Category Archives: books

teenage brain

teenage brains wired for awesome stuff

brainstormreading Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, by Daniel J. Siegel. it’s been on my ‘to read’ stack for more than six months.

it reminds me of the wonderful quote that dean blevins tossed out during our panel on teenage brains at the nywc last fall:

do we view teenagers as a problem to be solved, or a wonder to behold?

view this quote from the book through a “wonder to behold” lens:

Brain changes during the early teen years set up four qualities of our minds during adolescence: novelty seeking, social engagement, increased emotional intensity, and creative exploration.

yeah, i think i’ll have to blog about this more. but this is worth a mini-post by itself.

Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker: a manifesto of integration, April Diaz. the subtitle says it all. short and to the point.

youth ministry books i’m always recommending

recently, someone in one of my coaching groups asked me to give a list of 10 or so youth ministry books that everyone should read. there are SO many great youth ministry books that it’s tough to make a good list without knowing the reader’s context and what would be most helpful to her. but, i do find that there’s a certain list of books that i end up recommending the most.

what any individual youth worker should read might be a variation on this; but here’s my books i recommend most often:

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Almost Christian, Kenda Dean. difficult and long read, but definitely one of the most important YM books in the last 5 years.

Revisiting Relational Ministry, Andrew Root. calls into question how we’ve “used” relationships as a manipulative tool, and suggests a new way based from a theological framework.

As for Me and My (Crazy) House, Brian Berry. fantastic help for thinking about how to balance family with the demands of youth ministry.

Leading Up, Joel Mayward. about having influence in your church when you’re not in a position of power. allegory from the perspective of a new JH pastor.

Masterpiece: the art of discipling youth, Paul Martin. frames discipleship as a process of helping to uncover teenagers’ unique selves, rather than a program of content.

Woo: Awakening Teenagers’ Desire to Follow in the Way of Jesus, Morgan Schmidt. you could call this “desire-based youth ministry.”

Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World, Brock Morgan. what YM look like when teenagers are truly postmodern. EXCELLENT and provocative.

Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker: a manifesto of integration, April Diaz. the subtitle says it all. short and to the point.

Sticky Faith, youth leader edition, Kara Powell and Brad Griffin. research-based implications of faith that lasts beyond youth group (and teenage years).

A Tale of Two Youth Workers, Eric Venable. a short allegory about processing teenage doubt.

Hurt 2.0 (the revised edition), Chap Clark. understanding the hurt and pain of today’s teenagers, with a look at their isolation.

red cup christian

2 sentence book reviews: parenting, church and ministry

yay! this is the week my readers either love or ignore (traffic tells me many are in the latter camp). i have found that writing reviews of the books i read really helps me remember them. and i hope it helps some of you make reading choices (and avoid others). i allow myself two sentences for each review (unless i’ve already written an official endorsement): the first sentence is a summary of the book, and the second sentence is my opinion of it.

here’s the plan for the week!
monday: 8 young adult fiction books
tuesday: 2 fiction books, 2 non-fiction books, and 2 graphic/illustrated books
wednesday: 10 christian living and theology books
thursday: 10 parenting, church and ministry books

Parenting, Church and Ministry

the catholic churchThe Catholic Church: What Everyone Needs to Know, by John L. Allen
3.5 stars
a journalist’s sympathetic-but-not-myopic overview of everything catholic. i’m glad i read this, even though it wasn’t always compelling.

youth ministry now not yetYouth Ministry: Now & Not Yet, by Matt Wilkinson
3.5 stars
reporting and reflecting on a survey of youth ministry practices among baptist churches in ontario, canada. of course, canadian baptists have to read this; but i found it insightful (particularly due to its research base) for all north american youth ministry contexts.

jesus centered youth ministryJesus Centered Youth Ministry: Moving from Jesus-Plus to Jesus-Only (Revised Edition), by Rick Lawrence
5 stars
a revised edition of a young ministry shaman’s gentle insistence that we focus youth work on the person of jesus.
my official endorsement (found in the book):
Well past halfway through the chapters of my life, i’m still trying to dislodge from my brain the flannelgraph childhood images of Jesus hovercrafting in his pretty blue robe across a glassy bit o’ blue. The longer I walk with Jesus, the more wonderful and mysterious he gets. In this book, Rick calls us to run–arm in arm with teenagers–to the epicenter of that mystery, that person, that incarnate child, that trouble maker, that up-ender, that ultimate rescuer.

