Books I’ve Read Recently

31804439._UY400_SS400_12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke. Smartphones have changed the landscape of our culture. Phones have impacted the way we communicate, view ourselves, work, and even interact with the Bible. All these things and more are discussed in this helpful book. In this book, Reinke walks through twelve ways the smartphone is changing us. Before getting into the twelve reasons he offers a very insightful and helpful theology of technology. As far as I’m aware that isn’t something that has been written about that much in other places. He does an excellent job of laying the foundation and then diving into the twelve reasons. I’m not going to list all twelve reasons here but there were a few that stood out to me as they where the most convicting in my own life – ignore people around us, loss of literacy, and are comfortable withs secret vices. My favorite thing about this book is how Reinke never encourages the read to just get rid of their smartphone as a way to fix the problems and issues it had created. In some cases that might be a good option for people (Reinke helps the reader walk through a few questions to consider if that should be their next step or not) but it may be that many people just need to make changes and adjustments to use their smartphones more wisely. Overall this was an excellent book I would recommend to anyone who uses a smartphone (which is almost everyone).

51EC4hmHOhL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgConscience by Andrew Naseli & J.D. Crowley. I’ve never seen or read a book on the topic of conscience before so when I saw this book I knew I had to read it. As someone who grew up in a culture that I was very legalistic I have always struggled with matters of the conscience and the Christian life. This book was extremely helpful in my journey out of that culture and into a better understanding of the freedom we have in Christ. The first few chapters of this book deal with defining conscience and tracing it’s appearance throughout the Bible. Once the foundation is laid the obvious questions about living as a Christian with a conscience as well as how to relate to other Christians when our consciences don’t agree. In this book the Christian is encouraged to not ignore their conscience but to calibrate it so it’s in line with God and His Word. The authors rightly point out that people tend to have one of two extremes when it comes to their conscience – insensitive (they ignore its warnings and end up with what Paul calls a “seared” conscience) or oversensitive (they pack it with more rules than God intends and make it more about matters of opinions rather than truth). Neither of those are good. God has given us a conscience and we should use it rightly, which requires us to calibrate it with God’s Word. I’d encourage every Christian to take the time to read this important book.

6989A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson. I’ve aways been a fan of Peterson. His consistency and commitment over the years have been something of a model of what a pastor should be about. He is a man who loves God and His Word. These things are evident in this classic book. The book serves as almost a practical commentary on Psalms 120-134 (Songs of Ascents). Peterson points out that “these fifteen Psalms were likely sung, possibly in sequence, by Hebrew pilgrims as they went up to Jerusalem for the great worship festivals” (page 18). Peterson walks through these fifteen chapters and explains what each ones teaches us about an area of following Jesus. As with all his writings, these pages contain a pastoral tone from Peterson and the reader will finish this book convicted for sure but encouraged to continue walking with Jesus.

Two other books I recently finished but chose to not review here are Zeal Without Burnout by Christopher Ash and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Both were great read I’d highly recommend.


Freebie: Resource to Disciple Students Who Come to Faith

I love seeing students coming to Christ! It’s why I do what I do. I love it! But when a student comes to Christ, that is only the beginning. Yes, it’s awesome and should be celebrated, but we must then start the process of making sure that student get discipled and they learn the basics of walking with Jesus.

There are tons of great resources out there to help youth pastors and youth workers do this important task. However, I have yet to find one I am 100% sold on. Not that they are not good and helpful, but I just haven’t been able to stick to with one resource. So I figured I would make my own. I sat down and asked myself, “What are the basic topics (or conversations) I would have with a student who has just come to Christ?” What I came up with was eight conversation topics that I believe are vital for a student who has just come to Christ to have with another believer.

I don’t claim to have the best resource for discipling students who have just come to Christ, but I have been seeing it work in my context. It’s simple and easy to use. I also don’t claim to be that good at graphics so don’t expect anything to flashy with the look of this resource. Just a simple, easy to use resource to help youth workers disciple students. Click the link below, download it, and use it if you’d like. If you do use it, I’d love to hear what you thought so feel free to leave a comment below.

