the 62 Worst and Weirdest Nativities (the 2015 revised list!)

coke can nativityYup, I’ve seen the Coke can nativity.

coke can camel nativityAnd I’ve seen the one with the pack of Camel cigs.

live dogs nativityAnd the live dogs posed as a nativity.

godzilla nativityAnd, yeah, the many glorious combinations of Barbies and Godzillas and just about everything else.

But they’re not on my list of the XX Worst and Weirdest Nativities. That’s because this list has a rule: I only include nativities that were made as nativities. (Otherwise this list would be three times longer!)

And before we get going with this year’s revised and updated list, I should acknowledge that I can’t really label all of these “worst” anymore. For starters, I’ve grown fond of some of them over time. Then, as the list has grown, I’ve stumbled on some that I think are absolutely brilliant in one way or another. There’s no question about it: some are horrible and tacky. Some are weird and freakish. Some are merely meh. And some, well, rock.

But you’ll have to be the judge, i suppose.

The Kitty Cat Nativity. Makes me want to cough up a hairball.

The Nativity Kitchen Timer (ding-ding! baby jesus is born!):

Yeah, the Cat Nativity is probably worse. But these Dogs ain’t much better…

Technically, not a nativity. But it’s a Christmas lawn ornament, showing (can you believe it?) the flogging of Jesus on the way to the cross. There’s some christmas cheer for your neighborhood!

Also not technically a nativity. Just a horribly cheesy Christian kitschmas decoration: the Jesus Tree Topper. Dude, that robe is not working for you. And stop using that flat-iron on your hair.

Back to actual nativity sets. This one is a craft kit, using marshmallows to make a S’mores Nativity. Yum.

This isn’t a whole nativity set, but there are other pieces available. This Mouse Drummer Boy is just about as confusing as a bit of kitschmas junk can get.

When searching for tasteless nativity sets online, it doesn’t take long for one to stumble onto multiple versions of bears…

This Rubber Duckie Nativity has to be right up there in the “worst” section of cheesy nativity sets…

Lotsa Santa nativity sets and pieces out there, but this one is a bit disorienting. Is the holy family IN Santa’s bag? Or does Santa have an nice appliqué of the holy family on his bag of gifts? And, what can the letters in Santa be re-arranged to spell?

If cats, dogs, and teddy bears weren’t enough, how ’bout penguins!?

Sure. Snowmen. Shouldn’t be a surprise.

Ah, the Veggie Nativity. I debated on this one, because my kids loved Veggie Tales back in the day. But the baby carrot pushed me over the edge into including it.

This nativity — well, i just don’t even know how to describe it. Clowns? modern art? The baby Jesus seriously looks like something out of a circus or a John Waters movie.

Oh, the animals. I suppose, while i think the Dog Nativity and Cat Nativity are somehow explainable as something people WAY too “into” those particular animals might display, this Chicken Nativity is just a bit beyond my comprehension as a purchasable — nay, displayable — holiday trinket.

You know those people who have those geese on their porch? Yeah, them. And they put a cute little goosey costume on their porch-goose to mark every season? Yeah, those people. This costume set is made for those people. Or, to clarify, for those who actually have TWO of those geese already. Sigh. I’m guessing the rubber ducky baby is “not supplied” (not to mention zoologically impossible).

What better expresses the spirit of the incarnation than owls? I found these in an online cavalcade of nativities, where the comment was: Whoooo is the Son of God? Whooooo?

Yes, I give you, the Naked Troll Doll nativity. Eesh. Feh.

The Irish Nativity, where the 3 Irish wise guys have clover, gold and Guinness:

The most viral nativity from a few years ago… the Meat Nativity (yes, bacon and sausage):

And, why not the Butter Nativity:

The Cupcake Topper Nativity. holy and yummy all at once!

The Pig Nativity. Oink-vey: certainly not kosher…

The Mary-and-Josesph-as-Kids Nativity. This one is mildly disturbing.

In keeping with our current cultural fascination with all things zombie, I give you the Etsy craftiness of: the Zombie Nativity. Full disclosure: after this collection blew up online a few years ago, my business partner, Adam McLane, bought me this one as a Christmas gift. It now sits proudly in my home. and my interactions with the creators were just lovely (they “get it”).

