Books I’ve Read Recently

The Christ-Centered Expositor514vgksbzl-_sy344_bo1204203200_ by Tony Merida. This is by far one of the best preaching books I have ever read. From the title of the book it’s pretty easy to catch what Merida is passionate – expository preaching that is Christ-centered. The goal of this helpful books is to help preachers (even though others could benefit from this book but his main audience is preachers) understand how they can better preach Christ-centered expository sermons. It serves as a handbook to do just that. What I love about this book is how Merida spends the first half talking about the preachers heart. These are challenging chapters that will cause preachers to evaluate their life, doctrine, prayer life, and more. These early chapters help the preacher see that who is plays into what he preaches. The second half of the book is extremely practical. These chapters lay out a five step process to writing Christ-centered expository sermons. I’d recommend this book to those who have been preaching for a long time as well as those who may be in seminary preparing for pastoral ministry. It’s also helpful for those in between who are early in their ministry career.

Growing Younggy_green_cover_coming_soonv3 by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin. This is the newest book put out by the Fuller Youth InstituteThe Churches Engaging Young People project studied churches who were effectively engaging 15-29 year olds (click here to read more about their research). From their research they found out there are six essential strategies that churches use to engage teenagers and young adults. This book helps churches understand how they too can practice these essential strategies in their context. I really enjoyed the depth of this book and the extent of the research. In addition, the book also gives many practical steps for churches to follow if they want to effectively reach teenagers and young adults. I also really liked how they included many stories of churches doing this well. I came away with some great ideas but also with some fresh inspiration for reaching teenagers and young adults in the context of the local church. I would recommend this book to anyone who serves in a local church, especially those who work with teenagers and young adults.

67084Money, Possessions, and Eternity by Randy Alcorn. In this book Alcorn helps the reader understand money in light of God’s Word. There is almost too much in this book to even be able to write a short review. It’s packed with challenging chapters on tithing, giving, debt, savings, materialism, church finances, and money in light of eternity. Alcorn is both extremely Biblical and practical. He doesn’t hold back in sharing with the reader what God says about money and goes to great lengths to provide practical things for the reader to do in regards to their money. I’d recommend this book to every believer who wants to better understand God’s view of money and how they should handle it.

Up next on my reading list is On Preaching by H.B. Charles and Erasing Hell by Francis Chan.

End of The Year Youth Ministry Resource Bundle

Recently Terrace Crawford launched a new site called Ministry Downloads. I want to share an excellent bundle he has available starting Black Friday. The bundle includes $500 worth of youth ministry resources. The bundle includes customizable teaching series, Bible studies, and games. It also includes some graphics, forms, and other documents. The best part is you can get all of this for just $49. All these great resources have been created by Terrace and are designed for the local church. I’d encourage you to download this bundle and take advantage of these great resources. Follow the link below to purchase and download this bundle.

Click Here to Purchase and Download This Bundle

Terrace Crawford is an entrepreneur and youth worker-at large, with an affinity for Social Media. Crawford, named as one of the Top 100 Christian Leaders to Follow on Twitter, serves church leaders (particularly youth workers) through his blog, and weekly podcast, This Week in Youth Ministry (available on iTunes). Terrace frequently speaks on the topics of Leadership, Social Media, and Youth Ministry. He authored “Going Social: A Practical Guide on Social Media for Church Leaders (Beacon Hill Press)”, and was recently named as Young Influencer of the Month (July 2016) by Thom Rainer, President of LifeWay Christian Resources.

Books I’ve Read Recently

The Imperfect Pastor41uu0g9bztl-_uy250_ by Zack Eswine. This book is by far one of the most honest pastoral ministry books I have ever read (Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp would be another one of those). In this book Eswine helps pastors see that despite what the “celebrating pastor” culture is telling them, pastoral ministry is more about walking with Jesus and serving Him in the local context He has placed you in. Throughout this book Eswine uses the example of Jesus to show what pastoral work looks like. From this approach it’s easy to see that our current model of pastoral work doesn’t always match up with what Jesus had in mind. This book was refreshing for someone like me who during college and seminary was influenced heavily by what we may call “celebrating pastors.” Reading and listening to guys like Mark Driscoll and Steven Furtick often times left the impression that if I didn’t serve at a big church or had as much influence as them I was a failure in ministry. At times it feels like I came out of college and seminary more prepared to climb the “ministry ladder” rather than serve Jesus daily in pastoral work in whatever context He put me in. This book helped me leave some of that baggage behind and focus on what really matters, which is following Jesus daily and serving Him daily in the church context He has placed me. I would highly recommend this book to pastors, especially younger guys in pastoral ministry.

