend this to everyone. The topics are relevant to everyone as it deals with everything from searching for belonging to our strong senses of curiosity and adventure, but the geographical roots make it a tough read for anyone to pick up and read on a bus.

Each chapter delves into a different aspect of map culture: highpointing, geocaching, road atlas rallying, even the “unreal estate” charted on the maps of fiction and fantasy. Jennings also considers the ways in which cartography has shaped our history, suggesting that the impulse to make and read maps is as relevant today as it has ever been.

Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray

This was a find on my Kindle as I was writing on depression for a project that I am working on. The cover caught me I am not going to lie, but the content was surprisingly helpful for numerous reasons. First off, it is a look at why Christians can get depressed, but it is not written by a specialist. That makes reading the content and the facts that he cites easier to read as he talks about depression in a casual, yet informed way. Think of it as a depression 101. The book is just over 100 pages and chapters include.

In six short chapters Murray carefully and concisely writes about the (1) Crisis, (2) Complexity, (3) Condition, (4) Causes, (5) Cures, and those who (6) Care for those who are depressed.

There are also great references to additional material on depression from both Christian and secular material. I really enjoyed the look at depression through the lenses of mental, spiritual, emotional and physical contexts. A great quick read for anyone in ministry to get an understanding of depression and its roots.

Re-Read The Nehemiah Factor: 16 Characteristics of a Missional Leader by Dr. Frank Page

The layout of the book is very logical as it takes the reader on a journey from an original calling to ministry to the final victory of a successful ministry and relationship with God, with all the Godly steps needed to fill in the holes of any wishful missional leader. For myself, the chapter entitled A Missional Leader is a Person of Christlike Concern establishes itself well beyond the rest. It creates an atmosphere that the reader can call into question – motives, callings and purposes of vision – without making one feel overwhelmed or inadequate in their leadership skills. Instead, it allows the reader to make personal connections into the missional ideals of Nehemiah and Jesus in order to enhance the skills and hindsight with which they entered the chapter. The book, primarily, does a fantastic job at clearing up questions about the whole missional movement. Answering these questions that many leaders have about the whys and hows of a true missional church will only further understanding. For instance, I have used the chapter on communication for my camp staff to help them understand the importance of it in a leadership position within a missional driven ministry.

March Reading List

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

I would recommend this book to anyone in youth ministry. The dialogue between characters about what makes one pretty, or not is worth the read alone. There are some great sections in this book that would be very useful when we teach our youth on self image and self worth.

“We’re not freaks, Tally. We’re normal. We may not be gorgeous, but at least we’re not hyped-up Barbie dolls.”

The book centres around Tally Youngblood and her upcoming surgery to become pretty. Every teen when they turn 16 in Westerfeld’s series is turned from an ‘ugly’ into a ‘pretty.’ Tally cannot wait to become a ‘pretty’ until she meets a new friend that challenges everything that it means to be pretty. The story is not that original, but the questions asked in this book are phenomenal. I would recommend this series over The Hunger Games.

“Or maybe when they do the operation- when they grind and stretch your bones to the right shape, peel off your face and rub all your skin away, and stick in plastic cheekbones so you look like everybody else- maybe after going through all that you just aren’t very interesting anymore.”

The book takes place in a futuristic setting of our world and there is a great conversation between Tally and her friend about the celebrities that we would look at as beautiful. Her reaction to their looks as she flips through a magazine is priceless. 5/5

It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get IT and Keep IT. by Craig Groeschel 

What I liked about this book is that it was open and honest about the type of things that we chase in ministry and leadership that are not important, or take us away from our greatest task.

I believed we needed our own building and all the other things real churches have—like a sports ministry, concerts, conferences and our own church van. I thought those important elements would give us it. Then we’d be a real church. Little did I realize, we already had it. God was doing something very special. Lost people were being found. Found people were growing. The church was spiritually vibrant. All without any of the things I thought necessary.”

