Category Archives: books

Hopecasting excerpt: The Happy Police (A Hope Enemy)

a selection from Hopecasting:

As someone who’s spent thirty-three years in youth ministry—the majority of that with middle schoolers—I’ve certainly experienced my share of embarrassing ministry moments.1 But most of them have centered on malapropisms or other verbal blunders. Only a handful of times have I experienced the sort of embarrassment that made me angry.

I was a rookie junior high pastor at a large church in the Midwest. Our aging outreach and evangelism pastor, a wonderful and gracious man, held massive sway in the church due to his history and alignment with the church’s values. So when he told us all about an “opportunity” to host an event to evangelize business leaders in our community, the other pastors went along with it.

The event centered on bringing in a known motivational speaker who happened to be a Jesus-y person in private. Though no one on our leadership would have used the term, we were going to employ
the classic bait and switch approach to evangelism. Youth ministries have done this for decades, so I’m quite familiar with it (“Come for the haunted house! Then we’ll trap you in a room and scare you into heaven!”). Full disclosure: I wasn’t that uncomfortable, at that time in my maturity and spiritual journey, with a bait and switch. But I still felt it should be handled with a bit of finesse.

I’ll call the motivational speaker Bobby W. Clark, which is not his real name. He has long since passed away, so my purpose in telling this story is not to denigrate the name of a dead privately Christian motivational speaker but to illustrate our confusion about Hope and optimism.

The W in his name—whatever it stood for on his birth certificate—was part of his schtick, and he went by Bobby “Wonderful” Clark. As I would come to find out, he was a very minor celebrity who’d been working the corporate pump-’em-up circuit longer than I’d been alive. The plan for our church’s event was this: Host a nice dinner in a hotel ballroom, with the opportunity to hear this Wonderful business speaker. Guilt our church members, particularly those with influential business roles, to invite (persuade) multitudes of business associates to attend. Slip in the gospel. And, BAM, more business leaders in heaven!

I wasn’t in business. I didn’t have business associates. But my wife did. She was a low-level but professional employee at a natural gas trading company (yes, fodder for lots of jokes about “natural gas” in my junior high ministry world). So I did what I thought I was supposed to do: I pressured my wife to pressure her business associates to attend this Wonderful opportunity. And a few of them, very reluctantly, came along.

The food was good enough. But good old Bobby: well, let’s just say the operative word in that phrase was “old.” Seriously, I think he came out of retirement for this gig so he could afford another golf trip to Florida or something.

I have two extremely groan-worthy memories of that night, even though it was well over twenty years ago. The first of those memories was the root of my anger-tinged embarrassment. Bobby’s bait and switch was just the worst I’d ever seen. After offering literally three minutes of business-y clichés (shorter than his introduction by the evening’s emcee), he launched into a horribly hackneyed and manipulative presentation of the gospel complete with a simultaneously high pressure and confusing prayer of salvation. My wife and I were both horrified. Our church had traded on her friendships with colleagues and given them nothing more than a caricature of their worst assumptions of what the night might contain.

But my second memory of that night is the reason I tell this story. Bobby had a signature move. Really. Like, no one else could do that move without someone saying, “Hey, that’s Bobby W. Clark’s move!” I think there’s a little twisted part of me that admires anyone who has a signature move. Except…

Bobby’s signature move went like this: he would say something like, “I’m Bobby Clark, and I’m here to tell you that Life is Wonderful!” When Bobby said this last phrase (which he said multiple times during his talk) he would kick one long leg (he was really tall) high in the air. It was a bit startling the first time you saw it since it’s not a common movement for a man in a business suit.

But remember, Bobby was old. And his signature move required a bit more coordination—even athleticism—than Bobby possessed by that night. The first time he attempted the kick, right after he was
introduced, there was a long pause between “I’m here to tell you that life is…” and “wonderful,” with the leg kick. It was like he had to coax his body into action. On his first attempt, he only got his leg partially up in the air, and stumbled to the side. The audience silently willed him to move on, but he was not going to leave without executing his signature move.

