group magazine: September-October, 2011
WHAT IT IS: A book for anyone who has questioned the caring of God, the sanctity of trials, or why life can get so very difficult.
THE SCOOP: In a final interaction with Peter, Jesus declares in Luke 22:31-32: "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Rick Lawrence contends that at that moment the Lord spoke through Peter to all of his followers to come. The statement is stretched throughout seven chapters to explain how this relates to each of us. Using personal stories, quotes, and metaphors, the book paints a powerful brushstroke of how each of us is turned from ugliness to beauty: Beaten. Separated. Revealed.
Once we understand our own "sifting," we come to see that the Lord never left us in the midst of it all. In the depth of God's grace, through our trials, we are transformed like Peter into a force to be reckoned with.
Not everyone will agree with the conclusions. He argues that God allows Satan to stretch us. Could it be that Christ has a purpose and a plan in our hurts and our triumphs? For any of us grappling with a life that feels too heavy, this is a must-read.
AVAILABLE FROM: David C. Cook, davidccook.com
REVIEWER: Leneita Fix has 20 years of youth ministry experience.
99 THOUGHTS FOR PARENTS OF TEENAGERS
WHAT IT IS: Dozens of quick thoughts to engage the hearts of parents.
THE SCOOP: Okay. Truth-telling time. I began this book wholly expecting to hate it. How could anyone sum up parenting teenagers in just 99 thoughts? SURPRISE! Walt Mueller did it. They were 99 "duh" moments that most parents overlook—the proverbial slapping of the head and exclaiming, "I could have had a V-8!" Everything is covered—from communication to non-negotiables to peer influence. So many parents get bogged down in the day-to-day grind of leading their teenager that they forget the simplest of lessons. 99 Thoughts both reminds them of what they already know AND throws in a few new nuggets of truth they may not have thought of before! And though I might have re-arranged some of the chapters, a myriad of issues was covered in each one. But I think a sequel is definitely in order. It's truly a travesty that it's not 1,099 thoughts. It's an easy read and a must-have for every parent in your ministry.
AVAILABLE FROM: Simply Youth Ministry, simplyyouthministry.com
REVIEWER: Darren Sutton has 22 years of youth ministry experience.
WHAT IT IS: An insightful and practical book for parents, written to help build a faith that will stick with their kids from childhood to adulthood.
THE SCOOP: Dr. Kara Powell and Dr. Chap Clark read the research that showed almost half of post-high-school teenagers struggled with their faith, so they set out to find some ways to help teenagers maintain a lifelong faith. Each chapter is broken up into two main parts: sticky findings and sticky faith made practical. "Sticky findings" is the academic research, but it's not written like an academic research paper—so no need to skip this section. "Sticky faith made practical" is a gold mine of real-world, useful ideas that every parent or youth worker can implement.
The one thing that this book is missing is someone to walk you step-by-step through every stage of parenting, which is why you should discuss this book with other parents in a small group setting. Sticky Faith has the potential to help every child in America, by helping every parent and youth worker become more intentional about discipling their kids into a faith that lasts.
AVAILABLE FROM: Zondervan, zondervan.com
REVIEWER: Mike Kupferer has 10 years of youth ministry experience.
WHAT IT IS: A DVD training resource by youth ministry veteran Dan Webster.
THE SCOOP: The heart behind KidUnique is clear: Kids matter! Author Dan Webster calls parents, teachers, coaches, youth workers, and anyone else playing a significant role in the life of a child or teenager to move away from simply having a passive connection and into building a significant relationship.
Kids are looking for adults who care for, affirm, and positively challenge them. I've been looking for a tool that will help me equip leaders to be that influence in the lives of kids, and KidUnique fills that gap. The video workshop bundle is packed with practical ideas and experiences to help you be that better influence kids need, and to train others to do the same.
If your goal is to equip adults to raise Christ-centered world changers, KidUnique will help you get there. The KidUnique Video Workshop bundle includes a DVD with 11 short videos, a CD with a reproducible participant guide, an activity sheet to help prepare for and facilitate a KidUnique workshop, and editable promotional materials—plus a KidUnique book. With this one-time purchase, you can run the KidUnique workshop as often as needed. While the KidUnique video workshop contains a great assortment of resources, one thing missing is ready-made video files of the 11 DVD sessions to drag and drop into presentation software.
As a parent and youth worker, I'm glad I've discovered this practical resource. In a world where culture is trying to tell kids who they are, this resource empowers adults to help kids discover who they are in Christ.