Having these types of things in our ministry are not a bad thing, but when they start to contradict or work against the vision of the church there is a problem. This book looks to help leaders steer clear of that. For me the the selling point for this book is the continual challenge towards kingdom building first. It is not about YOUR ministry it is about the vision of the church and how Jesus is always at the forefront. A great leadership book that is worth a read. 4/5

February Reading List

I am about two months behind on posting my reading lists, so I will get caught up in the next couple of days. First up is my February reading list.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 

I fell into the same trap that everyone seems to fall into when they start reading this book, you cannot put it down until you are finished. It was a quick, entertaining read that I enjoyed way more than I thought I would. I had heard all the arguments about the violent premiss of kids killing other kids for sport, but to be honest as you get into it, there is not much more here than there was in Lord of the Flies that I read as part of a school curriculum. I enjoyed the journey Katniss takes in this first book. She has to wrestle with many of the developmental questions every student wrestles with as they emerge into adulthood. She has to find out who she is, beyond the conformity of the world she is forced to live in. Katniss finds the answer to the three basic questions of adolescence: Who am I? What is important to me? And, Where do I belong? A great read that needs to be addressed beyond the questions surrounding the violent plot. After all, Lord of the Flies is a staple in many schools and this book will be too. 5/5

The Flinch by Julien Smith

The Flinch is about our ‘flinch’ mechanism that fires every time we have the possibility of failure, or running into danger in our lives. The concept and the potential for this book in terms of leadership growth was huge in my mind. However, I felt that it just did not live up to the potential. Personally, I never got to the point while reading this book where I felt that it defined how to overcome the flinch. The steps are all there in the book to overcome your flinching mechanism, but I found that it was too focused on finding and defining what causes you to flinch instead of how to change. How to change the flinch is all about acting against it and moving forward and I did not think that the author covered more about what is the ‘Flinch” and not how to remove it. The style of the writing screams Seth Godin, but the impact does not.  2½/5

Halos and Avatars: Playing Video Games with God by Craig Detweiler

“We are concerned by the desensitizing aspects of video games. They often objectify women and glorify violence. . . . [this book] aims to demystify the gaming universe and dignify the passions of the most active gamers. We believe in the theological possibilities contained within even the most debased popular culture.”

I really enjoyed this book and it digs deep into the mechanics of video games and their potentially addictive element and all the while Detweiler attempts to bring it all back to God. The book is a collection of essays that tackle questions of identity, science, art, story telling, religious undertones, teaching possibilities as well as the ethical and social applications of video games. The book can become dry at points, but the content is worth the read. The big takeaways for me were the essays on creativity within Halo as well as the ethical implications in games like BioShock. A great read. 4/5

I Am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives by Dave Sterrett and Doug Bender

I have been watching the I Am Second videos on YouTube for quite some time, so I was very excited to find some of the stories in book format. I did enjoy reading the stories of transformation and reconciliation from a wide variety of individuals, but I did not find it as effective as the videos. If you are looking for inspirational stories of lives being changed this is a great read. 3½/5





Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership by John Dickson

“the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself,” such that a “humble person is marked by a willingness to hold power in service of others.”

John Dickson takes the reader on a historical journey to trace the route of human development and their understanding of the term ‘humility.’ I was not sure how I would like a book that took a historical look at a term, but I found this book fascinating. Humility, as it began to change in how it was understood and how it was practiced within leadership roles needs to be studied in order for anyone to truly embrace humility as a leadership characteristic. Humility has taken many forms, but for Dickson there are some very clear guidelines for someone to be an effective leader and it begins in this clear understanding of humility. The motivational aspect of humility is seen as a leadership quality as opposed to the gluttonous view of self-promotion; and that humbling oneself to serve others is a sign of strength and not weakness for Dickson. I was worried that this book was going to be a self-help type of read, but it becomes very clear that this book is a calling out effective leaders to step up and embrace being small. A must read for leadership. 5/5

What I Took Away From Reading ‘The Day Metallica Came To Church’ and Watching The Grammys.

The Day Metallica Came To Church : Searching for the Everywhere God in Everything
by John Van Sloten

Below is the question I pulled out of the text for my mini review last month. I will continue with a larger look at the book now.

”If God speaks through both the Bible and human culture at the same time, how would that work?” 

That is the central question to this book. Personally, the chapter on Van Gough and his painting The Church in Auvers was brilliant and this is the chapter that John Van Sloten uses to framework this discussion in detail. He gives out two implications that help him ask the question that I used above, but it also helps with this question from the book.

“How would it affect how I seek out, listen to, and experience God?”

