Books I’ve Read Recently

515XatoWK1L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Preaching by Tim Keller. Before reading this book it had been awhile since I had read a book on the topic of preaching. Since preaching the Bible is something I do regularly in my role I was excited to pick up a new book on the topic. I gained a lot of wisdom and practical insights from this book and I’d encourage anyone who finds themselves in a preaching role to read it. I’d also go as far as to say that all Christians should read this book since “preaching” is not just preparing and delivering a formal sermon. All Christians are called to proclaim the Gospel whether that’s at work, online, or in front of a large crowd. However, the majority of this book is aimed at those of us in vocational preaching roles. So this book is helpful to all Christians, but primarily for those in vocational preaching roles. Throughout this book there are several themes and main ideas that Keller covers. First, Keller points out the need for expository preaching and letting the Scriptures lead the way in preaching. This is primarily the focus in chapter one. Keller says, “I would say that expository preaching should provide the main diet of preaching for a Christian community” (page 32). Keller follows this statement up with a few reasons why he believes this and also a few dangers to avoid when doing expository preaching. Second, Keller rightfully argues that the Christ and the Gospel must be at the center of every sermon and should be preached from every text. Keller spends a good amount of time explaining how this can and should be done in preaching. Third, Keller highlights cultural narratives that will impact the way we preaching to an unbelieving world. This was a large part of the book but a very helpful section. Keller helps us understand the cultural narratives that impact preaching in our cultural context and shares practical ways we can preach God’s Word by engaging those narratives. Overall this was a fantastic book that I’d recommend to anyone who wants to share Christ well in our culture.


Creating a Lead Small Culture by Reggie Joiner, Kristen Ivy, and Elle Campbell. Every now and then I read a church ministry or student ministry book that causes me to rethink and evaluate everything I am doing in my student ministry context. This was one of those books. I’m grateful the student ministry that God allows me to lead is healthy and has a good small group structure in place. However, we have areas we need to improve and our small group structure and strategy has some holes. This book has helped me strengthen our small group structure and better develop a team of leaders who serve students in a small group context. The whole point of a “lead small culture” is to have students (or kid if you’re in children’s ministry, which this book is for as well) cared for and ministered to in the context of small groups. Relationship and life change happens when students are connected with an adult that loves Jesus and cares for them. Real teaching, mentoring, and modeling happens in circles not in a crowd. This book walks through three main ways to create a lead small culture: improve the structure, empower the leader, create the experience. The book is filled with practical wisdom, insights, and experiences from other ministry leaders as they share how they have created a lead small culture in their context. If you’re a ministry leader that oversees small groups or just wants to make small groups more of a vital part of your church than you need to read this book. It’s simple, practical, but has the potential to change the way you do ministry to students and kids.


Get Out by Alvin and Josh Reid. One of the common struggles local student pastors face is the struggle to get outside of their office and church walls and into the community where students are. That’s the issue this book addresses. This book is a practical book for student pastors who want to get onto their local school campuses and into the community where their students and their friends are. Alvin and Josh Reid say this about their book: “This book serves as a primer on student minister focused specifically on getting out of the church building and into the community to impact it for Christ” (page 15). This book helps student pastors realize a much needed shift is called for in student ministry today. We must see our ministry as bigger than our church walls and not just focus on our program and the students we have coming. We must go to the students that are not coming. We must meet them on their turf. We must reach students where they are at. In addition to all of that, this book is filled with practical advice from other student pastors and what they have done to get out and reach students in their communities. I’d encourage every student pastor to read this book. It’s challenging and will help you think about how you can get out and serve students in your community.

I’m currently reading 30 Events that Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky and plan to review that in my next “Books I’ve Read Recently” post.

Challenge Your Students to Do Something!

Rahab Xmas ChallengeAs your student ministry grows your going to be faced with a popular temptation among student ministries. Do we default to entertaining our students or see our job as equipping our students to live for God outside our student ministry? In many student ministries, big and small, student pastors have stopped challenging their students to do great things and have defaulted to just entertaining them when they are inside their youth room. So what happens is we have Christian students that come to youth group, soak up Bible knowledge and sing some worship songs, but leave with no challenge to do something better than just come back next week.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe our student gatherings, whether you do them during the week or on weekends, should be the front door of our ministries. They should be the big event that students and their friends love to come to. Because of this, we should have a standard of excellence in our programing, music, and teaching. It should be the thing that gets students plugged into our ministry and excited about what God is doing. But many times we stop there. We tend to think that when students start coming faithfully each week, seem to grasp our teaching, and engage in worship than we have hit the mark. But in reality that is just the beginning. So what’s the next step? I suggest that we need to start challenging our students to do greater things.