The Nativity Carved out of Spam! (Thanks, Adam!)

The Shotgun Shell Nativity. What a blast (get it!?). Perfect for your redneck Christmas, I suppose.

The Peg Doll Nativity. Other than collecting some larger figures and one smaller one, and telling me it’s a nativity, this one doesn’t exactly scream “manger”.

The Mice Nativity. Say goodbye to the cookies you left out for Santa.

Um, the official description is “Folk Nativity“. But i’m pretty sure that’s a small 7 eleven frozen burrito with a face on it, along with two new age tree fairies, or something (btw: I had interaction with the creators of this gem a few years ago, and they’re good people).

From a nice reader in the UK (thanks, Mary!) who bothered to email this pic…
The Soggy Jesus Nativity. I’m sure there are plenty of nativities in a snow globe, where all three (or more) characters are IN the globe. But this freakish thing just has Jesus in there, with Mary and Joe staring at their baby-in-a-fishbowl. Too weird and hilarious.

Honestly, this one — the Mexican Mermaid Family Nativity — is some pretty beautiful art work, even if it is fairly strange. Thanks to Karen on flickr for allowing me to post this one.

And what I can only call the ‘Minimalist Nativity’. Props to some kindergarten art class for this one, or some very lazy community college art student.

Yeah, this one probably crosses some line. Sent to me by the creators, I give you the Halloween/Christmas Mash-up Nativity.

More animals! This time, it’s Meerkats! Hakuna matata, Jesus.

Not to be left out of the animal kingdom nativities, the Frog Nativity:

Ok. If I had a line, I’ve probably crossed it by now. I hesitated on this one, but it was suggested SO many times in recent years, and it’s from a crafty little website called tamponcrafts.com (really). Yup: it’s the Tampon Nativity:

More animals! This time it’s Moose (meese? mooses?).

Robin, the creator of this Soap Nativity, sent it to me. I suppose the birth of Christ has something to do with getting us all squeaky clean.

I love this one: three wise-men cheers for the Color Nativity!

What’s more fun that a puzzle? I’ll tell you what: little puzzles made out of eraser stuff. And then–in case that wasn’t fun enough!–make ’em a Puzzle Eraser Nativity set! Obvious, right, since baby Jesus came to erase your sins!?
puzzle eraser nativity

Take, eat, this is the body of Christ MADE IN CHOCOLATE FOR YOU, nomnomnomnomnom.
chocolate nativity

A quick Google image search will turn up a wide variety of nativity-themed nesting dolls. But I got a little chuckle out of the idea of the sheep being inside baby J on this one (alert reader Alison pointed out that “maybe that’s the ‘Lamb of God’!”):
nesting dolls nativity

Really, how did this list of wild and weird and wonderful and horrible nativities get to this ripe old age and NOT have a Gingerbread Nativity?? Just like the nesting dolls, there are hundreds (homemade and not) in a quick google image search. Here’s one of ’em:
gingerbread nativity

Speaking of gingerbread… just in case you’re hoping to communicate “WE ARE SO CUTE YOU MUST LOVE US” to your neighbors, here’s a Gingerbread Yard Art Nativity (I’m sure the word “art” is used merely for reference in that description):
gingerbread yard art nativity

What can I say: the world thanks Etsy artist thepinkkoala for finally building a bridge of peace, ending the rancor brought on by the scopes monkey trial. Now Christians and Darwinists can hold hands whilst viewing this Monkey Nativity set:
monkey nativity

I’m salivating as I post this one, the Fondant Nativity, from Etsy wonder craft rosy. Jesus and dessert: Two of my favorite things!
fondant nativity

You saw the Snow Globe Nativity above with only baby Jesus in the globe, right? Well, a lovely and alert reader sent me a photo of this fantastic piece of awesomeness she saw at a thrift shop. Yup, this time the snow globe is only on mary’s head. It’s like a space helmet! HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM.
nativity - mary snowglobe

And here I have to confess: this nativity is amazing. I want. I already have one on the list called the “Minimalist Nativity,” so i’m going to be forced to call this the “Minimalist Balls Nativity.” Seriously, this bit-o-brilliance makes it pretty clear that the nativity is iconic (btw: here are step-by-step instructions for making this one):
nativity - minimalist balls

New to the list this year!