It took him three tries. But he got it. And with newly reinvigorated confidence, Bobby busted out the leg kick three or four more times during his talk, rivaling even the Rockettes.

happy cageMr. Wonderful was selling us a very, very subtle lie that even he likely had no awareness of: pretending you’re happy makes life better. The core of Bobby’s motivational schtick was simple: choose to be happy, select the perky option, pretend that nothing’s wrong, ignore your pain, and you’ll be more productive and garner success.

I like happiness. Nothing wrong with that. And I generally agree with the sentiment that Life is Wonderful. But leg kicks and smiles won’t close the gap between the life I’m living and the life I long for.

Several years ago now, a little book called The Secret sold millions and became a runaway New York Times bestseller. The essence of The Secret was simply this: visualize the positive future you want for yourself, claim it to be true, and it will come to be.

And while Christians might have chafed at that message (for good reasons), we have all too often taught a version of the same. Sure, we spread a little Jesus mayo on that self-actualization sandwich. We say it’s God who brings the blessing, not our own efforts at positive thinking. But really, what we’ve often taught (and thought) is only a tiny shade different: our positive thinking allows God to bless us.

2 Sentence Book Reviews: Christian Nonfiction

i’m overdue for some book reviews, and will be posting reviews of 23 books this week. as i’ve done in the past, i’m posting two sentence book reviews. in each case, the first sentence is a summary of the book; and the second sentence is my thoughts on the book. i include a 1 – 5 star rating also. and occasionally, i’ll have an additional note.

today we wrap things up with two christian nonfiction books. in both of these cases, i wrote official endorsements; i’ll forego my normal two-sentence reviews for the endoresments:

fellowship of differentsA Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Together, by Scot McKnight
5 stars
*note: this book releases on february 24
my official endorsement:
One of my life values is that uniqueness is better than conformity, firmly believing (though I realize this is strong) that conformity only leads to death. This isn’t merely a selfish value, reflective of my undeniable quirks and general non-compliance. Instead, my work with church leaders shows me, over and over again, that healthy thriving churches are not only places of diversity, but they love that about themselves. A Fellowship of Differents will feel like a commendation to churches who already live in this tension, and like a loving and prophetic intervention for those who wrongly worship the god of sameness. Scot brings us story and biblical teaching about who we–the church–can be, at our very best.

Magnificent Mark: Unlock Your Awesomeness and Make Your Teenage Years Remarkable, by Danny Ray
4 stars
*note: this book releases in april
my official endorsement:
My favorite Bible verse in John 10:10, where Jesus tells us that he came “that they may have life, and have it to the full.” That fullness of life–what I long for–is a life available to teenagers. Jesus didn’t come to give us a life of drudgery or rules or religious performance. Magnificent Mark points readers to that full life, a life of purpose and passion, adventure and meaning.
magnificent mark

2 Sentence Book Reviews: Church Ministry or Youth Ministry-Related

i’m overdue for some book reviews, and will be posting reviews of 23 books this week. as i’ve done in the past, i’m posting two sentence book reviews. in each case, the first sentence is a summary of the book; and the second sentence is my thoughts on the book. i include a 1 – 5 star rating also. and occasionally, i’ll have an additional note.

today’s reviews are a mash-up category — some church ministry books and some youth ministry-related books (i call some of these ‘youth ministry-related,’ as they’re not really youth ministry books, but are books i’m reviewing for youth workers):

it's complicatedIt’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, by danah boyd
4.5 stars
research-based explanation of how and why teens use social media from the world’s leading expert. even though the book gets a bit repetitive at points, i wish i could get every parent of teenagers and every youth worker to read the introduction to this book.

bonhoeffer as youth workerBonhoeffer as Youth Worker: A Theological Vision for Discipleship and Life Together, by Andrew Root
5 stars
rather than my normal two sentences, here’s the official endorsement i wrote for must-read youth ministry book:
“Wow. I have, quite literally, never read a youth ministry book anything like this: full of history and story and theological articulation and implication. Absolutely fascinating.”