If we begin to look for God at work in the music, movies and other cultural experiences we have everyday how would that change the way we view and understand God?

Would it?

Or, would we realize we do it without even thinking about it?

The first implication is co-illumination.

By co-illumination I mean that the truth contained in the Bible brings light and understanding to the truth contained in broader creation and culture, and the converse: that truth revealed in creation and culture can illuminate the truth revealed in the Bible.

The second implication revolves around the counterbalance of this type of worldview.

This interconnection brings a counterbalancing influence to the reading of either text. God’s revelation through the Bible tethers, holds in balance, and offers perspective on God’s revelation through nature and human culture, and God’s revelation through culture has the same effect on the Bible.”

When he works through the idea of co-illumination the premise of the whole book takes shape. God is at work through the ordinary. By that I mean think of that awe inspiring moment as you looked out over a crystal clear lake, that mountain top view, or that feeling of a great cup of coffee on your tongue. Each experience, every verse and each scene has the opportunity for a co-illuminating moment of reflection towards God’s creation.

The Bible is full of these moments. The parables are told around elements of the natural world, tax-collectors taught about God, as did shepherding. If Jesus used those daily jobs as ways to show his Father’s mighty works we should be able to see his teachings in the pouring of espresso, or through an architect that forever changes the skyline of our cities.

“It’s about the co-illumination of the ordinary and the ineffable. Christ’s weavings of word and world left an unforgettable impression on his follower’s lives. Not only dod they come to see God’s material goodness implanted in everything around them, but every time they would take a sip of wine, witness a wedding, or walk a certain road, they were reminded of Jesus’ words.”

 Here is the start of his explanation of the role counterbalance plays in how we view God in the everyday.

The fact that God speaks today keeps us from limiting God to only what he spoke in the past in the Bible. And reading God’s Word in the Bible keeps us from misinterpreting his words today.

He uses a great story of Van Gogh’s father and his refusal to look at the world in any way other than his own way to illuminate the idea of a counterbalance. Van Gogh’s parents refused the idea that the book spoke of anything beyond thievery and dismissed it for portraying a worldview that was opposite to the biblical worldview that they had. The book was Les Miserables and they refused to read it. THey missed out on a story about grace and forgiveness that illuminates and gives an example of the type of grace and forgiveness that Jesus spoke of.

“The Bible offers a clear, personal presentation of God; it brings God close, gives God a name, and reveals the new life we have in Jesus Christ. Creation and human nature, on the other hand, speak more obliquely about God, often via a different language, and they reveal more of God’s breadth, depth and enormity.” 

This book is a great tool for any youth worker. It challenges everyone to have an open and critical mind to the world around us. It calls us to see God at work around us and to be able to share that with others. What has made you stop and take a second look in the last week? Did you tell your students about where you can see God at work in their media choices?

As I watched the Grammys I could not help but think of this book. You can see God at work in the creative minds of the individuals that performed.

What can we take away from the collaboration between Foo Fighters and Deadmau5? A very unlikely combo that have a great single and yet so far apart on the musical spectrum.

What can you say about Adele’s jaw-dropping rendition of Rolling in the Deep? All she had was a microphone and a voice and yet her performance was one that I will remember for a long time. She took out all the special effects and stood there as she proclaimed, “This is me and I am good enough as I am.”

What can you say about the ending and the multi-generational line-up of Sir Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Walsh, Dave Grohl? I am currently reading Dave Grohl’s biography and it is constantly referencing the musical influences that shaped his career. We promote mentorships and strong positive influences as a way to help our students grow and what better way to show them the importance and the fruit of those relationships through real life instances playing out on stage. If you watch Adam Levine’s facial reactions while he is playing with The Beach Boys you can see that he was living out a dream.

There are moments that the teachings and wisdom from the Words of God enter into our life each day, but we need to ask ourselves if we are watching and listening for them.

One practical point that I have started since reading this book is that I have started a media journal. In it I usually take lyrics of a song, a movie plot, or a sit-com scene and right it down the centre of a page and then from that I mind map out different biblical or life stories that I can use as teaching points. This helps me put together series based on themes, or biblical passages.

If you are looking for other materials that promote biblical worldviews and talk about how to include media choices in that discussion check out these as well. by Brett Ullman : Parents 101 by Brett Ullman

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