703729_f450Vertical Church by James McDonald. This is a book that had been on my list to read for quite some time. I decided to grab it and give it a read after hearing both good and bad things about it. In this book McDonald argues that churches should be “vertical.” By that he means that churches, particularly in their weekly worship services, should be about the glory of God and helping people experience that glory. The bottom line seems to be that churches should be more about God’s glory and not cultural relevance or anything else that drives churches and directs what they do. The first half of the book deals more with a Biblical basis for the “vertical church” model and the second half is more practical in that it explains how a church can be “vertical.” In the second half of the book, McDonald goes through several pillars of a vertical church – unashamed adoration, unapologetic preaching, unafraid witness, and increasing prayer. Overall I enjoyed this book. However, there were a few things that didn’t sit well with me. First, McDonald seems to have a “my way or the highway” approach. This makes sense when you realize McDonald argues that the “vertical church” model is Biblical. He has a deep and strong conviction of that, which leads to his dogmatic tone. But at times it came across a bit much. Second, his chapter on worship (unashamed adoration) seemed to make the case that expression in worship is the end goal and when one lacks expression in worship they lack true worship. I like his heart behind this chapter – that true worship seems to show itself in expression (we see that in the Bible, especially in Psalms). But true worship (which we need to be careful not to just consider singing in church as worship, worship extends beyond just singing), doesn’t always show itself in outward expression. Tim Challies shares more about the weakness and danger in this chapter as well as some other chapters in this book in his review.

9781433549731_p0_v1_s192x300When Trouble Comes by Phil Ryken. I read this book in preparation for a series I did with our students called “Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering.” This book not only gave me some nuggets for that series but also helped me understand how to respond when troubles comes into my own life. This book works off the premise that trouble is a part of our lives in this fallen world. Life is tough and trouble comes our way more than we would like. In this book, Ryken uses various Biblical characters and their troubles to show us how we can walk with God when those kinds of troubles come at us. Each chapter is very practical and easily to apply to your life, especially if you’re going through the same type of trouble that Biblical character is going through. This is an easy read that I would recommend to everyone.

Two others books I recently read that I chose not to review were Culture Making by Andy Crouch and Excellent Preaching by Criag Bartholomew.

Freebie: Acts Teaching Series

Acts Social MediaThe book of Acts is an incredible book. In it we see the beginnings of the New Testament church and how God used ordinary people to do extraordinary things. We see how God used ordinary men and women to build His church by spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. Throughout the book of Acts we read story after story of how people encountered the Gospel and were changed. We read stories of people who gave up everything to serve Christ. We read stories of God doing incredible things through people so His glory and truth can be revealed and spread to more and more people.

Below you will find a link to a six week teaching series on the book of Acts that I have written and taught. I’m sharing this completely free! It’s not an exhaustive series by any means but instead it highlights a few stories from Acts where we see God doing amazing things in the life of the early church. This series includes six teaching manuscripts as well as small group questions that go with each of the six teaching sessions. There is a also a 40 day reading plan for the book of Acts.

Please keep in mind this series was originally written for and taught to students. However, it’s a great series for other audiences as well so feel free to tweak it and use it how it best fits your context. The link below will give you access to all the files for this teaching series. I hope this is a blessing to you and your ministry!

Click Here to Download the Acts Teaching Series

Games We Played Last Month

Spring_Watercolors_01Love them or hate them, games are a part of student ministry. It’s easy to spend way too much time searching for good games to play with your students. In order to help other youth workers save some time in this area I want to share the games we played last month in our student ministry. Below are all the games we played during our weekly program during the month of October. Sometimes we play the same game multiple times a year so any games we played last month that we already played during a previous month I will not include in this post (click here to see the games we played in September). Below are the games we played in October. Be sure to click the title of the game to download the graphic or purchase the game content.