got religion?Got Religion?: How Churches, Mosques, and Synagogues Can Bring Young People Back, by Naomi Schaefer Riley
5 stars
a journalistic overview of young adult ministries in various faiths, highlighting case studies of what’s working. story-driven and easy to read, i’ve started regularly recommending this book to those who care about the faith of college students and young adults.

brainstormBrainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, by Daniel J. Siegel MD
3 stars
understanding the teenage brain from a perspective of its power, specialization, and potential. often boring (i found the exercises to be annoying and useless filler) and off-subject, there are some stunning gems in here for those with the patience to sift.

more than just the talkMore Than Just the Talk: Becoming Your Kids’ Go-To Person About Sex, by Jonathan McKee
4 stars
rather than my normal two sentences, here’s the official endorsement i wrote for this parenting book:
So many books on this topic are written by people who don’t actually interact with real teenagers. But McKee is a practitioner first, a frontline youth worker with current and regular interactions with Christian teenagers wrestling with the intersection of their faith and their sexuality. Never condescending to teenagers or parents, Jon brings his blunt and honest writing style to a subject I wish more parents were talking about with their teens.

wrapping up this series tomorrow with two christian nonfiction books.

2 Sentence Book Reviews: Nonfiction

i’m overdue for some book reviews, and will be posting reviews of 23 books this week. as i’ve done in the past, i’m posting two sentence book reviews. in each case, the first sentence is a summary of the book; and the second sentence is my thoughts on the book. i include a 1 – 5 star rating also. and occasionally, i’ll have an additional note.

today’s reviews include 6 nonfiction books:

war of artThe War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield
5+ stars
understand and overcome your internal resistances to creative output. this is a must-read for anyone doing sort of work that is even remotely creative, which, really, should be pretty much all of us.

homeschool sex machineHomeschool Sex Machine: Babes, Bible Quiz, and the Clinton Years, by Matthew Pierce
4 stars
self-published, hilarious, autobiographical stories from the author’s teen years. so, so funny (particularly for those of us who grew up in the sometimes odd world of christendom); my only complaint was that i wanted it to be three times longer.

finding the space to leadFinding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership, by Janice Marturano
4 stars
the subtitle says it all: this book is about learning how to be present in the context of leaders. easy to read through a christian meditation lens, i found this book to be wonderfully helpful, and have used it now with a couple of my coaching groups.

henrietta lacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
5 stars
well-researched history and science about the most common cells in medical research, which were harvested, without permission, from a poor black woman. i’ve rarely read a book with such a stellar combination of science and story, all written in a compelling and accessible style with tons of subtext and ethical challenges.

dueling neurosurgeonsThe Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery, by Sam Kean
5 stars
the history of neuroscience, told via fascinating case studies. if you’ve ever thought about reading a book to understand the human brain better, but were worried it would be too technical or boring, this is the book you should read.

kingdom of iceIn the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette, by Hampton Sides
4.5 stars
exquisitely detailed history of a failed polar voyage in the late 1800s. the quantity of detail was so well crafted that it never left me wanting less.

on deck for tomorrow: five church ministry and youth ministry-related books

2 Sentence Book Reviews: Fiction

i’m overdue for some book reviews, and will be posting reviews of 24 books this week. as i’ve done in the past, i’m posting two sentence book reviews. in each case, the first sentence is a summary of the book; and the second sentence is my thoughts on the book. i include a 1 – 5 star rating also. and occasionally, i’ll have an additional note.

today, five Fiction books:

one more thingOne More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, by B.J. Novak
5 stars
a collection of mostly humorous essays–mostly fiction, but not all–from The Office writer and exec producer (and ryan, on the show). i found these wonderfully entertaining even when they weren’t laugh-out-loud funny.

serpent of veniceThe Serpent of Venice: A Novel, by Christopher Moore
5 stars
a hilarious, lusty, and fantastical mash-up of The Merchant of Venice, Othello, and The Cask of Amontillado (yes, you read that correctly). moore is my favorite comedic writer, and this one is absurdly over-the-top in the best possible way.