There are so many nativities that try to incorporate Santa in some way. But this Father Santa Nativity takes things to a whole ‘nother level.
Father Santa

Unvirtuous Abbey, on FB, was the source of this confused Frankenstein Nativity.
frankenstein nativity

This has to be one of the strangest and most disorienting nativities on the whole list. I call it the Frog Belly Nativity, and it leaves me with more questions than answers, to be sure. But, hey, if this connects with your soul, you can get your own at The Frog Store.
frog belly nativity

Holy cow, it’s a nativity. Confused? Me too. The Holy Cow Nativity is available as a Christmas ornament for your mediations on beef and spirituality.
holy cow nativity

Nativity Chess Set. Seems pretty obvi, right?
nativity chess set

Three truths about this Paper Mache Nativity:
1. I don’t remember where I got it (I think someone sent it to me; but I don’t have notes on it).
2. I’m not really sure what’s going on in it.
3. It scares me, just a little bit, in an Aliens-want-to-eat-your-soul sort of way.
paper machete

The Peanut Nativity reminds me of a lame craft from Christian summer camp. Sorry, peanuts. And sorry, good summer camps with your brilliant craftiness.
peanut nativity

Food-related nativities are fun, apparently. And the Radish Nativity has an interesting story. Sent to me by Christy, a missionary in southern Mexico, who writes: My husband and I work in Southern Mexico. Every December 23, people from all over flock to Oaxaca City, Mexico to the Noche de Rabanos (Radish Night) celebration. There are always some lovely nativities painstakingly carved out of giant red radishes. Sure. Radishes. Because they’re red, maybe?
radish nativity.4

My friend Josh snapped a pic of this Woodland Creatures Nativity at a Christmas store in NC. Oh, Deer! (Note: Santa in the background sorta ticked me off. Go away, Santa, back to your freaking chimney.)
woodland creatures nativity

How did I get all the way to 2015 without a Salt and Pepper Nativity in the list? Yup, it’s the reason for the seasoning.
salt and pepper

This is one of my new favorites: the Super Minimalist Nativity. Created by French artist Émilie Voirin, who says, “The holy scene that has been broadly reproduced is here recognizable by the names only, giving free rein to people’s imagination.”
super minimalist nativity

People have sent me dozens of nativity scenes cobbled together with independent superhero dolls. But this one was actually made as a nativity, with Baby J in a wee Superman costume! Finally, a real Superhero Nativity. (Haven’t found a source for this one yet.)
superhero-nativity

I don’t think the creators of this nativity intended to make something that looks like the Star Wars Jawa. So I’m calling this one the Unintentional Jawa Nativity.
unintentional jawa

check out bohemian rhapsody re-written as “bethlehemian rhapsody” (so totally fun!).

also check out this awesome take on the real christmas story, as if it played out on facebook, and this fantastic imagining of the nativity story played out on a a wide variety of social media.

Anticipating Emmanuel

Advent is all about the Hope coming with the arrival of Emmanuel—“God with us.” But many of us have a less-than-full embracing of Emmanuel.

How come we only talk about God entering into his own creation (which, of course, God did through the birth of Jesus) at Christmas? I mean: I love, love, love the word Emmanuel (am I allowed to have a ‘favorite Bible word?’). It’s pregnant with the entire gospel. That single word summarizes every aspect of Christianity that keeps me tethered when I’m feeling hopeless for the church or annoyed by my brothers and sisters or disgusted with my own inability.

But, treating Emmanuel as a Christmas-only word, well, that’s a rip off. In a sense, it’s as if we pack up Emmanuel with the ornaments and lights, and shelve it for 11 months.

God with us. 12 months a year (not just one). At Christmas we hold expectation of Jesus’ coming. What if we had that same expectation that God could powerfully show up at even the most mundane and ordinary moments of our day-to-day lives? If we truly believe that; if we really lean into that; if we really remember that the power and intimacy of God is with us at every moment; our experience of God will be revolutionized.

