Books I’ve Read Recently

510broL5n+L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Fundamentalist by Joey Svendsen. This was by far the most raw and honest book I have ever read. However, it was much needed in my life right now. In this book Svendsen shares about his legalistic upbringing in the church as well as his ongoing struggles with mental illness. One of the main themes throughout this book is Svendsen’s journey of understanding his own salvation. He shares about how he use to view the “sinner’s prayer” as a checklist of things he must say and how he felt guilt about certain behaviors or activities all the while wrestling with his faith. He continues to share his stories of faith, doubt, and mental illness all the way up into adulthood. The subtitle of the book gives you a peak into the beauty of this story – “Stories of a mentally ill, obsessive compulsive, legalistic youth group kid turned pastor.” It’s a book that shows how our upbringing can impact us in huge ways and how our own brokenness keeps us from seeing and enjoying the beauty of the Gospel. This was a great read but I say that with caution. If you’re offended by Christians who cuss and are comfortable with talking about sex and related issues openly this is not the book for you. If you are familiar with Svendsen and his work with the BadChristian community this will come as no surprise. I’d still recommend the book but be warned there will be things in this book that don’t comfortably fit into the “Christian book” category. But that’s ok; it’s a great book!

919yabQY9KLLife Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This is one of Bonhoeffer’s most popular books and it stands as a classic on the topic of Christian community. In this little book Bonhoeffer lays out what Christian community is (chapter 1) and then follows that with what daily life looks like with other believers (chapter 2) as well as with yourself (chapter 3). The final two chapters deal with ministering to others as well as confession within the Christian community. The entire book is deeply rooted in Scripture but also extremely practical for Christians among all generations. This book helped me see exactly what God calls me to when it comes to community as well as how that should practically look in my life. There are encouragements in this book that may not come naturally or easy for us in our world today but I believe Christians reading this book, including myself, would do well to follow what Bonhoeffer is suggesting. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who is desiring to get a good framework on what Christian community is and how it looks practically within the church.

41aMVzv0zzL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Uncomfortable by Brett McCracken. This is another book on the topic of Christian community. Like the title suggest, the theme of this book is being “uncomfortable.” McCracken argues that both our faith and community as Christians is and should be a bit uncomfortable. In the first section on “uncomfortable faith” he lays out how our faith calls us towards the uncomfortable. Everything from the cross, holiness, love, mission, and more doesn’t come naturally to us. Faith propels us to believe and live out some uncomfortable truths. Then he gets into section two on “uncomfortable community.” In this section he dives into various parts of Christian community and how they are important and needed no matter how uncomfortable they make us. For example, he deals with topics like racial diversity, worship styles, and church authority. Two things really stood out to me about this book. First, McCracken rightly admits there is no “perfect church” and that searching for a church that is the perfect fit for you is the wrong approach. In our culture of consumerism this is a much needed reminder. I needed it and I think others do as well. Second, he lives out what he writes. He shares about how his own church context is not the most comfortable to him and how his church isn’t the “perfect fit” for him. He shares stories and illustrations from this part of his life and it’s extremely helpful.

Two other books I’ve recently read that I chose not to review are Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley and More Than a Carpenter by Josh & Sean McDowell.

Advertisements

What We Did This Week

Dealing With Sin Social MediaWe had a great nights this week in both our middle school and high school ministries. We changed things up a bit in our high school ministry and had a game night as well as started a new series. We started this same series in our middle school ministry this week. Below is a look at what we did this week.

What We Did at Porch (High School)
Game Night:
We basically set up a bunch of round tables and had various board and table games for students to play. We also had a small Kan Jam tournament that some of the students took part in. We also provided free pizza and drinks. It was a great night of hanging out and building relationships.
Teaching: 
Even though it was a game night, we still kicked off a new teaching series called “Dealing with Sin.” In this series we are talking about how Christians can deal with sin in their lives. For this first week we started by talking about confession. We looked at 1 John 1:9 and talked about what confession is and what it is not. We also talked about some other practical things in regards to confessing sin. Click here to listen to the whole talk.
Highlight: Probably seeing students that normally don’t interact sit around a table laughing and having a good time as they played games together. That was the whole reason I wanted to do a game night. I wanted students to get to know each other better, have fun, and build community.

What We Did at Edge (Middle School)
Upfront Game: Tape Face. This has been going around the internet for awhile but the idea is simple, take scotch tape and wrap it around your face. What results is usually a very disturbing and funny looking face. I brought two pairs of students on stage and had them tape their partners face up with the goal of making the ugliest face. We gave them a two minute time limit.
Group Game: Red Light Green Light. Classic game. We had students start on one side of the room and the goal was to touch the wall on the other side of the room and come back. I had a high school student lead this game. When they said “green light” students could run. When they said “red light” they must stop. If a student doesn’t stop or keeps moving when “red light” is called out has to start back over. They could also call “yellow light” which means crawl on hand and knees.
Teaching: Same as our high school night above. Started the new series and talked about confession. Click here to listen to the whole talk from this night with middle school.
Highlight: Seeing one of my high school leaders, Zach Bindus, on stage leading a game. He comes to Edge pretty often and helps out. He wants to be a youth pastor and it’s awesome seeing him already doing “youth ministry” as a high school student.

Sobrr – What Parents Need to Know

Sobrr-Life-in-the-moment-598x326Parents need to know what apps their teens are using on their smartphones. One of the apps that I have been telling parents about is Snapchat. Snapchat is one of the most popular apps out there right now for teens and parents need to know how it works and what some of the dangers are with it (click here to read about Snapchat). By the way, the whole idea behind Snapchat is not good. If you don’t believe me, click here and read this helpful article.