Headbangers Bop
How It Works: Bring a few contestants up front and give them each a headband that has a pedometer attached to it. Explain to them that when the music (which works best if it’s some heavy metal music) starts they will have one minute to “headbang” as fast as they can to see how many steps they can get on the pedometer. The one with the highest number of steps wins. We played a few head to head rounds with the winner of each round advancing to the final round.
Supplies: Headbands, pedometers, and heavy metal playlist.

Jump The River
How It Works: This is a super simple game I many of use played in some form or another on the playground as kids. Tape a line down on the floor and then make another line with something that can be moved. The two lines should form a small gap. The point of the game is to jump from the first line and make it past the other one. If you don’t make it or hit the lines with your feet you’re out. If you clear the gap you’re in and advance to the next round. Each round the second line should be moved further and further until there is only one student one clears it.
Supplies: Tape and something to make another line that can be moved easily (we used a rope and had two leaders hold it on the ground with their feet).

Epic Battles
How It Works: This is a simple but fun game from Download Youth Ministry. The game includes short video clips of two things going head to head in a boxing ring. Students have a few seconds to pick who they think will win and then the videos has the two fighting until one comes out as the winner. When you download the game from DYM you get all the video files and things you need to play this game. brought two students up front for each round and had them pick (with the crowds help of course) who they thought would win. We gave the winner of each round a free item from the snack bar.
Supplies: Epic Battles game from DYM (click the game title to download it).

Speedball
How It Works: Have everyone start on one side of the room. When you say “go” have someone throw out a bucket of tennis balls. Throw out a few less balls then you have students playing. The goal of the game if for everyone to run and grab a ball. If you don’t get a ball you’re out but if you get one you advance to the next round. Continue doing this until there are two students left but only one ball. If you have a large crowd you can simply speed the game up by making sure their are 5-10 less balls than students playing each round. How many balls you take out will determine how fast or slow this game goes.
Supplies: Tennis balls

Trump or Animal
How It Works:
With Donald Trump being so popular right now this game was a hit. It’s another simple but fun game from DYM. The point of the game is to guess if a zoomed up picture of hair is Donal Trump’s hair or hair of an animal. You’ll be surprised at how hard it really is. When you download the game you will get all the slides you need to play this game. I brought two students up front and had them play head to head.
Supplies: Trump or Animal game from DYM (click the game title to download it).

Mountain Dew Plunge
How It Works: We played this game for our Halloween themed night. It’s basically bobbing applies but instead of in water you have them do it in Mountain Dew. What student (especially middle school student) doesn’t want to stick their face into a pool of Mountain Dew? We did this up front with a few students so everyone else could watch. Also, we had them do it in a clear bin so people could see what was happening through the bin.
Supplies: Clear bin (we got one from the storage bin section at Wal-Mart), Mountain Dew, apples.

The Purge Meets the Walking Dead
How it Works: Last year for our Halloween night we played a game called The Purge. It was a hit so we decided to bring it back this year but with a twist. Everyone starts by getting a ballon (have these already blown up before you hand them out). Have everyone spread out in the room with their balloon. When you say “go” the goal of the game is to be the last one standing with your balloon in hand and not popped. If your balloon gets popped you’re out. The only rules are everyone must stay in the room and you cannot physical hurt someone. Students will try to not only protect their balloon but will want to pop other peoples balloons. We also there out a box of “supplies” (rope, duct tape, small balls, straws) that students could use to aid in their popping of balloons. All of this is the Purge part of the game. We added the Walking Dead element by releasing all the students who were out (dead=zombies) back into the game to try and pop the balloons of the students still in the game with their balloons. We waited until there were about 10-15 students left before we released those who were out. We had the lights down very low and had music playing from The Purge movie soundtrack.
Supplies: Balloons (we bought red balloons and had enough for everyone to play two rounds), box of radon supplies (be sure there is nothing sharp students could hurt each other with).

Bare Knuckles Fistacuffs
How it Works: Our intern ran this game and I actually wasn’t there so here is how it is explained by Youth Group Collective: “Have everyone find a partner. Each person stands with both feet together, facing each other, arms length apart. The object of the game is to get the other person to lose balance. This can only be achieved by pushing your opponent’s hands. Hands do not have to maintain contact. Often times a player will act as if he is about to push another player’s hands and then immediately pull away so as to cause his opponent to lose balance.After every pair has decided a winner and a loser, have those who lost sit and the winners stand. Then have each winner find a new partner. Rinse and Repeat.”
Supplies: None!