Saturday, August 29, 2009
Inside the Mind of Youth Pastors: A Church Leaders Guide to Staffing and Leading Youth Pastors by Mark Riddle
Title: Inside the Mind of Youth Pastors: A Church Leaders Guide to Staffing and Leading Youth Pastors by Mark Riddle
How it was obtained: I purchased it along with some other ministry books from Amazon.com.
Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 3 months.
Days spent reading it: 2 days.
Why I read it: I am always looking for good books about ministry and youth pastoring. I thought this might be a good one to read.
Brief review: This is a book about hiring youth pastors. It also deals with developing relationships between staff members.
One thing this book does well, it breaks down good and bad reasons to hire a youth pastor. Riddle argues that a youth pastor should not be hired to take away ministry from church volunteers who are too busy to work with youth. A youth pastor should be hired for strategizing and coordinating. A youth pastor should be a support for the church ministry as a whole. I like how Mark Riddle talks about not hiring a youth pastor just because it has always been that way, or the church needs someone to take care of the kids. Youth ministry should be a church-wide ministry, not just a place for the youth pastor to minister alone.
The second half of the book deals with develoiping the relationship between a senior pastor and a youth pastor. I thought there were some good ideas in this section. Riddle talks about cooperation, having a mentoring mentality, and teamwork as keys. The very last section of the book deals with some odds and ends including sections on unwritten expectations of the congregation (fix my kid!), number comparisons, and a short chapter on part-time youth pastors (those poor souls).
This book was a quick read. I think it would be great for a search committee to go through (if they are willing to think through the process differently than it has been done before). I think it would also be a great resource for a senior pastor and youth pastor to go through together, especially if rifts have started to develop in their relationship.
The stereotypes of the youth pastor who can't be bothered with theology and the senior pastor who can't be bothered with the reality of modern culture are fading. Over the last several years, I've seen an increase in the number of youth pastors who are deeply engaged with theology through reading and dialogue. I'm not suggesting that they're parsing systematic theology, but they are reflecting on the nature of their beliefs as they relate to youth ministry and your church. More and more youth pastors are seeing the importance of letting theology inform how the local church does ministry. This is an exciting time to be working with youth pastors.
Stars: 4 out of 5.
Final Word: Mindful.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Title: Real Church: Does it exist? Can I find it? by Larry Crabb
How it was obtained: Purchased from Amazon.com
Time spent on the "to read" shelf: About two months.
Days spent reading it: A week.
Why I read it: The senior pastor at my church recommended reading this book, and he also is preaching through a series based on some ideas in this book. I figured I'd get off to a good start and read what he was thinking through.
Brief review: Real Church is the attempt by Larry Crabb to respond the charge that church is not worth getting up for on Sunday mornings. People are usually alright following Jesus, but don't particularly care for his bride.
Crabb gives three (unfulfilling) reasons why people tend to say they go to church. Going to church will make my life better. Going to church will show you how Jesus wants you to change the world. Going to church is all about saving lost souls and helping the already saved to be visibly moral. These are alright reasons, but they still leave us wanting more.
Crabb then goes on to give 4 marks of a church that are helpful (to Crabb at least). I'll paraphrase. 1. Hungers for truth. 2. Desires spiritual formation (and recognizes we are all in need of spiritual formation). 3. Community-centered. 4. Engaged with those outside the church.
I thought this book was alright. My criticism is that Crabb is basing what Church should look like based on his felt need as a broken human. I love that Crabb is open about our brokenness (a good theology is man is based on the fact that we are sinful). But I don't think what the church should look like or feel like to us today should be based on our felt needs. I wish Crabb would have gone back to the Bible and worked from that superior source material to point us to what church should actually look like.
Not that Crabb is wrong, or has bad ideas, or anything like that. He is surrounded by a biblical worldview, and I actually resonate with a number of his ideas. But the solution to the fact that (post)modern people do not care for church should not be based on how we feel or what we think we need. Instead it should be based on what God actually intended for the church to be.