Many times students are looked at as the “next generation” rather than the church of now. A lot of times that is our faults because we have such low expectations of them. Maybe the reason our students are not doing anything greater than coming to our gatherings is because we don’t challenge them to do anything greater. As student pastors and youth workers let’s raise the bar and expect greater things out of students. Let’s give them opportunities to stretch their faith and do something that might be hard for them. I don’t know what that is for you, but I want to share with you what we have challenged our students to do and what we are expecting out of them.

During this Christmas season we are doing something with our students, across all four campuses, called the “Rahab Christmas Challenge.” Rahab is a ministry based out of Akron, OH that rescues women from prostitution and shares with them the life changing truth of the Gospel. One of the things this ministry would benefit greatly from is a 15 passenger van. This van would help them remove more women from their dark situation and bring them to a safe place so they can minister to them. We shared this vision with our students (with this video) and have asked them to raise enough money to purchase a van for this ministry. Through giving up a Christmas gift, fundraising, or giving their own money, we have asked students to make this happen. We have challenged them and believe they will respond!

What could you do to challenge your students to do something bigger than just show up and fill up a seat in your youth group? In his book Raising the Bar, Alvin Reid says, “The church-ministry in general, youth ministry, parents-has the opportunity to se a new standard for young people, to encourage their involvement in the Christian movement.” It’s more than just giving money, it’s challenging our students to live out their faith outside the walls of our student ministry.

Freebie: “Stronger” Ebook by Alvin Reid

It’s been a few weeks since I have shared a Friday freebie on my blog, but today I have a good one for you! Today I am sharing Alvin Reid’s new ebook called Stronger: A Practical Guide to Physical and Spiritual Discipline. In this ebook, Reid will help you see the importance of discipline and will help guide you to in being more physically and spiritually disciplined. Discipline is huge! If we are going to be effective as Christians and leaders in the Church, we must live disciplined lives, both physically and spiritually.

I have always been a big fan of Alvin Reid and love what he is doing in the world of student ministry and leadership. Awhile back I posted a book review of his book Raising the Bar that you can check out by clicking here. If you have not ever read any of his stuff, this ebook is a great place to start. Check out his website for more of his content as well as a few more ebooks.

Click here to download Stonger: A Practical Guide to Physical and Spiritual Discipline

Student Ministries Books Every Student Pastor Should Read

In my last post I reviewed a great student ministry book called The Indispensable Youth Pastor. I posted a link to the review in a Facebook group called Youth Pastor’s Only. It created some great feedback and conversations about student ministries books we should read and check out. I have been wanting to create a working list of student ministries books I recommend so I figured I would start here in this post. Here is a list of student ministries books I have read that I would recommend to student pastors, student ministry volunteers, and those studying to go into student ministry.

Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry by Doug Fields

Purpose Driven Youth Ministry by Doug Fields-This is an older book that was at one time “the youth ministry” book. It’s worth reading and contains some valuable principles for your ministry.

Speaking to Teenagers by Duffy Robbins

The Seven Checkpoints for Youth Leaders by Andy Stanley

Youth Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Youth Ministry by Houston Heflin-This books contains one of the best definitions of youth ministry ever given. You can check that definition out in a post I wrote about it called “Youth Ministry Defined.”

Youth Ministry 3.0 by Mark Oestreicher-If you want to get a great summary of the history of youth ministry, this book is for you! It explains where youth ministry was, is, and where it is going. I don’t totally agree with where Oestreicher believes youth ministry should go, but overall it’s a great little book.

Youth Ministry by the Book by Roger Glidewell-This is a student ministry book most have not heard of, but I would highly recommend you grab a copy and read it. This is the most Biblical based student ministry book I have ever read.

Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church by various authors-I had to read this book for a student ministry class in college. It is a little older than most of the books I have mentioned, but contains some great insights about the different ways we appraoch youth ministry and the overall local church.