Maybe that’s the bottom line of Advent: what’s it look like for you and me–as children of God–to live with an Advent expectancy that God can move powerfully all the year around? Let’s dream big ‘Christmas-sized’ dreams about what God can do with us today and in the coming year. How about a little infusion of hope and anticipation in your faith today? I’m telling you, it’s like an extra serving of Christmas dessert.

Six Practices Growing Leaders Embrace (longer version)

some time ago, i posted a short FRIDAY NUGGET on six practices that growing leaders embrace. some time later, i expanded that into a column for Youthwork Magazine (in the UK). thought it would be worth sharing here:


Over and over again, I see Christian leaders holding up balance as a biblical value, a goal by which we can live in a Christian way. And, honestly, it angers me. Let me be clear: balance is not a biblical value: it’s a western value born of the enlightenment and modernity.

I’m much more interested in sustainability and thriving. When I read Jesus’ words, “I have come that they might have life, and life to the full,” I don’t hear balance; but I do hear sustainability and thriving.

This issue comes up often in the coaching groups I run with youth workers, people who’s lives are often—because of the never-ending nature of our roles—completely out of balance. Together, we explore what it might look like, for each individual, to practices and commitments that will move them toward a life of sustainability and thriving.

Recently, during an open time of questions at one of these coaching groups, one youth worker asked the group for suggested practices for ongoing growth as a leader. I loved the question (even the question itself is fantastic). And as others in the group suggested ideas, I started scribbling ideas on a piece of paper. I’m not normally one prone to alliteration; but six words starting with R revealed themselves on my page.

If you want to grow as a leader, moving toward greater impact and the sort of life that God has always dreamed of for you, I think you could do a whole lot worse than to lean into these six practices:

marko growth croppedRhythm. If you desire to experience the fullness of life that Jesus offers, you’ve got to be intentional about finding a rhythm of life that works for you (and the significant people in your life). If your beautiful and wonderful calling to youth work gets played out with you being out five evenings a week, you haven’t found a healthy rhythm. If you don’t have downtime, you haven’t found a healthy rhythm. If you don’t have times when you’re not thinking about ministry, you haven’t found a healthy rhythm.

Consider a rhythm that leads to vibrancy at a weekly level, a seasonal level, and an annual level.

Healthy, growing, vibrant leaders are both proactive and reactive about rhythm. They plan and ruthlessly schedule rhythm; and they pay attention to three things: their energy levels, the fruit of the Spirit in their daily lives, and their levels of intimacy with core relationships. And, when they discern any of those things are out of whack, they make adjustments.

Read. Surely you’ve heard the saying “Leaders are Readers.” It’s tough to grow without reading. Put yourself on a reading diet.

Make sure you don’t only read books you expect you’ll agree with. Often our best growth comes from being challenged to think in different ways.

And don’t only read ministry books (though include those also). Read widely, from many genres. I often find that fiction, and nonfiction from bodies of knowledge that are foreign to me, spark my most creative thinking.

Risk. Just yesterday I was coaching a youth worker, and asked him, “Where are you taking a risk in your ministry this season; and where you are taking a risk in your personal life?” He struggled to find a good answer, and we both knew he was coasting. Coasting = no growth.

Bluntly: there is no growth without risk.

Renew. If you’re in full-tilt mode at all times, you’ll soon be headed for a crash, or burnout. Check this: even Jesus was intentional about withdrawing from his work and the crowds. Jesus left people unhealed, potential sermons unpreached, and miracles unmiracled! And remember (duh!) that Jesus is God, with limitless power. Clearly Jesus wasn’t a slacker; and clearly, you need renewal if you’re going to serve in youth work for more than a few weeks.

Bottom line: healthy leaders find meaningful pursuits that provide recalibration, refreshment and renewal. (Ooh! Three more R words!)

Reflect. Great youth work requires adjustments that most often come from careful, contemplative, strategic thinking. And that sort of thinking rarely happens on the fly, while grabbing another large coffee in a drive-thru.

Instead: great leaders make intentional time to reflect. This requires a discipline of slowing down (at times).