freshmanFreshman: Making Faith Your Priority, Sophomore: Stepping Into Maturity, Junior: Making Sense of It All, Senior: Preparing for the Future, by Lars Rood
5 stars
30 day student devotionals focused on developmental and faith issues common to each particular grade of high school. brilliant idea, effectively executed–this is one of those “why didn’t i think to write these?” ideas that makes perfect and obvious sense.
(full disclosure: i agented these books; but i still love ‘em!)

bold parentingBold Parenting: Raising Kids to be More than Just Rule Keepers, by Lars Rood
4 stars
easy to read and full of practical ideas, this short book encourages parents to hope that their teenagers would finish high school as more than merely sober virgins. helpful for parents, perfect for a parent small group discussion (or parenting class), and might give youth workers language for encouraging parents toward a higher goal.
(full disclosure: i agented this book; but i still love it!)

red cup christianAre You a Red Cup Christian?: How to Live a Stand-out Faith in a Fit-in World, by Lars Rood
4 stars
a student counterpart to the previous book, the author challenges high schoolers to do just what the subtitle suggests. easy to read, would be particularly great for juniors and seniors, on their own or in the context of a small group.
(full disclosure: i agented this book; but i still love it!)

get your teenager talkingGet Your Teenager Talking: Everything You Need to Spark Meaningful Conversations, by Jonathan McKee
4 stars
an overabundance of guided conversations for parents and teens.
my official endorsement (found in the book):
Calling this book practical is an almost-ridiculous understatement: it’s a bounty of creative starters for deep conversations between teenagers and parents! There are plenty of helpful, theoretical parenting books on the market; but Jonathan’s book isn’t merely one to think about, it’s a gift to be used.

in search of deep faith

2 sentence book reviews: christian living and theology

yay! this is the week my readers either love or ignore (traffic tells me many are in the latter camp). i have found that writing reviews of the books i read really helps me remember them. and i hope it helps some of you make reading choices (and avoid others). i allow myself two sentences for each review (unless i’ve already written an official endorsement): the first sentence is a summary of the book, and the second sentence is my opinion of it.

here’s the plan for the week!
monday: 8 young adult fiction books
tuesday: 2 fiction books, 2 non-fiction books, and 2 graphic/illustrated books
wednesday: 10 christian living and theology books
thursday: 10 parenting, church and ministry books

Christian Living/Theology

chilvaryChivalry: The Quest for a Personal Code of Honor in an Unjust World, by Zach Hunter
3 stars
formerly teenage abolitionist author zach hunter challenges his 20something peers to live with honor and character. good book, but sometimes felt like the publisher or editor should have pushed the author to focus more (still worth giving to 17 – 23 year-olds, though).

in search of deep faithIn Search of Deep Faith: A Pilgrimage into the Beauty, Goodness and Heart of Christianity, by Jim Belcher
4.5 stars
the author and his family travel through europe, seeking insight from the stories and lives of a wonderful collection of faith heroes.
my official endorsement (found in the book):
Equal parts pilgrimage memoir, parenting book, theological reflection, and biography collection, Belcher weaves a particularly fascinating journey. That combination might sound strange; but it totally works, allowing us to view historical authors, theologians, artists and dissidents through the eyes of the author and his family, and reflecting on theological anchor points as if we were traveling with them.

the in-betweenThe In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing, by Jeff Goins
5 stars
life isn’t all mountain tops, obviously; so what’s the learning of that space between? full of great stories and profound insights, goins deserves to be read.
(full disclosure: i agented this book; but i still love it!)

thelogy of hopeTheology of Hope, by Jurgen Moltmann
5 stars? 2 stars?
sure, it’s probably the most brilliant theological exploration of this topic ever written, i suppose. but it sure revealed the limits of my capacity for pithy, mostly impenetrable, theological writing.

hope within historyProphetic Imagination, Hope within History, and Hopeful Imagination: Prophetic Voices in Exile, by Walter Brueggemann
5 stars for insight, 2 stars for style
absolutely brilliant colletions of essays that unpack what i have come to see as the biblical model of hope. my upcoming IVP book about hope wouldn’t exist without these books, of which Hope Within History is by far the best, imho.