Click Here to Download This Free Resource

Do You Have a Plan for Students Who Come to Faith?

new_christians_341241708The most rewarding thing for a student pastor is seeing a student come to faith in Christ. But when a student comes to Christ, that’s only the beginning. Of course, rejoice and celebrate with them, but don’t leave them there. We need to have a plan in place to help students who come to Christ move forward in their new life with Christ.

A few weeks ago one of our students came to faith in Christ on our high school missions trip. It was awesome to see this student, who has been part of our ministry for awhile, finally understand the Gospel and place her faith in Christ as her Savior. My wife and I rejoiced with her. The other students rejoiced with her. It was awesome! But I knew we couldn’t just stop at rejoicing, we had to help her build a foundation and help her get started in her new walk with Christ. As I started brainstorming with my wife I realized we didn’t have a plan. We didn’t have a process that we take students through when they become believers. I realized that if we don’t get a plan in place we will see students who are new to Christianity fall through the cracks and struggle in their new found faith.

I can’t speak as an expert on this because like I just said, we didn’t have a plan in place. We are currently working on one right now and using it to help this student grow in her walk with Christ. However, here are a few thoughts I’d like to share in regards to having a plan in place for students who come to faith while in your ministry. These are things I’m learning along the way.

1. Start the process quickly. Whatever your process is, whether it’s going through a book or getting them plugged into a small group, get things rolling right after the student becomes a believer. Don’t waste anytime!

2. Find a good resource. The process we are working with right now is having an adult leader of the same sex meet with the student one on one to go through a short booklet called First Steps: The Adventure Begins. This booklet is broken down into six short (I mean very short!) chapters that help a student understand what they just did and how they can start growing in their walk with Christ. So we have the adult leader meet with the student six times in a period of two months. Another great resource you may want to look at is New: First Steps for New Christ Followers by Youth Ministry 360. I haven’t looked into this resource too much myself, but my friend Josh Evans wrote a short review of this resource here.

3. Make sure they get plugged into your ministry. If the student is not part of your ministry or maybe only comes a few times a year, make sure they get plugged into what you are doing. Encourage them to become part of the large group and place them in one of your small groups. Becoming a vital part of community is key to their spiritual growth.

What plan do you have in place for students who come to faith in your student ministry? Don’t just make up a plan as you go, put a plan together beforehand so when a student comes to faith you can quickly start helping them grow in their faith.

A Different Way to Build Relationships with Your Students

Young Couple WalkingBuilding relationships with students is one of the most important things we do as student pastors and youth workers. Even though it’s an important part of our ministry it’s hard to do. Why? Because we are busy. Student ministry demands much more than just relationships with students. There are talks to prepare, events to plan, leaders to train, parents to partner with, and meetings to attend. Unfortunately we cannot sacrifice these things and hangout with students all day. So on top of our already busy schedules we try and build relationships with students. There has to be a better way and I believe there is.

We need to start building relationships with students by having them join us on our day to day activities. Instead of planning something to go do with a students (which is still a good, effective thing to do) we can invite them to join us for something we already have planned. It keeps us from adding another thing on our calendar and gives them a glimpse into our daily life.

For an example, I planned to go hiking this weekend. It was really nice out and I wanted to enjoy the outdoors by going on a hike at one of our local parks. So I texted a student and called another to invite them to join me. It ended up being one of the most successful relational connections I have ever had with students. It allowed me to do something I had already had planned and also gave me a chance to hangout with students. It was a casual day doing something I enjoy and hanging out with some of my students. Also, this helped those guys get a glimpse into my daily life. They got to hangout with me while doing something I enjoy. Also, it made them feel important that I would contact them and ask them to join me in doing something I had planned.

Student ministry is busy, especially if you are in a full-time position. Making relational connections with students is hard and takes time. So start having students join you while your doing things you already had planned. Have them ride along with you as you run errands. Ask them to join you while you do something you enjoy. Let them get a glimpse into your daily life.

Build relationships with your students while you live your day to day life. Let them be a part of that. It will help you build a stronger relationship with them and may impact them in ways you never know.

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.