Retreat. This last practice overlaps with some of the other practices on this list (particularly rhythm, renewal and reflection). Growing leaders pull away for extended times on a regular basis. Short bursts of renewal and reflection are great; but real growth also requires more extended retreat.

Are you growing? Are you thriving? Does your entire life (ministry and not) feel gorgeously sustainable? If not: take a moment to prayerfully consider which of these practices you need to ramp up.

FRIDAY NUGGET: The Role of Trust in Youth Ministry

sorry for the unplanned month off of blogging there. just had too much on my plate for a bit. i’m back.


trust

possible to build. but it requires time and intention.
easy to lose, in a second.
possible to re-build. but it takes twice as long as the first time.

without trust and safety, your ministry will not experience communion. and without communion, the ministry will be clubbish and wimpy.

youth worker story: 10 church youth ministry

meredith hinton is a youth worker in one of my current north carolina YMCP cohorts. and she’s a freaking rockstar.

(disclaimer: it’s very possible i have some minor details off on this; but the basics, i’m quite sure, are accurate; and any minor discrepancies in no way diminish the large servings of awesome.)

so: meredith was a youth intern, and then, while in seminary, was involved in some sort of ministry effort that involved multiple small churches. and in that context, a vision was birthed. when meredith’s freshly minted husband (also a minister, but of the ‘one in charge’ variety) got placed in a small church in far-western north carolina, meredith started to dream and scheme, plan and pray. she knew the methodist churches in appalachia were all tiny, and that few–if any–could support a youth ministry.

meredithmeredith and four local pastors (including her husband) put together a grant proposal and got funding for a few years of start-up. she met with 10 small churches in her district and shared a vision for a shared youth ministry. all 10 jumped in. and now, a year later, this beautiful thing is unique and quirky and powerful.

get these realities that are so contextualized and amazing:

  • the 10 churches have something like 5 pastors between them (more than one of the pastors have a ‘multi-point charge,’ meaning they preach at multiple churches)
  • most of these churches have between 6 and 50 people in them
  • 5 of the churches do not even have a single child or teenager, yet they’re on board and fully supportive (and involved)
  • the youth group meetings rotate to a different church occasionally (i think it’s every three months)
  • meredith has about 15 teenagers coming regularly; and get this: she had so many adults (mostly parents) showing up to help (too many for the youth ministry), so she started an adult small group that meets concurrently with the overflow of parents.

meredith’s context is certainly unique. and what’s next, when the grant runs out, is still unclear. but meredith has developed a deep love for–and localized understanding of–the ‘mountain people’ (as she calls the people in her community). as readers of this blog will know, i’m deeply convinced that the very best youth ministries will always be highly contextualized and borne out of discernment from the spirit’s leading. meredith hinton, and her one-of-a-kind youth ministry are embodiments of those two realities.

here’s a little video of meredith put together by the duke endowment (her grant provider). well worth the few minutes to watch — you’ll be inspired!

FRIDAY NUGGET: Stop Wrecking It for the Rest of Us!

a few years ago now, i lead a discussion at a convention about ‘the future of youth ministry.’ in prep for that, i’d asked for quotes from a variety of youth ministry thinkers. steve argue, the brilliant pot-stirrer who was just hired as a youth min prof at fuller, sent me the following e-grenade (put your kevlar vest on before reading!):

Hey church, adolescents are NOT leaving you. You are perpetually leaving them. Stop using statistical bullsh*t to project blame. Repent.

Unless you’re willing to let adolescents mess with your own life, you have no business messing with their lives.

Most churches are not worthy of youth pastors. Youth pastors, stop giving yourself to organizations that use you to better “market” their church to families; that expect you to “produce” programs; and that exploit you because they know it’s hard to leave the kids you love. Walk away. Don’t take the job, because if you do, you’re wrecking it for all of us. Raise the bar. Boycott churches unworthy of youth pastors. Amen.