surprised by hopeSurprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, by N. T. Wright
5 stars
briliant, wonderfully readable dismantling of multiple ways we christians (particularly we evangelicals) have gotten it wrong. really, i don’t know how to plead with thoughtful evangelicals more strongly to read this.

a better atonementA Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin, Tony Jones
3 stars
short collection-of-blog-posts-turned-ebook about atonement. unnecessary sloppiness found in many self-published ebooks, but was SO helpful to me and very much worth reading.

jesus feministJesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women, by Sarah Bessey
4 stars
a very personal (often autobiographical) exploration of feminism through a jesus lens, completely without anger or bitterness. this is a wonderful book that should be required reading for all evangelicals.

coffee with jesus

2 sentence book reviews: fiction, non-fiction, and graphic/illustrated

yay! this is the week my readers either love or ignore (traffic tells me many are in the latter camp). i have found that writing reviews of the books i read really helps me remember them. and i hope it helps some of you make reading choices (and avoid others). i allow myself two sentences for each review (unless i’ve already written an official endorsement): the first sentence is a summary of the book, and the second sentence is my opinion of it.

here’s the plan for the week!
monday: 8 young adult fiction books
tuesday: 2 fiction books, 2 non-fiction books, and 2 graphic/illustrated books
wednesday: 10 christian living and theology books
thursday: 10 parenting, church and ministry books


the circleThe Circle, by Dave Eggers
5 stars
follow the new employee of a google-like, massive tech company through her rise in a company that is hellbent on the natural extension of many of our current social media obsessions (including the elimination of privacy). eggers’ best in a while, with humor and incision-y slicing, served as light-handed cautions of our tweeting, posting, liking, sharing, commenting selves.

practical demonkeepingPractical Demonkeeping, by Christopher Moore
3 stars
a cast of characters–yup, including a demon with particular powers and limits, and his “keeper”–careen and collide into each other enroute to putting things right. this is one of moore’s older books, and it’s weird and funny and unpredictable, but not as smart as his later work.


dad is fatDad Is Fat, by Jim Gaffigan
4 stars
short essays from a funny comedian about his family of seven and their life in a manhattan two-bedroom apartment. such a blast, especially if you’ve ever had kids, and a nice break from other reading.

david and goliathDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, by Malcolm Gladwell
4 stars
why being smaller or less powerful or otherwise apparently disadvantaged might actually work in your favor. 100% worth reading, but didn’t provide me with quite the same amount of learning as gladwell’s other books.

Graphic and Illustrated

i kill giantsI Kill Giants, by Joe Kelly, illustrated by J. M. Ken Niimura
5 stars
eccentric loner girls seeks and destroys monsters real and figurative. wait, short graphic novels aren’t supposed to have this level of depth and beauty, right?

coffee with jesusCoffee with Jesus, by David Wilkie
5 stars
jesus and a collection of, well, us, get real in simple panel cartoons.
my official endorsement (found in the book):
I remember when the “What Would Jesus Do?” tsunami almost completely engulfed all of us who worked with teenagers. Suddenly, we felt compelled to provide an answer to that impossible question. Problem was: most of us didn’t really have a clue what Jesus would do, really. And any honest reading of the Gospels reveals that his disciples didn’t know what Jesus would do either. Coffee With Jesus steps into that same tension, responding with plucky, snarky, and occasionally awkward honesty. We don’t really know the full answer to “What Would Jesus Say?” But I’d sure like it to be close to the Jesus in these panels.

after the snow

2 sentence book reviews: young adult fiction

yay! this is the week my readers either love or ignore (traffic tells me many are in the latter camp). i have found that writing reviews of the books i read really helps me remember them. and i hope it helps some of you make reading choices (and avoid others). i allow myself two sentences for each review (unless i’ve already written an official endorsement): the first sentence is a summary of the book, and the second sentence is my opinion of it.

here’s the plan for the week!
monday: 8 young adult fiction books
tuesday: 2 fiction books, 2 non-fiction books, and 2 graphic/illustrated books
wednesday: 10 christian living and theology books
thursday: 10 parenting, church and ministry books