worst person everWorst. Person. Ever., by Douglas Coupland
4 stars
dirtbag TV cameraman gets an assignment on a tropical island for a ribald Survivor-type show, where nothing more could go wrong, and nothing can spare him from his a-hole self. reads more like chuck palahniuk than douglas coupland, but is biting commentary on our cultural obsessions.

brutal youthBrutal Youth: A Novel, by Anthony Breznican
5 stars
4.5 stars
a lowly freshman makes his way through his first year at a parochial school full of systemic (even endorsed) bullying. great characters and wonderful honesty, with development and insight into teenagers.
*note: this is not a young adult fiction book, but a fiction book about teenagers. in my observation, one difference is that these teenagers talk like real teenagers.

your fathers, where are theyYour Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, by Dave Eggers
4 stars
a lonely and disturbed man shackles a series of captives on an abandoned military base in order to question them, to make sense of his life. more light-hearted (sort of dark comedy) that my summary would lead you to believe, this isn’t eggers’ best work (i believe eggers to be one of the 20 best living fiction writers), but it’s interesting and insightful.

on deck for tomorrow: six nonfiction books

2 Sentence Book Reviews: Young Adult Fiction

i’m overdue for some book reviews, and will be posting reviews of 24 books this week. as i’ve done in the past, i’m posting two sentence book reviews. in each case, the first sentence is a summary of the book; and the second sentence is my thoughts on the book. i include a 1 – 5 star rating also. and occasionally, i’ll have an additional note.

let’s get started with Young Adult Fiction:

allegiantAllegiant, by Veronica Roth
4 stars
the third and final installment in the Divergent series brings a sort of teen-led revolution and wrap up to the series. the author took some big risks (which is obvious by how many amazon reviewers were not happy with this book’s approach or ending), but i felt the risks paid off and made this final installment less predictable than it might have been.

maze runner
The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, and The Death Cure, by James Dashner
4 stars for the first book, 3.5 stars for the other two
a group of teenagers push through a series of deadly tasks as part of an ill-formed and twisted scientific plan to rid the world of a deadly pandemic. often interesting, certainly nonstop, but ultimately uneven, with plenty of missed opportunities for deeper insight into motives, relationships, and humanity.

firecrackerFirecracker, by David Iserson
4 stars
a rich and self-centered teenage girl gets kicked out of her elite private school and is forced to attend public school as a super-smart loner with an axe to bear and lessons to learn. the writing is fantastic and the main character is brilliantly witty and snarky, though as a whole, it feels a concurrently over-the-top and lacking depth.

hollow cityHollow City, by Ransom Riggs
5 stars
the second installment of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children finds the children on the run for their lives. these books almost defy description: beautiful in writing, layout, creativity, and full of metaphorical insight into every person’s uniqueness.

tomorrow’s reviews: five fiction books

Optimism helps in a sprint, but Hope is needed for a journey

In high school, my parents grew weary of the multiple ways I was finding to abuse their Volkswagen Bug. They issued an ultimatum that I would lose driving privileges for a time if I had another infraction. So I totally panicked when my buddies thought it was hilarious to somehow completely fill the inside of the car–all the way to the roof–with the tiny styrofoam pellets you find in bean bag chairs (or could find, back then).

I drove around the church parking lot with the doors open, allowing the styro-bits to create their own weather pattern. Then I pumped quarter after quarter into a self serve car wash’s industrial
vacuum, making sure I sucked up every single last piece of evidence.

All was well, I convinced myself, for a few weeks. Then, the first cold day of the fall arrived, unfortunately, when my dad and I were in the car together. The windows fogged up. As we drove down a major road, my dad reached over and turned on the defrost fan. On a Volkswagen Bug, the windshield is almost vertical, and the defrost vents point straight up. How was I to know that they were filled with thousands of patient, hiding, styrofoam balls, which engulfed the inside of the car with a blinding snowstorm?