COST: $79.99 (workshop bundle)
AVAILABLE FROM: Simply Youth Ministry, simplyyouthministry.com
REVIEWER: Brandon Early has 25 years of youth ministry experience.
QUICK PICKS //buzz
Dayspring Cards has come out with a line of binders, folders, and spiral notebooks that feature scriptures and gospel messages.
COST: Varies. Available from Dayspring, dayspring.com.
For some fun back-to-school paper supplies or for some fun give-aways check out...poopoopaper.com/
by Scott Firestone IV
Scott, GROUP's associate editor, highlights new—and newly discovered—music for you and your ministry.
BURLAP TO CASHMERE
Burlap To Cashmere (Essential Records)
These guys haven't released an album since their acclaimed debut one 13 years ago—but they haven't missed a beat. Take Paul Simon, Mumford & Sons, and The Indigo Girls, throw them in a bowl, and stir with a flamenco guitar. Welcome back, gentlemen. Stay awhile...burlaptocashmere.com/
Love & War & The Sea In Between (Indie)
Josh Garrels' songs are wonderful, laid-back little gems. His take on the classic "Farther Along" is reason enough to pick up this album. The fact that the whole thing's free is an even better one. joshgarrels.bandcamp.com/
NCAA Football 12. Check out the review on youthministry.com/webextras
by Jeff Dunn-Rankin
We youth workers live for the moments when an encounter with Christ produces the kind of "new creation" that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 5:17. We're eagerly looking for evidence of authentic transformation in our teenagers.
What drives us nuts, though, is that the momentum often staggers toward inertia. Nothing changes. A couple of professors from the University of Chicago have an idea what the problem is and what we can do about it.
The simple and challenging premise of Nudge is that thousands of tiny factors are swaying our decisions—for better or worse—every day. Anyone in a position of influence is automatically a "choice architect" with "the responsibility for organizing the context in which people make decisions."
These little nudges are important, according to the professors, because study after study shows that mankind is pre-disposed to cling to the status quo. We walk into the future backwards, subconsciously evaluating every new idea and habit against our misplaced optimism that what we're already doing is working just fine.
Like it or not, every nuance matters. That means we have to re-examine the little ways our rooms, processes, and conversations nudge the people around us. The book was written mainly for politicians, law-makers, and large institutions, but the rules clearly apply to youth ministry.
For example, I'm eager for every teenager to have a Bible they can understand and enjoy. I love giving a free Bible to anyone who wants one. But Thaler and Cass would ask, "Have you set up the room, set up your announcements, and thought through your conversations in a way that nudges teenagers toward asking for a Bible?" Of course not. Despite my declared intentions, I have the Bibles stored on a bookshelf behind a closed door.
What would happen if the Bibles were out on the coffee tables in the youth room with a tag that said "Take Me Home," or we decided to ask every teenager individually if they had a Bible they enjoyed reading? People are particularly in need of a nudge if the decision they are contemplating is infrequent or confusing, or if the outcomes aren't immediately clear. Sounds like great adjectives to describe salvation, God, and discipleship.
Here are a few tools they suggest.
Create a new herd: Teenagers often follow trends, not because they like them, but because the herd nudges them in that direction. The good news is that a new nudge can create a new bandwagon. Contests, key celebrations, and a small group of committed leaders can nudge a toxic culture toward better health.
Prime the pump: Ask someone the day before an election whether they intend to vote, and they are now 25% more likely to vote—just because you asked. What questions are we asking our teenagers about discipleship and behavior? Have them write down "when and how they plan to do it," and the odds go up again. It reminds me of a youth group in Dallas that gives its teenagers a Discipleship Map in September. Each teenager is asked to indicate what events, programs, and personal disciplines they want to embrace in the coming year.
Frame the context: That discipleship map is especially intriguing because this church divides the options up into four quadrants: Worship, Growing Toward Christ, Building Community, and Blessing the World. As you review the map, it becomes crystal clear if you're ignoring worship or if you never serve. There's no requirement to check something in all four boxes. But the choice is framed in such a way that each teenager is encouraged to examine several aspects of their Christian life. One more nudge.
Jeff is a youth pastor and senior consultant for Youth Ministry Architects. He also co-authored The Indispensable Youth Pastor with Mark DeVries (Group/Simply Youth Ministry).
Band: The Civil Wars
Radio Show: Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me