Young Adult Fiction

the half life of planetsThe Half-life of Planets, by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin
3.5 stars
a teenage girl and a guy with asperger’s wrestle with identity, friendship, and love. halpin’s YA fiction has mostly been way subpar to his otherwise fantastic books, but the voice of this character with asperger’s brings this one up a click or two.

divergentDivergent, by Veronica Roth
4.5 stars
in a dystopian future chicago, a teenage girl is forced to choose a lifetime with one of five personality-driven factions. sure, dystopian future YA faction is getting overplayed, because it provides, as does this book, a magnifying lens into the real internal searches of today’s teenagers.

insurgentInsurgent, by Veronica Roth
4 stars
in part two of the trilogy, our heroine uncovers the plot to overthrow “the way things are.” part two of trilogies are rarely the best slice (but while i haven’t read the third part yet, i’ve rarely seen such vitriol on amazon reviews).

requiemRequiem, by Lauren Oliver
4 stars
part 3 of the Delirium trilogy finds the government’s physiological suppression of love, starting at age 16, blown apart and dismantled. the story wraps up somewhat predictably, but is still satisfying.

after the snowAfter the Snow, by S. D. Crockett
5 stars
yup, another dystopian future–this one told from the perspetive of a teenage boy trying to survive in a chaotic world of almost-perpetual winter. culturally insightful and brilliantly written, this is now one of my top 10 favorite YA fiction books.

ender's gameEnder’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
5 stars
you know: super smart kid is recruited for a space training academy to prepare him to lead an alien battle. one of the many cases where the book is SO MUCH better than the movie.

looking for alaskaLooking for Alaska, by John Green
5 stars
high schoolers at a boarding school bond in the first half, then struggle to find meaning and explanations for pain in the second half. highly recommended, john green’s insight into teenagers and creativity with plot and word proves that young adult fiction doesn’t have to be predictable or cheesy.

somebody up there hates youSomebody Up There Hates You: A Novel, by Hollis Seamon
4 stars
teenage guy in hospice wrestles with who he is and why he’s dying. full of pain and beauty.


super awesome youth ministry easter resources

8bithymnal3first, i have to provide you with this FREE bit of total awesomeness i found a few minutes ago: a free album download of 8-bit easter hymns by a creative dude named tyler larson, available on totally fun. can see using this in youth ministry. note that tyler offers two other free albums of similar music (both free); one is christmas music, and one is just a collection of hymns (but all in that 8-bit video game sound). really fun.


The Youth Cartel (the feisty little engine that could) now has a pretty cool suite of easter resources that you should know about!

viva-passionfirst up (and, the newest release) is VIVA! Passion. yeah, weird name if you’ve never heard of it. VIVA! is our very new downloadable curriculum resource that you really should know about. each month we’ll release a set of four new lessons. you can get individual lessons for a buck-ninety-nine, or the four-pack series for a save-your-budget price of $5.99.

the Passion set of VIVA! includes these four sessions:

  • The Entry – Jesus begins his final week of life by riding into Jerusalem during Passover and announcing his reign as King… on a donkey. How did Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem show him to be far more than just a humble man willing to ride on a donkey, but as a King who was subverting the expectations of the powerful and peasant alike?
  • The Temple – This lesson will explore the temple culture, Jesus’s reaction to it and how we can allow him to “turn things over” in our lives.
  • The Curtain – This lesson will continue our look at the last week of Christ’s life and specifically key in on the tearing of the temple curtain after his death. The temple, and more specifically the Holy of Holies, was where God dwelled, where heaven met earth. The curtain separating us from God came down so we all can experience and participate in heaven meeting earth without barrier.
  • The Mission – Betrayal, violence, death and disappointment. What a way for the last week of Jesus’s life to wrap up. But then Jesus comes back- with more power and authority than ever. This lesson will look at how the resurrected Jesus chose not to confront his enemies, but to spend the time to find his followers, put his arm around them and bring them back into his mission. The same mission we get to participate in today.