You can convince yourself for a while that optimism will get you where you want to go. But eventually, optimism will be found out as limited. Optimism will fall short. Optimism’s great for a short sprint, but Hope is needed for a lifetime journey.


This is just a li’l tease, a snippet from Hopecasting: Finding, Keeping and Sharing the Things Unseen. it’s currently at the printer, and should be available in just about a month or so.

(click for a slightly larger and more legible cover image)
hopecasting full cover

Why We Published This: The Audacious Seven

steve case is one of the most prolific youth ministry writers i’ve ever known. for 15 years or so, i’ve been trying to keep up with proposals from steve, and greenlighting as many as i can. you might know his work on books like The Book of Uncommon Prayer (and vol 2), Everything Counts, The Big Book of Case Studies, Road Rules, and many more. for the Cartel, steve wrote our very first book, The Youth Cartel’s (Unauthorized) Dictionary of Youth Ministry, as well as the Stations of the Cross curriculum. we’ve got a fun book coming out from steve in march called Bigger Badder Board Games. and we have a few more things in the hopper, just waiting for the right time.

so, yes, steve is prolific.

but the primary reason i’ve published steve so many times isn’t because of the sheer quantity of ideas he comes up with, or the speed at which he can write (which is mind=blowing, by the way), or how open he is to editorial input and changes. the reason i keep finding myself publishing steve’s ideas, year after year, is because he is one of the most creative people i have ever met.

9781942145066-coverThe Audacious Seven: Life Lessons from Seven Saints Who Didn’t Back Down, shows steve’s creativity. it’s a very outside-the-box curriculum (hard to use the word curriculum, as steve’s stuff rarely fits comfortably into preconceived categories) that looks at seven historic saints. but they are far from an academic lessons focused on information. instead, they use story to help teenagers think about bold living for jesus. you can use them as a series, or as one-offs (like the session on Patrick would be great near St. Patrick’s Day; the session on Nicholas at Christmas; and the session on Valentine at… well… Valentine’s Day).

here’s the official description:

What can we learn from the impudent, impertinent, insolent, presumptuous, cheeky, irreverent, brazen, shameless, defiant, fresh, mouthy, saucy, sassy, nervy, daring, fearless, intrepid, brave, courageous, valiant, heroic, plucky, daredevil, reckless, venturesome, mettlesome, gutsy, spunky, and temerarious servants of God?

The Audacious Seven looks at the lives of seven of God’s servants who went so far above and beyond the call that we refer to them as saints. Seven common everyday individuals who had the opportunity to crawl into a hole and hide, but instead looked adversity in the eye and with the power of the Spirit said, “Bring it on.” Teenagers will examine these saints not for their piety, but because their stories are part of our stories as believers. No matter what our denomination, these stories our part of our faith history and that makes them part of who we are as a church today.

it’s a downloadable resource, and includes this stuff:

A detailed introduction and overview of the curriculum for leaders explaining how to use The Audacious Seven, what we can learn from the saints, and why these stories matter today.

Seven lesson guides on the chosen saints: St. Patrick, St. Catherine, St. Francis, St. Joseph, St. Marina, St. Nicholas, and St. Valentine. Each lesson guide includes an introduction for leaders, dramatized stories and re-imaginings of the writings or lives of each saint, the prayers associated with or written by each saint, discussion questions, relevant Scripture, and ideas for actions that will inspire teenagers to take these life lessons and spiritual insights to heart.

download the FREE sample session (St. Patrick) here. and read this fun interview with steve about the product. then you’ll see why i think this thing is so cool.

Alpha Film Series for youth

last year at the Simply Youth Ministry Convention, i sat down with a sharp young canadian youth leader named jason ballard. he wanted to talk to me about the series of films he and another guy had created for Youth Alpha. he talked about raising a quarter million dollars (or something like that) to really do it right, flying around the world to film on location. he spoke passionately about what they’d created, and his frustration that the films weren’t getting any meaningful distribution in the states.

a couple months later, i finally got around to watching the films. and i was blown away.