FRIDAY NUGGET: let’s re-weird-ify youth ministry

a couple weeks ago, i posted (on twitter and facebook) this quote, in a graphic form:

uniquness

reading the responses (mostly positive), reminded me of an amazing quote from kenda creasy dean. a few years ago now, i lead a discussion at a convention about ‘the future of youth ministry.’ in prep for that, i’d asked for quotes from a variety of youth ministry thinkers. kenda sent me a mic-drop. i love, love, love this:

Teenagers know, better than we do, that when we ask them to be Christians, we are asking them to do a very dangerous thing. The only way out is to adopt a “safe” version of Christianity (which might not be Christian at all) that helps them become good, nice people instead of people who love others sacrificially. But as we know, good and nice “Christianity” seldom lasts past high school, since teenagers quickly learn that people can be perfectly good and nice without Jesus anywhere in the picture.

So I think in the future, youth ministry will try to re-weird-ify Christianity, highlighting Jesus’ radical actions and peculiar self-giving love, in an effort to resist the American church’s habit of trying to tame the gospel into a middle class bedtime story. If Christianity is dangerous, then we need to act like it. Teenagers aren’t afraid of risk, but they want to know that Jesus is worth it. Young people are going to demand that we, the church, be who we say we are–people who obviously follow Jesus, which makes us “weird” in a culture based on self-actualization and self-fulfillment–or they’re just not going to bother with us at all.

bam. stew on that one a bit.

How I Changed My Mind

how i changed my mindmy every-other-issue column for Youthwork Magazine (UK) came out a few weeks back. this time around i wrote a bit about how i changed my mind on a leadership conviction. and the magazine illustrated it with this awesome cartoon of me changing my mind!


I had convinced myself that I was speaking the truth; and whether it was spoke “in love” or not, speaking the truth was the thing leaders were supposed to do. But the young woman in my office started crying, and something tipped sideways in my self-analysis.

This crying young woman was the third meeting in a single day, all in my office, where I had spoken “the truth” to someone, only to have them end up in tears. After the first of these meetings, I felt a rush a power—confident that I was doing what leaders do. After the second, my confidence waned a bit, and I had an inner-Scooby-Doo saying “Huh?” But that third meeting; well, it started me on a path of change.

I’d always been a leader who was willing to be vocal with my thoughts and opinions (I’m sure, much to the frustration of everyone in my life). On those spiritual gifts tests, I’d always scored a flat-lined zero in the area of mercy. And here’s the silly part: I was proud of that.

When I worked in a church going through a massive transition, I was asked to be on a transitional leadership team, and was taken under the wing of the two older pastors leading the process. They were both naturally gifted leaders, but had similarly convinced themselves of the strength of their weaknesses. In fact, I remember to this day the exact wording of the mentoring I received from the two of them in one meeting. They said, “Marko, your lack of mercy is the strength of your leadership.” Hey, that sounded good to me (embarrassing and stupid as it sounds to me today). And for the next few years, I steamrolled people left and right under the ruse of “strong biblical leadership.”

What a misguided idiot.

But that crying young woman loosened something in me. And through divine revelation or long overdue common sense (or some combo), I immediately knew I needed to change. But I had no idea how to make that happen (and, I was accustomed to “making” everything happen in my world).

I carefully selected two older men who I perceived as strong leaders, but also merciful, and asked them to mentor me in the areas of mercy and gentleness. At one of my first meetings with one of these guys, he stated the should-have-been-obvious: I couldn’t make myself have mercy; I could only ask God to give me mercy, and pursue a life of mercy. They other guy helped me understand something that became a framing idea for me: I’ll likely never score high in mercy on spiritual gifts tests; but I can still grow in mercy. This same kind of parallel plays out all over my life (I’ll never be perfect, but I’m still called to righteousness; I’ll never love perfectly, but I’m still called to be loving).

These two new understandings re-framed leadership and mercy for me, and put me on a multi-year quest of change. I met with these mentors; I read books on mercy (and the kind of leadership that was more Jesus-y than CEO-like); I journaled and prayed; and I asked friends to help me.

About two years later (yes, it took that long!), I received a great double-confirmation from God that I was making progress. In the span of one week, I had someone comment to me (who didn’t know of my quest) how gentle they thought I was. I could hardly believe someone would ever use that word to describe me. Then, a few days later, one of the administrative assistants of the church told me that the other admins had a nickname for me: the gentle steamroller. I laughed out loud when I heard this: yup, I still had that steamroller way about me at times; and I’m not even sure what a “gentle steamroller” would be. But I responded, “Hey, I’ll take that!” I thought it was the best compliment I’d received in a long time.