(the first set of VIVA!, by the way, is Viva! Genesis, and includes:

  • The Poetry of Creation
  • The Story of Adam and Eve
  • The Story of Noah
  • The Story of Abraham

and there’s a free download sample of that second lesson.


stations-cover-finalStations of the Cross: 13 Dramatic Stories of Jesus’ Last Hours

from the freakishly creative mind of steve case, this downloadable resource is totally something you could use as a series, or pull creative bits from for other teaching and programming at this time of year (or any other time of year).

Stations of the Cross is a book of thirteen creative and dramatic lessons that will take participants into the last moments of Jesus’ life. Those who venture into these words will smell the sweat. They will feel the blood roll down his back. They will be taken to the dark place within their own souls and be invited to leave all that baggage behind in the tomb.

Utilizing scripture, dramatic readings, and thought provoking questions, Steve Case provides a unique approach to curriculum that can easily be customized for individual or group use.

Product includes PDF and editable word files of sessions, plus PowerPoint backgrounds and other graphic files for use in group settings or teaching contexts.

9780988741331-front-1000God Parties: Learning from Jewish Feasts and Festivals

this is a fairly new downloadable resource — just came out a month or two ago. it’s not like anything else you’ve seen in youth ministry curriculum.

God Parties takes these big concepts and breaks them down into lessons that incorporate ancient traditions with relevant application for today’s teens. In many ways the protestant church has lost connection with its Jewish heritage. God Parties shows how the festivals point us to Jesus. It helps students better grasp the Hebraic backdrop of Jesus’ world by giving the leader teachable background and historical insights.

For the youth worker teaching week in and week out, it can be difficult to come up with creative ways to involve students so they’re not simply listening to a message. God Parties offers leaders 3 months of opportunities to involve students in the preparation, teaching and learning roles, and connects biblical concepts with food, object lessons and activities that reinforce learning and application–all designed to be repeated each year as God prescribed.

btw, God Parties comes with leader’s guides and student handouts, as well as a bunch of short videos from the author speaking to you (the leader) about what’s most important to focus on in this session. i love how jeff (the author) connects these ancient jewish feasts and festivals to jesus (really, i learned a ton of stuff when we were developing this resource!) and helps apply it to our lives today. for easter, specifically, there’s a full passover seder experience and instructions. as usual, there’s a free downloadable sample on the product page.

two more, quickly:

good-news-in-the-neighborhood-squareGood News in the Neighborhood: a 6-Week Curriculum for Groups

this award-winning downloadable curriculum (i made up the award-winning part; but it SHOULD be) has gotten such overwhelmingly positive responses from those who’ve used it. it was originally conceived to align with pentecost, but can really be used at any time of the year. includes all sorts of goodies, like intro videos, graphics, and more.

This 6-week series will deep dive your students into the practical realities of a radical life with Jesus. Built around six themes of community life, students will gain an understanding of their role in their community and be challenged by a series of simple experiments they can try. More than a series that teaches your students about being Good News in their community, Good News in the Neighborhood offers practical application based on the life of Jesus and the 1st century Church. Our hope is that your students begin to see how God has called them to become good news in their homes, schools, and neighborhoods.

9780988741317-front-smalland, finally, our award-winning (yeah, not true once again) devotional journal…
Lent: A Journey of Discovery by Addition, Subtraction and Introspection

our second-best selling title ever, in the long history of The Youth Cartel, because it’s so splenderific.

but, alas, you’re too late for this year. stock is gone and we’re not reprinting it until some time closer to Lent 2015. we just want to make sure this is on your radar, so you can continue to be the well-informed and wise youth worker that you are.


what’s on my “to read” stack, and a recommitment to read

i’ve been a really lousy reader so far this year. other than books published by The Youth Cartel or manuscripts i’ve been asked to endorse, i think i’ve only read one book this year, which i just finished yesterday: malcolm gladwell’s david and goliath. it was great, by the way. but i’m annoyed by how passively i read it — a few pages at a time. the irony of my snail’s pace is that i’ve spent SO much time on planes these past 3 months. over the last few years, sitting on planes has been my #1 reading spot, unquestionably. i’ve flown 55,000 miles in these past three months, but read one book! and that bugs me.

i want to learn.

i want to grow.

i want to think.

i want to dream and create.

and i believe that reading is essential to all of these. so i’m jumping back in. enough binge-watching dexter on my ipad when flying. i have a one-night trip to birmingham, alabama this friday/saturday. it’s a long way to go for one night; but that means lots of reading time in airplanes!