Alpha, in case you’re not familiar with it, is an open-handed and low-coercion approach to evangelism, originating in england. the approach is to host a series of exploratory meetings with people interested in talking about christianity. there’s no bait-and-switch. there are no high pressure tactics. in england and canada, Alpha has a seen great traction. a canadian youth ministry friend of mine recently ran a Youth Alpha course and found he had more teenagers coming than normally attend his youth group. Alpha, it seems to me, works really well in more post-christian contexts. Alpha has seen some traction in the states, but it’s been an uphill climb.

but here’s what i particularly noticed when watching the film series: the ‘basics of christianity’ topics are things that ALL youth workers would want their groups to be talking about! Sticky Faith and the National Study of Youth and Religion have shown us that even regular attenders of most of our youth ministries really don’t know what they believe. and if they can articulate a belief set, we might be surprised that it’s not exactly orthodox christianity (even if they think it is).

so The Youth Cartel decided to become a distributor of the Alpha Youth Film Series. ultimately, we’d love to see youth workers use it as a way to engage unchurched teenagers in dialogue about jesus and christianity. but i really believe it’s a one-of-a-kind resource for basics of the faith also, for any youth group. it’s SUPER high quality (you won’t be embarrassed).

here’s the official description:

The Alpha Youth Film Series is 12 video sessions designed to engage students in conversations about faith, life and Jesus.

Today’s youth are a savvy, diverse, and fast-paced generation, who are seeking for relevant truth and personal acceptance in a world that seems to offer both in things like money, fame, sex, drugs, sports, media, education, and careers. For many young people, Christianity is so ten years ago-a boring religion that my parents believed, but is no longer relevant in this 21st century culture. How can we make the timeless message of the Gospel applicable and interesting to our postmodern youth?

we have 3 things for sale in the Cartel store: a DVD set with one participant discussion guide, a flash drive with digital versions of everything, and individual (inexpensive) participant discussion guides (with bulk discounts).

YFS Sleeve drop shadow (1)the DVD set and flash drive include:
• Twelve 20 minute episodes
• Built-in discussion breaks
• Supporting discussion questions
• 3 training videos (for you and your team)

here are the topics this series covers:
Life: Is This It?
Jesus: Who is He?
Cross: Why Did Jesus Die?
Faith: How Can We have Faith?
Prayer: Why and How Do I Pray?
Bible: Why and How Do I Read the Bible?
Follow: How Does God Guide Us Into Full Life?
Spirit: Who Is the Holy Spirit and What Does He Do?
Fill: How Can I Be Filled With the Holy Spirit?
Evil: How Can I Resist Evil?
Healing: Does God Heal Today?
Church: What About the Church and Telling Others?

in short, i strongly encourage you to check this out. considering how robust this thing is, the price is really fantastic ($59.99 for the DVD set or flash drive).

here’s the video trailer to wet your appetite:

Official Trailer Youth Alpha Film Series from Alpha USA on Vimeo.

Why We Published This: The Jesus Gap

9781942145028.main.1000february 22, 2014 (less than a year ago): the first Open Grand Rapids. i wasn’t there, but adam mclane was. late in the day, he sent me a text telling me everything was going well. but he also said that the presenter who totally blew everyone away was a chicago area youth worker named jen bradbury. he told me how jen has presented on her original research about churched teenagers and their christology. he suggested a publishing chat was in order.