As I write this, it’s about 18 years later. I’m still a merciless jerk on a regular basis. I am still very capable of possessing the gentleness of a sledgehammer from time to time (and even of being momentarily proud of it!). But I can see change. I wish it were more immediate. The only thing that was immediate was my recognition of need for change. The process of change has been, and will continue to be, a long, slow journey of transformation.

How are you changing? Which of your rough edges need some Holy Spirit sandpaper?

FRIDAY NUGGET: 6 Growth Practices of Leaders

one of my coaching peeps asked recently for thoughts about growth practices of leaders. i did a little brainstorming while listening to others respond, and came up with this list (uncharacteristically, for me, all starting with the same letter!):

  • Rhythm — some refer to this as balance; but i’m not a big fan of balance. i think the issue, instead, is sustainability. great leaders pursue a rhythm of work and non-work that leads to sustainability.
  • Read — you know the saying, “Leaders are Readers.” read widely.
  • Risk — there is no growth without risk.
  • Renew — healthy leaders find meaningful pursuits that provide recalibration, refreshment and renewal.
  • Reflect — great leaders make intentional time to reflect. this requires a discipline of slowing down (at times).
  • Retreat — overlapping with some of the other practices on this list (particularly rhythm, renewal and reflection), growing leaders pull away for extended times on a regular basis. short bursts of renewal and reflection are great; but real growth also requires more extended retreat.

stop and consider which one of these you’re missing.

The Life Book and National Evangelism Week

thelifebook-book-coverhey youth workers: have you heard of The Life Book? it’s a nicely designed gospel of john with additional comments and interaction bits, aimed at teenagers. it’s designed as a simple, non-coercive ‘gift’ for teenagers to give out to their friends and classmates. and thanks to support from the Gideons, it’s completely free. in fact, more than 1.3 million teenagers have given out more than 19 million copies of The Life Book since 2010.

there are certainly a couple levels of benefit surrounding this. first, it gets the gospel of john into the hands of teenagers who would never step into your church or youth group. but it’s also a pretty cool discipleship step for christian teenagers, an onramp to having spiritual conversations with friends. this sort of verbal articulation of faith, we’re finding (most notably in mandy drury’s research on the importance of ‘testimony’ in adolescent faith formation) is critically important to developing a faith that last beyond youth group attendance.

i like the people at The Life Book also. they’re not weird. they’re good hearted, genuine people who really care about teenagers. so i feel good about telling you about them. we’re doing some stuff with them at our event, The Summit, this year also. and for those of you who order anything from The Youth Cartel store in august and september (and as long as our supply lasts), you’ll find you get a copy of The Life Book with your order.

so i’d totally encourage you to do a couple things:

  1. order copies of The Life Book for your group to give out.
  2. consider linking your distribution week with others during National Evangelism Week (NEW), september 20 – 26.

for more info, or to place an order, click here.

here’s some info straight from the peeps at The Life Book:

For National Evangelism Week:

  • We just made it up. Why? We thought it would be awesome if we all focused on both Evangelism and Prayer during the week of See You at the Pole.
  • Imagine one week focused on Evangelism and Prayer. September 20th- 26th, 2015
  • Make your request for Free Life Books by August 31st (that’s next monday!) to get them in time for this week.

FAQs

  • What is The Life Book? The Life Book contains the Gospel of John (ESV) and includes interactive student comments and scripture helps for issues students face. Over 1.3
    Million students have handed out over 19 Million Life Books since 2010.
  • Can students give them out beyond National Evangelism Week? Yes. Feel free to request 2500 Free Life Books and have your students hand them out all throughout the
    school year. This is a great way to foster an evangelistic mindset in students. (Our experience recommends you request 25 Life Books per student in your youth group to
    hand out.)
  • Is it really free? Absolutely. No strings attached. We are wholly funded by The Gideons International.
  • Is this only for churches? Yes. We can only provide free Life Books to Church pastors and youth leaders.