here’s what on my current stack of books:

brainstormBrainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, by Daniel J. Siegel MD
why it’s on the stack:
research about teenage brains has shifted from “limits” to “potential,” and i want to stay on top of that shift that aligns with my belief in teenagers.

brainwashed-coverBrainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience, by Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld
why it’s on the stack:
my long-term suspicion of the underlying assumptions of popular reporting on teenage brain discoveries, and their alignment with culture’s general dismissal (fear?) of teenagers is finding purchase in books like this one.

finding the space to leadFinding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership, by Janice Marturano
why it’s on the stack:
heard good things about this one, and suspect it might have some “outside our tribe” value for church leaders, as well as for the ebook i keep threatening to write about leading without power.

it's complicatedIt’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, by danah boyd
why it’s on the stack:
danah boyd is brilliant. very few people have the intellect, research cred, insight, and communication skills to do what she does. i’ve been waiting for this book (it just came out last week).

jesus feministJesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women, by Sarah Bessey
why it’s on the stack:
i want to be a better feminist. and i’m intrigued by sarah bessey (and considering her as an event speaker).

bank of bobThe International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time, by Bob Harris
why it’s on the stack:
i love micro loans as a development approach. and my wife read this for a book club and really enjoyed it.

one more thingOne More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, by B. J. Novak.
why it’s on the stack:
b. j. novak totally cracks me up. no question: this book is on the stack for the same reason i got cold stone ice cream the other night (sweet cream ice cream with pistachios and heath bar).

serpent of veniceThe Serpent of Venice: A Novel, by Christopher Moore
why it’s on the stack:
chris moore is my naughty literary indulgence. i read every single book he publishes. i laugh out loud, and i marvel at his creativity (both in plot and word).

and this handful of books that have been sent to me, which i’ll likely give a quick read:

Youth Ministry: What’s Gone Wrong and How to Get It Right, by David Olshine

Flimsy Ministry: Is the Foundation of Your Youth Ministry on Rock or Sand?, by Brian Seidel

Critical Connection: A Practical Guide to Parenting Young Teens, by Andy Kerckhoff

Letters to God: Diary of an Unsilenced Generation, by Cassandra Smith

Losing Your Religion: Moving from Superficial Routine to Authentic Faith, by Chuck Bomar

Can I Ask That?: 8 Hard Questions about God & Faith [Sticky Faith Curriculum], by Jim Candy, Brad Griffin, and Kara Powell


The Best Life

i’ve had a book about Hope percolating in me for almost five years. i’ve had a publishing contract for the book since last summer. i finished a draft of it about 6 weeks ago and sent it off to 6 readers (including two “theological readers”). last week i spent 3 days in the desert making corrections and tweaks based on feedback from the readers. and on saturday, i sent it off to the publisher. even if the book only sells three copies (me, my wife and my mom), this was a major deal for me, writing a book that expresses something deep from my soul, and not just my head.

here’s a tiny snippet from the last chapter…

The Best Life

The age-old existential question that has haunted philosophers and college sophomores for a very long time, is some version of “Why am I here?” Jesus gives us some fodder for consideration in what has become my favorite Bible verse:

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10b)

Remember: When Jesus says “they” in this verse, he’s talking about you.

Contrary to what one might assume by observing Christians in America, Jesus did not say:

  • I have come that you may get into heaven.
  • I have come that you may leave this lousy place one day in the future.
  • I have come that you may get serious about religion, finally.
  • I have come that you may experience your ship coming in.
  • I have come that you may know who’s “in” and who’s “out.”
  • I have come that you may stop disgusting me so much.

It’s a pretty revolutionary promise, really. Jesus wants you to experience a full life. That’s his verbatim explanation for his time on earth.

Why are you here? To have a full life.

So, what’s a full life, then?

I’m convinced, from scripture, observation of hopeful people, and my own experience, that a fullness of life burns most hot when I follow in the footsteps of Jesus and give my life away, bringing Hope to the hopeless.

As my more self-focused longings are filled with the pigment of Hope, they start to shift. Since Hope and longing are dancing the Tango, a shift in one shifts the other. My Hope increases, and my longings turn outward. My longings shift and my Hope needs a power boost.

