Book Review: 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me

41nz6oBmELL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Seminary was a great experience. I gained a ton of knowledge about the Bible, theology, and ministry practices. However, I quickly learned that full-time ministry came with a host of things seminary never prepared me for. There are some things you can’t learn in seminary and the only place you’re going to learn them is in the thick of ministry.

That is what this book is all about. 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me is an easy read that includes short chapters from various writers on topics you will not learn in seminary. These are topics you will only learn as you pursue ministry in the local church. Some of these topics are things like what to do when your church is dying, leading your wife, managing volunteers, handling conflict, and knowing when to leave your church. All these topics and more are talked about and the reader is given practical insight into each of these important topics.

I really enjoyed this book and there are few things stood out to me about that I’d like to mention. First, it has a Gospel and Biblical focus. The writers are not just talking about these topics and giving their opinions on what to do. The advice and application given in each area is Gospel-centered and based upon Scripture. The writers call the reader to remember the Gospel frequently and encourages them to obey God’s Word in these areas. Second, the chapters are short and practical. The topics are not beat to death but instead hit on in a timely and focused manner. Each chapter includes a ton of practical things the reader can apply to their own ministry context. Third, seminary is upheld as an important thing but not the only thing. The writers don’t bash seminary. They instead talk highly of it but are honest about its weaknesses and shortcomings. One writer says, “We do not intend to denigrate the valuable work of seminaries. Rather, we want to help young pastors, seminary students, and other aspiring ministers learn from our experience how God fits a man to be a faithful and effective minister” (page 145).

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who is either in or has attended seminary and desires to go into local church ministry. I would also encourage those currently in ministry to read this book and gain some practical insight on these important topics.

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Talking with God Teaching Series

Talking With God Title SlideCommunication is vital in any relationship including a Christian’s own relationship with God. Helping people understand how God communicates to us and we to Him is so important. That’s why we took two weeks in our middle school ministry to talk about just that – how to talk to God. The idea behind this short series is very simple. We wanted to our students to understand that God speaks to us through the Bible and we have the privilege of speaking to Him through prayer. The first week we talked about Bible reading. We looked at what the Bible is and a very practical tools we can use to read it better. The second week we talked about prayer. Much like the talk on the Bible, we looked at what prayer is and how we can pray better following the example Jesus gave in Matthew 6.

I wrote the talk for the first week and our two-year intern Allen Williams wrote the talk for the second week. We wanted to make this short series available to others to use in their own ministry context. As stated above, these talks were originally written for a middle school audience but can be tweaked to fit in almost any context. Click the link below to get both teaching manuscripts as well as the graphics for this series. There is also a “Bible Study Plans and Methods” handout that you can share to go along with the first talk in this series.

Talking with God Teaching Series

Transition Ideas For Students

smart-304883-unsplashAround this time of year a few transitions happen within our student ministry: 5th graders move into the middle school ministry, 8th graders move out of the middle school ministry and into the high school ministry, and seniors transition out of the high school ministry. These transitions really start during the last few weeks of the school year and continue throughout the summer months. By the time the next school year starts everyone is in (or out of) the appropriate ministry.

Transitioning students into, out of, and even within your student ministry is not an easy task. However, over the past few years our student ministry team has gained some great experience in this area and have crafted a pretty good plan for transitioning students. We aren’t perfect by any means and some of the stuff we do isn’t even original with us but has been adopted from other ministries we respect.

I want to share with you three ideas you can steal from us to implement within your transition process. Tweak these ideas to best fit your context and see if they help you shepherd your students through these transitions.

Sixth Graders Into the Middle School Ministry
A few years back one of our children’s ministry staff members came up with the idea of having a breakfast for the current 5th graders where the children’s ministry team can officially “send them off” as well as have those students meet the student ministry staff. We tried it and it went great. Each year around this time we have meet with all the current 5th graders to introduce our student ministry team as well as share with them what to expect in our middle school ministry. We show them pictures, videos, and even play some of the most popular games from our ministry. We also give them some free stuff as well as some resources help them (and their parents) connect with our middle school ministry and keep up with what’s happening. This year we are doing all this as well as having a cereal bar that morning. We do all of this within the kids worship services on Sunday mornings so parents are not having to bring their kids to another event during the week.