This book could have been a great discussion on what the church should be based on what God wants it to be. Instead it's a discussion on what church should be like based on what Larry Crabb (and many others who feel the same way as Crabb) wants it to be. Then again, I know this is not meant to be a theological discussion on the church. It is simply a discussion about the church based on years of discontent.
Does a church that I want to be a part of exist out there? Absolutely! I've been there. I've belonged to a church that completely modeled Acts 2:42-47. But I also recognize that was not the norm for churches. So I completely sympathize with people who are frustrated with the same old-same old church. There is something more out there for people stuck in that church. It can be found. Keep examining the New Testament and the (very broken) church it depicts and realize that God intends for something more, but he also works with what we have. He takes broken churches and still uses them to accomplish his work in this world. All you have to do is look through Romans or Corinthians to recognize that the early church was not picturesque even in the early days.
Alright, enough rambling. Real Church was an alright book, but I wanted it to be great. Kind of like the church Crabb describes.
Favorite quote: "I long to be a part of a church that somehow connects what we do when we meet together to who I am when I'm alone. And I want that connection to release the power that can transform me into a lover of God and a lover of others."
Stars: 3 out of 5.
Final Word: Honest.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Title: Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports by James Patterson.
How it was obtained: This was a gift to Susan one Christmas.
Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 2 years.
Days spent reading it: 2 days.
Why I read it: This is the third book in a series.
Brief review: This third book in the Maximum Ride series begins to show the real overall plot of the books. I was saying to myself "Finally!" and then "Lame." Threaded through the books so far have been not-so-subtle hints that there is indeed an overarching plot. I am still not sure how Max and her flock fit into it, but essentially this book reveals that the evil nemesis is pollution by evil giant companies. That's a little lame in my mind.
Patterson has written a great series. Max and her flock of misfits are loveable characters. The books are easy to read, quick paced, and have a tinge or cynicism that will certainly appeal to every teenager. I really enjoy reading them. But this book turns from unique and fun to a higher degree of absurd plot. Patterson has one of his characters start a blog that soon has millions of kids following it. They become a children's army that is willing to raise their tiny fists against "the man." So we have teenagers throwing rocks and protesting outside of giant corporations at one point in the book. Do I believe in the power of the teenager? Absolutely. But this was a little ridiculous. I think Patterson envisions millions of little eco-terrorists crying in the streets to save their planet. I just can't buy it . I will suspended my disbelief for a bunch of genetically altered bird-kids, but teenagers becoming tree-hugging protesters is a little too much for me.
The same problem runs through Christopher Pike's Alosha series (which I reviewed here, here, and here). These are fun writers, and I'm sure they want to do something significant with their words. But they are not believable. A believable writer in this area of ecology is Carl Hiaasen. Check out Hoot or Flush for a great story with a believable teenager stepping up to help the environment.
I still enjoy these books, but the plot is starting to get annoying. Will I keep reading them? Yup. I'll finish the next two at some point in the near future, I'm sure. I had some great hopes for this series, but it seems like they keep getting a little worse each time. Oh well, I guess that happens when the author writes like 10 books a year. Quality is sacrificed for quantity (and profits!). Such is life.
Favorite quote: "'You should really try one of these cookies,' she said, holding out a chocolate-chip chunk of treason."
Stars: 3.5 out of 5.
Final Word: Eco-friendly.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Book 34: Creating Community: 5 Keys to Building a Small Group Culture by Andy Stanley and Bill Willits
Title: Creating Community: 5 Keys to Building a Small Group Culture by Andy Stanley and Bill Willits
How it was obtained: I was given this book before I started leading a small group at a church in Columbia, SC. Obviously I didn't read it when I was supposed to read it.
Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 4 years.
Days spent reading it: 2 months.
Why I read it: I was supposed to read it before I helped lead a small group. I felt bad about never having read it, so I added it to this list and completed my assignment years after it was originally given.