This is the full life. This is the life we were invented for. This is God’s dream for you, a continual broadening of your longings and increase of Hope, put into action.

volunteer youth worker.pack

Volunteer Youth Worker’s Guide Books

about three years ago, chris folmsbee of barefoot ministries asked me to develop some training for his organization, targeting volunteer youth workers. the idea was that i would speak at a small handful of saturday training days geared for volunteers (which sorta happened, at that time). and the original plan was that each attendee would get three short ebooks as a bonus. i wrote the three books; but there were some complications, and they weren’t ready for the training days.

so, now, all this time later, they’ve actually been published and are available! sorta fun, as i didn’t even think they were going to see the light of day! all three are short and practical — great for handing out to volunteer leaders on your team.

volunteer youth worker.small groupsA Volunteer Youth Worker’s Guide to Leading a Small Group

A lot of churches and youth ministries have given up on the idea of small groups, writing them off as too tedious, too difficult to manage, too hard to find volunteers for, too expensive to provide materials or curriculum for, or any other number of reasons. In A Volunteer Youth Worker’s Guide to Leading a Small Group, Mark Oestreicher argues a different perspective. Marko insists that small groups promote safe spaces to grow, consistency in teenagers’ emotionally tumultuous lives, and repetition that instills in them the importance of trust and tradition. The Guide to Leading a Small Group is perfect for anyone feeling disenchanted with the concept of small groups, and after Marko succeeds in changing your mind in the first few pages, he’ll use the rest of the book to help you restructure and rethink your small-group programming so you don’t get burned out again. Marko is leading the charge in reviving small groups, and you can join him today.

volunteer youth worker.understanding teensA Volunteer Youth Worker’s Guide to Understanding Today’s Teenagers

Many parents have taken a defeatist approach toward understanding their teens, and not without good reason; it does often seem hopeless, after all. But that’s where you, the volunteer youth worker, come in. Mark Oestreicher shows that Understanding Today’s Teenager is both possible and rewarding, if one has the right tools. Marko explores the dimensions of nature vs. nurture, brain activity, culture, biology, and emotional development, all of which lead teenagers to do the wacky things they do that adults don’t understand and often can’t remember having done themselves. Marko also reminds us that adolescent development doesn’t end at the age of 18 just because United States law says it does. A Volunteer Youth Worker’s Guide to Understanding Today’s Teenager uses a combination of science, logic, and compassion to help bring us back from the cliff edge and remember why we started working with teens in the first place. Use this book as a jumping-off point to re-ignite your passion for teens.

volunteer youth workers.parentsA Volunteer Youth Worker’s Guide to Resourcing Parents

Every youth leader, volunteer, or pastor has failed at some point in their communication or interaction with their teenagers’ parents. It’s inevitable. We are human, most youth workers are still pretty young themselves, and most parents are guarded and protective of their kids. These factors combine to create a minefield, of sorts, for parents and youth workers to navigate. In fact, youth ministry mogul Mark Oestreicher starts off A Volunteer Youth Worker’s Guide to Resourcing Parents by admitting some of his own failures in his interactions with students’ parents. But then Marko uses the rest of the book to explore the importance and deep significance of being intentional with parent contact and interaction, and not letting family ministry slip through the cracks in favor of teenager-only ministry. If you’ve had some discouraging interactions with parents lately, this book might help provide a new perspective, allowing you to show some grace, both to yourself and the parents you’re trying to minister to. Let Marko guide you in seeking the best balance in your ministry efforts in order to maximize and equip one of your greatest youth ministry resources.

to be clear: i didn’t write those descriptions, and didn’t even see them until they’d been out for a few months. i’m cracking up that they called me a “youth ministry mogul.” apparently The Youth Cartel sounds bigger and more menacing than it is (two guys working out of their homes)!

knowing that lead youth workers might want to get these in bulk for their leaders, we’ve priced them in a way that makes that extremely possible:

  • 1-4 copies: $7.49 (Save $.50 off retail)
  • 5-9 copies: $6.79 (15% off retail)
  • 10-19 copies: $5.99 (25% off retail)
  • 20+: $5.19 (35% off retail)

or, you can get the pack of all three books for a nifty $19.99!

volunteer youth worker.pack