1:30pm, february 27, 2014: i chatted with jen. wow — yes, it quickly became clear that jen’s research (as part of her MA in youth ministry leadership at huntington) had raised some important issues about christian teenagers and jesus. it was 100% clear to me that we needed to help give jen a platform to speak to youth workers about what she’d discovered. and, thankfully, jen wanted to jump in.

february 28, 2014: jen sent me most of a full book proposal. at least it had the pertinent bits. it was a fantastic start. we chatted again that day and i made a handful of minor suggestions.

march 3, 2014: jen sent me a revised proposal based on my input, as well as a sample chapter.

march 10 i emailed jen with this: “jen bradbury, how is it that you are just now surfacing as a voice that needs to be heard in the world of youth ministry!? seriously — you are the real deal. your expanded TOC is excellent, and is SO CLEARLY a book that needs to be written and read.”

within another week or two, we had a signed publishing contract with jen. she wrote like a mad-woman, and turned in the manuscript in mid-june, and after some frenetic months of editing and design and printing and stuff, we released The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus in early October.

for those not familiar with book publishing, let me clarify: that’s an insane timeline.

but we pushed hard and fast because we were 100% convinced this was a book that needed to be published, and that it was a book that every youth worker simply must read. after all, if the majority of our teenagers have massive misinformation about who jesus was and is, then what the heck are we even doing? the beauty of jen’s book, though, is that while her research reveals some surprising and frustrating–even discouraging–news about what our teenagers actually believe about jesus, there are totally actions we can take to address the problem. in other words, it’s a hopeful book.

here’s what andy root (in my opinion, one of the top three minds in youth ministry) had to say in the foreword he wrote:

So here we stand, needing not simply to help our young people possess information about Jesus, but rather to invite them to experience the living Christ. We are asking them to take these experiences of Jesus’ presence and absence in their lives and reflect on them through Scripture and church tradition—not in order to know information, but to give testimony to the depth of their experience. And this, in my mind, is the gap—the gap between young people’s experience of the living Jesus and their ability to give coherent and thoughtful reflection upon it. If we can help them do this kind of reflection, it might transform their lives and be a rich blessing to the church.

Reading Jen’s book will prove helpful to bridging this gap. It will make you think; and most importantly, it will move you into the depth of ministry where the living Jesus is always present, taking what is dead and bringing it back to life.

and here are a few other opinions:

Jen Bradbury is seasoned, wise, and warm, as might be expected of a youth minister. She’s also a tenacious researcher with mad writing skills and a desperately important problem to dissect. That’s why The Jesus Gap managed to exceed my expectations. This book needs serious attention from anyone who loves Jesus, loves kids, and loves the Church. There’s hope in these pages!
– Dave Rahn, Sr. VP, Youth for Christ/USA, Director, MA in Youth Ministry Leadership at Huntington University

The Jesus Gap is a must-read book for four reasons. First, it discovers, critiques, and champions the place of Christology in youth ministry. Second, it is a rare gem: National research done with rigor that helps us find a confident way forward. Third, it was written by a veteran youth pastor with a proven and current record of fruitful leadership. Finally, Jen Bradbury is a gifted thinker and leader in youth ministry who leads, teaches, and nurtures as well as any I’ve seen. You can be confident of the quality of the data, the theological wisdom, the practical application, and the integrity and Christ-centeredness of the one who writes.
– Terry Linhart, PhD, Author and Educator at Bethel College – Indiana, TerryLinhart.com

In The Jesus Gap, Jen Bradbury offers deep insight into the way teenagers view Jesus. Full of important questions and a critical look at what we are telling teens about him, Jen offers a wealth of practical ways we can positively impact what our youth believe about Jesus. Regardless of your denomination or the size of your ministry, this book is filled with valuable wisdom for how pastors or parents can play a key role in strengthening the faith of our youth. I am left feeling hopeful that when we introduce teenagers to the true Jesus, we will open the door to a faith that will last a lifetime.
– Doug Fields, Author of Purpose Driven Youth Ministry and Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry, Co-founder of downloadyouthministry.com

so, yeah — here are my questions to you, dear blog reader:
1. are you a youth worker?
2. if you answered ‘yes’ to question 1, have you read The Jesus Gap yet?
3. if you answered ‘no’ to question 2, what is your frickin’ problem?

(oh, two more things: we asked jen to speak on this subject at The Summit last november, and her excellent, short talk is available here. we want to take another step and help your teenagers come to know and experience the real jesus; so we’re just starting the development of a Jesus Gap devotional, with jen as the author. watch for that to release sometime in 2016!)