Brief review: This book is a Northpoint Church resource that talks about how they created a small group environment at their church. I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I recognize how important community is in spiritual development. So I think there are a few helpful pointers in this book about how that is accomplished.
But for the most part, this book really rehashes old business models and applies them to small groups. For instance one point of the book is "Clarify the win." Make sure you know what your end goal is. Gee, that sounds like Business class 101 to me. We need to know our goal to get there. I get it. Another section was about having reasonable criteria for small group leaders. Have quality leaders, but don't expect them to be perfect. Done.
In another section of the book they talk about how they want to see their small groups multiplying. SO every 1.5 years the group splits, but also grows. The chart goes:
Year/# of people
However they never explain how these groups magically grow (especially considering they are CLOSED groups). It was like they were saying:
Step 1. Start small group.
Step 2. Double in size in a year and a half.
Step 3. Start new small group.
It reminds me of the only episode I ever saw of Southpark with these underwear gnomes whose motto was: Phase 1--Steal underwear. Phase 2--
How do you do that? How do you double the small group size? I realize a church like Northpoint has new people coming and going all the time. But the old "if you build it they will come" mentality does not work for small groups in most churches, making this point practically worthless for those churches.
And one more personal pet peeve. Andy Stanley's name is prominently on the front cover, but I would be shocked if he wrote anything besides the introduction that is about 5 pages long. If you write a book, put your name on the cover. If you write the intro you're not the author! You're the "With intro written by" guy. His name is on the cover because it is his church and it will help sell this book. That's annoying to me. We might as well grab John Grisham, make him write an intro and put his name on the front cover of any book we want to sell. Why not? Ok, enough ranting.
So I did enjoy some of what is in this book. The opening chapters deal a lot with why people need a community they can fit into. There is a profound need in the human soul that needs community, and I think this book explores that need well. It gives us a glimpse of a biblical theology for small groups.
There are a number of small points that are applicable to anyone working on developing or strengthening their small groups. But this is not a book about how to start, grow, and develop your small groups. It is a big picture book that is not particularly practical for smaller churches, in my opinion. Not that the ideas are bad or wrong, they just are not for general application. I was hoping for something more and simply did not get it. Good thing this book was reasonably short.
Favorite quote: Disconnected people tend to be more selfish. Isolation breeds selfishness.
Stars: 2 out of 5
Final Word: Disappointing.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Title: Maximum Ride: School's Out Forever by James Patterson
How it was obtained: It was a Christmas gift for Susan from her parents a few years ago.
Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 2 years.
Days spent reading it: 10 days.
Why I read it: I actually heard this one on CD a few years ago. We really liked it, but missed the first one. So now I'm reading through the series, and this has been on the list for a little while.
Brief review: Maximum Ride is the brain child of the prolific James Patterson. It is a series aimed at young adults about a group of kids who have wings (and other special powers). They escape from their laboratory and have great adventures. This is the second book in the series.
What I like about these books is that they are very funny, engaging, and quick reads. You can pick one up and read through it in a few hours (if you're Susan) or days (if you're Patrick). They don't take much brain power, but they are very enjoyable. There are lots of little quotable bits throughout. Max is the main narrator, and her character is witty and likeable.
I would definitely recommend this series to Middle and High School students, but there is a small amount of swearing or pseudo-swearing in the series. I think adults would appreciate the series as well, but its not like this is refined literature. It's a beach read, and an enjoyable one at that. So there you have it.
Oh, and for anyone keeping track, this is my first book that I read in Thailand! Woo-hoo! (Check out my other blog Keeping Up With the Joneses if you want to read about our adventures in Thailand)
Favorite quote: "If you're ever feeling a lack of middle-aged white men, just pop into the Capitol. Not so much the House of Representatives, which has a bit more color and texture, but the Senate--jeez. Yes, let's have more testosterone running the country."
Stars: 4 out of 5.
Final Word: Flighty.