Eight Graders Into the High School Ministry
Transitioning our 8th graders into our high school ministry is the hardest transition we have. For us, our middle school and high school ministries are very different as far as atmosphere and programming (example – no musical worship in middle school but in high school we have a full band that leads worship each week). Many students have a hard time with this change and we are always looking for ways to do better. Also, a lot of students just get more busy in high school so we don’t see them stick around or at least show up consistently. However, we do our best to celebrate them as they leave our middle school ministry and encourage them to make the transition to our high school ministry. We do this with an event called Edguation. This is one of the things we have adopted from another church that we use to be a campus of. Edge is the name of our middle school ministry so “Edguation” is like our 8th grade graduation. It’s a special night during our normal program where we honor our 8th graders, give them free stuff (ESV compact Bible and high school ministry t-shirt), craft a talk to challenge them (click here to see how we did it this year with a panel of high schoolers), and have some of our high school students there to meet them. One of my favorite parts of this night is when we send all the 8th graders out of the room (our way of sending them out of the middle school ministry) and into the atrium where they are greeted by screams, high-fives, claps, and more from our high schoolers (click here to see a video). After this happens the 8th graders go into another room where they have some cake and spend time talking to the high schoolers. It’s always a great night.

Seniors Out of the High School Ministry
It’s always bittersweet when our seniors graduate out of our ministry. However, we do our best to celebrate with them. One of the ways we do this is by doing a senior night within our normal program. We usually do it within the last few weeks of the school year and it’s a night where we honor our seniors, give them some free stuff (costum ministry alumni t-shirt), and challenge them from God’s Word. In addition to all this we also do a senior video where we have them answer some questions and share advice for underclassmen (click here to see the video from this past senior class).

Transitions are not easy but doing them well is so important to the health of your student ministry as well as for the ongoing discipleship of your students. Above are just a few things we do that you can use in your ministry as well.

 

Bible Study Plans and Methods

aaron-burden-113284-unsplashRecently we began a new series in our middle school ministry called “Talking with God.” The whole purpose of this series is to help students understand how they can communicate with God and grow in their relationship with Him. For the first week of the series we talked about how God communicates to us through the Bible. We wanted to help students understand not only what the Bible is but also how they can go about reading and studying it consistently. You can watch that entire talk here.

To help them get started in this we created a short handout with various Bible reading plans and methods. It’s not exhaustive but includes a few ideas to get them going in the right direction. We wanted to make this handout available to others so feel free to click the link below and use the handout yourself or in your own ministry context as you help others get into God’s Word.

Bible Study Plans and Methods

Book Review: More Than a Worship Leader

41aYymFbqYL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Recently my friend and co-worker Gary Durbin wrote a book titled More Than a Worship Leader. I had the privilege of reading this book and really enjoyed it. I’m excited to review it as well as recommend it to others.

Gary breaks this book down into three main parts: off stage, on stage, and up-staged. Gary’s desire to help worship leaders grow off and on stage is evident throughout this book. I found the off stage section to very insightful and challenging. Most books on a particular area of ministry focus more on skill rather than the person. In this section Gary helps the worship leader understand that who they are off stage is vitally important. However, what they do on stage is still important. That’s where the on stage section comes in. In this section Gary does an excellent job at helping worship leaders get better at what God has called them to do week in and week out as they lead God’s people. The last section, up-staged, is a humble reminder that it’s not all about us and that’s ok. All three of these sections challenge worship leaders to do more than just get up and sing a few songs on Sunday. Leading worship is a high calling from God that should be cultivated and taken seriously.

In addition to my comments above, let me share with you a few things I really liked about this book. First, this is a book for both rookie worship leaders as well as veteran worship leaders. No matter where you are as a worship leader there is something for you in this book. It’s been encouraging to see our student worship band going through this book together. It’s huge for rookie worship leaders but shouldn’t be overlooked by those that have been in the game for a good while. Second, this is a book not just for worship leaders. Even though the focus of this book is leading worship in the context of the local church there are things found within it that is helpful for people in other areas of ministry. I’m involved in student ministry and I walked away with a ton of great and challenging insights from this book. It’s also very helpful for those in ministry that have worship leaders serving on their team like lead pastors or student pastors with volunteers or students leading worship. I’d encourage others in ministry to not look past this book just because you’r not leading worship. Third, this book is written by someone who loves Jesus, the church, and worship leaders. I don’t just say this because I work with Gary and have the privilege of being his friend. This book is written from the perspective of someone who has served in the local church for quite some time and has gained a lot of experience in the area of worship. His heart and love for Jesus, the church, and leading worship shines through the pages of this book.

I’s encourage you to grab a copy of More Than a Worship Leader on Amazon and check out more content from Gary at www.garydurbin.com.