The Ministry of Nurture by Duffy Robbins

Youth Culture 101 by Walt Mueller-If your looking for a book that will help you understand the culture of youth today, this is the book I want. Also, I recommend suggesting this book to parents so they can understand the culture of their teen.

Raising the Bar by Alvin Reid-One of the top student ministry books in my opinion. I recently wrote a review of it here on my blog. Click here to see that post.

The Indispensable Youth Pastor by Mark DeVries-This is a book for somewhere in any stage of student ministry: just starting, been at it for years, or about to be done. Click here to see my recent review of the first part of the book.

The Greenhouse Project by Mike Calhoun-This book is a gold mine for student pastors. Each chapter is on a different area of student ministry and the book as a whole gives you a great summary of what a healthy student ministry looks like.

These are just a few of the many student ministry books out there, but these are the ones I have read and would recommend. Leaders are readers. If we want to be effective leaders in our student ministries we must be readers. Feel free to leave your thoughts on some of these books as well as suggest other books I may have not read it.

The Indispensable Youth Pastor (Part 1)

As many of you know, I am still searching for my first full-time student pastor position. Awhile back I saw the book The Indispensable Youth Pastor and noticed the first part of the book was dedicated to helping you land a youth ministry job. Honestly, this was the first book I saw on this subject so I instantly wanted to grab a copy. My fiancée surprised me and gave it to me as a gift a few weeks ago and I just finished reading the first part. The last book I reviewed here on my blog was Alvin’s Reid book Raising the Bar so I figured it was time to post another book review. Since I only read the first part of the book about landing a youth ministry job, I am only going to review that part in this post. On down the road I hope to read the rest of the book and post a review on it.

In The Indispensable Youth Pastor, authors Mark DeVries and Jeff Dunn-Rankin attempt to do three things for the reader: land, love, and lock in your youth ministry dream job. The book is broken down into three parts based on that attempt and I believe the first part, landing a youth ministry job, provides some of the best advice I have ever heard when it comes to searching for a youth ministry job. The chapters are extremely short, only about two pages each, so it makes this book easy to read and apply the advice given.

The first chapter cuts right to the heart of the matter, before you can worry about landing that youth ministry job, you need to be the right person. If your going to be effective in that dream youth ministry job you better have a growing, vibrant faith that you can pour into students. Here are two great quotes from this chapter: “The only way to share a vibrant faith is to have a vibrant faith” and “We can’t share what we don’t have.” From there the book talks about engaging in youth ministry wherever you are now, and realizing youth ministry is more than hanging out with students. Then you come to a few chapters that deal with the way you go about your search. The authors suggest you make two helpful documents: a contact tracking chart and a personal search timeline. These two documents will allow you to gather a group of contacts as well as track your search so you know where you are at. Personally, I have not made these two documents, but have taken the principles from the idea and it is helping a lot! Then the book spends the next few chapters on your resume. It deals with having the right type of resume, knowing what your references will say, and how to handle interviews once your resume lands you a face to face interview. Then you get to the last two chapters in this part of the book: family matters and holy hesitation. These were probably the most helpful and encouraging chapters for me.

When it comes to searching for a youth ministry job, you must always keep your family first and keep them in the loop with the search process. The authors encourage you to think about things like: how often will your family see you if you take this position, will you have to move for this position, and does it pay the bills. They always encourage you to never stop talking with your family and allow them to be a part of the search process. Then the authors end this part of the book of right, reminding you it’s all about God’s leading and direction. Sometimes we experience a “holy hesitation” when God puts something in front of us. The authors remind you that sometimes that holy hesitation comes right before you step into that dream youth ministry job!

By far, this book provided the best advice I have yet to receive when it comes to my student pastor job search. If you are currently in a search, I would highly recommend you grab a copy of this book (Click here to get it on Amazon) and spend some time soaking in all the advice and helpful tips it provides. The rest of the book covers how to love and lock in that youth ministry job you have so if your currently a student pastor, I would recommend this book to you as well.

Click here for a great review of the whole book by Drew Peterson. Also, if you’re a pastor or person on a search committee that is on the other end of this topic, check out the authors other book Before You Hire a Youth Pastor.