But that’s enough about Snapchat. There is a new app that just came out called Sobrr, which may gain popularity with teens shortly. It’s an interesting app that to teenagers will sound fun and exciting, but in the long run is not very healthy.

Sobrr is an app that is built on the whole idea of “living in the moment.” Sobrr basically does three major things. First, Sobrr users “vibe in the moment.” Vibes are basically things you and others post (what they call “moments”). Then you scroll through the current vibes to see what others are posting and can either “cheer” (same idea as a “like” on Facebook) or “pass.” The catch though is everything expires in 24 hours. So what you post and what others are posting will be gone in 24 hours. Completely gone. Second, Sobrr users can have “24 hour friendships.” Yep, you read it right, temporary friendships that last for 24 hours. However, if both people enjoyed their “24 hour friendship” they can choose to stay friends, but only if they both choose to do so. Third, Sobrr users can have “ephermal conversations.” Sobrr chatting is a one-time chat experience. You must read it before it expires. What’s the point of this? Sobrr says it “keeps the conversations free and in the moment.” You can click here to check out the Sobrr website and read more about it as well as watch a short video about it.

Why do parents need to be aware of Sobrr? It seems fun and not harmful. However, when you really step back and think about what this app is all about it’s not really that healthy for teenagers. A few things stand out to me about this app parents need to think about. First, Sobrr (much like Snaptchat) opens the door for teens to get involved in sexting. Sexting has gained a lot of popularity among teens because of apps like Snapchat (and of course because of texting) and Sobrr will do the same thing in making sexting easier and more accessible for teens. Because of the one-time chat feature and the fact things you say will expire, teens will be more likely to say things they wouldn’t in person or even in a normal online chatting session. Second, Sobrr cheapens real community. We are designed to be in relationships with other people. Community is necessary for us in how we have been designed. Sobrr redefines what friendships look like by making them just a 24 hour experience. Third, Sobrr will give teens a false sense of no accountability. In their minds, things they say and do on Sobrr will disappear in 24 hours so why would they think about using discernment or even hold back in what they do. However, parents, especially Christian parents, should realize this is not true. Even though what they do may disappear in 24 hours they will still give an account for it before God one day. In Romans 14:12, Paul reminds us, “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (ESV).

Parents, check out Sobrr. Don’t just take my word for it. Research the app yourself and talk to your teen about it if it comes up. Don’t just let your teen use apps like Sobrr without knowing about it first or having a conversation with them. You may even decide to not let them use this app at all.

How to Have an Effective Leader’s Meeting

00016683_bI believe one of the most important things a student pastor can do is build and equip a team of adult leaders. Once you have this team built, you will need to have regular meetings with them for the purpose of building community, training, and discussing what’s happening in the life’s of the students they work with. You don’t want these meetings to be a waste of time or boring. You want them to be something your leader’s look forward to and something they leave with a renewed excitement to work with students. I honestly love doing leader meetings with my leaders. I’m still not a pro at them, but I have discovered a few things that make for an effective leader’s meeting. Here are a few things I always try and do that may be a help to you as you do meetings with your leaders.

Schedule far in advance. Your leaders are busy. Unlike you, they are not getting paid to do student ministry. They do it as a volunteer. On top of volunteering in your ministry, they most likely have full-time jobs, families, children, and a ton of other things going on. That’s why it’s important to schedule your leader meetings as far out in advance as possible. I would recommend scheduling them a year out. For example, I have leader meetings with my leaders every three months. I have these on the calendar before the year even starts. This way my leaders know that every three months we will have a meeting and they know the dates of those meetings. If you do this, you have far better chance of getting them all there.

Provide food. A great way to build community among your leaders is to share a meal together at your meetings. Spend the first part of your meeting just hanging out and eating together. We always do our meetings on Sunday afternoon following our church services. Our budget usually covers a main dish and then we ask the leaders to bring side dishes to share with everyone. It’s always cool to watch your leaders build community with each other as you have a meal. It’s usually during this “eating time” that I have some of the best conversations with my leaders. Also, it’s usually when they also have the best conversations with each other.

Let them talk. It’s easy for leader meetings to become a time when the student pastor just pours a ton of information into the hands of the leaders. Part of the reason we have leader meetings is to give the leaders a time to talk and share what’s going on with them as it pertains to the student ministry. I do this two ways. First, we always have a time to share “wins.” This is a chance for the leaders to brag about what God is doing in their small group or about something they have seen happen in a students life. Second, we discuss ideas for our ministry. For example, next year we are thinking about changing our small group set up. Instead of making this discussion on my own I wanted to discuss it with my leaders. As a team, we discussed the idea and if it’s a good or bad thing for our ministry. This helps them feel like they are a vital part of the ministry, which they are.

Have a time of training. One of the main reasons you should meet with your leader’s in to train and equip them to do ministry. This is the main objective when I meet with my leaders. The community building is good, the food is great, but the real reason we are there is for me to train and equip them as a team to do effective student ministry. Every time you meet, have some training prepared for them. Don’t throw this together last minute, spend some time preparing training material that will help your leaders minister to your students well. Also, use this time to share with them resources that may help them minister to students.

These are just a few ways I believe you can have an effective leaders meeting. They have worked for us and I think these ideas will help you have a good leader meetings with your team. If you have any additional thoughts about having effective leader meetings feel free to leave them in the comment section below.