Tag Archives: college ministry

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.

escaping neverland (extended adolescence article)

some weeks ago, i spent an hour on a phone with a reporter for World Magazine who was doing an article on extended adolescence. i’m often a bit skeptical about what sort of reporting someone’s going to bring to this subject, since i usually disagree with the “why can’t this narcissistic generation grow up?” perspective i’ve seen so often. my belief is that adolescence has extended because we (adults, culture at large) have:

  • isolated teenagers (and now young adults)
  • increasingly treated teenagers like children
  • removed opportunities for teenagers and young adults to spend time with adults in the world of adults
  • ceased pretty much all practices of giving teenagers an opportunity to be “apprentice adults”
  • removed opportunities for responsibility and expectation
  • and, removed all the onramps to adulthood

not to mention the “it’s all about me and my needs” worldview that today’s teenagers and young adults have seen modeled for them their whole lives by baby boomer parents.

so i did the interview, mostly because i wanted to offer what i assumed might be a different perspective. i also suggested the writer connect with rick dunn (author of Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults), and i’m glad she followed through on that. the result, i think, is a good article. what do you think? responses, thoughts, reservations or disagreements?

******************
peter panEscaping Neverland, by Caroline Leal

If the fictional character, Peter Pan—“the boy who would not grow up”—was alive today, he’d have little need to run away to the magical isle of Neverland to escape manhood.

“You no longer have to shut your eyes and pretend you are in Neverland—it is all around you,” wrote sociology professor Frank Ferudi in online publication Spiked. “Our society is full of lost boys and girls hanging out on the edge of adulthood.”

Meet Generation Peter Pan, the ever-expanding band of twenty-, thirty- and even forty-somethings living in a state of extended adolescence, avoiding the trappings of responsibility—marriage, mortgage, children—for as long as possible. Sociologists traditionally mark the “transition to adulthood” by the milestones of completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying, and having a child. In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had passed all five milestones by age 30. But among 30-year-olds in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, fewer than half of the women and one-third of the men had done so.

A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in December 2011 found 53 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds are living with their parents or moved back with them temporarily during the past few years. In 2012, another Pew poll found that in 1993, 80 percent of parents with children age 16 or younger said they expected them to be financially independent by age 22. As of 2011, only 67 percent of parents agreed.

With more people embracing the Peter Pan promise to “never grow up,” researchers and psychologists believe a new life phase—emerging adulthood—has developed as social and economic forces make maturing more difficult in the 21st century. But Christian leaders contend otherwise, saying prolonged adolescence is avoidable through discipleship, service-oriented ministry, and higher expectations for today’s wandering “kidults.”

“Extended adolescence is a culturally created phenomenon we must respond to,” said Mark Oestreicher, author of Youth Ministry 3.0. “Culture is obsessed with perpetually infantilizing young people, so we’re creating the low expectations. The first step is to stop coddling them.”

With an extensive background in youth ministry, Oestreicher is a partner in The Youth Cartel, an organization that provides consulting and resources to help churches and businesses connect with young people. He believes the solution is not “adult” youth groups ghettoizing twenty-somethings from the rest of the church, but rather discipleship and mentoring with an intergenerational focus.

Oestreicher cites a real-life example reflecting his ministry vision: When he was a junior high pastor, the church usher team consisted entirely of men over 60 until an usher began involving his developmentally challenged grandson. The boy learned ushering and participated in the group’s barbecues and prayer sessions, and soon other ushers started involving their grandsons. Then the grandsons invited their junior-high friends to join. “Eventually the usher team became a group of old guys gently mentoring these junior-high boys, not just in ushering, but in life and spirituality,” Oestreicher said. “These young men were offered a chance to become apprentice adults. It’s a vision for how we can view young adult ministry.”

Some churches are already working to make that vision a reality. At Fellowship Evangelical Church in Knoxville, Tenn., 65 percent of the congregation is under 35. Its pastor, Richard Dunn, co-authored the book, Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults, and believes ministry to extended adolescents isn’t rocket science: “It’s just discipleship.” At Dunn’s church, young adults are intentionally given opportunities to use their gifts in leadership positions alongside older adults who function as role models.

Fellowship Evangelical also has weekly “college life” groups of about 800 students. The young people split into groups with leaders for Bible study and mentoring. Some of the twenty-somethings in these groups have already been divorced, and a large portion are sexually active. “That brings a whole new set of complications for ministry to this demographic,” Dunn said. “We have to address those issues and be willing to walk with them in authentic, mentoring relationships. If you’re going to be successful, you need patience and a long-term focus.”

Greg Matte, who began as a campus minister at Texas A&M University, now serves as senior pastor at Houston’s First Baptist Church. He carried his philosophy for young adult ministry to the church, which has a singles group of about 1,000: “That’s where we see more of the prolonged adolescence happening,” Matte said. “But we’re intentional about not segregating them.” The singles are involved in many different activities in the church, regularly leading worship, teaching Sunday school, and working with seniors. And every Saturday, single young men join older men to serve different widows in the community, changing light bulbs, doing yard work, or pressure washing their houses.

“This kind of approach is relational and serving,” Matte said. “We don’t define our young adults by their marital status. We don’t babysit them. They mature in productivity and leadership.”

Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX)—the largest national Christian fraternity in the United States—also reaches out to the “kidult” crowd through activities designed to help them launch. Formed at The University of Texas at Austin in 1985, BYX is active on 28 campuses nationwide. Brian Lee, chief development officer for the fraternity, says young people today lack motivation, often defaulting to graduate school after college or moving in with their parents. “Because it’s culturally appropriate now, with no negative stigmas or a sense of failure attached, the pressure to grow up just isn’t there anymore,” he said.

BYX counteracts the extended adolescence trend through the rigorous process of service and commitment. Prospective members do community service projects like yard work, house remodeling, and other physical activities. During small group meetings, members share their struggles and hold each other accountable, a difficult process that spurs spiritual and emotional growth, Lee said: “If a freshman comes to college and wants to play video games for twelve hours and attend class for two, he’s not going to make it with us. They learn how to give, work and sacrifice, so they develop maturity and are prepared for a successful life outside of college.”

Young adults’ mental and emotional growth depends on their spiritual development, which is why Christian leaders should be on the frontlines of helping them transition from mediocrity to maturity, Matte said: “If you choose culture over Christ, you’re going to become an extended adolescent. Ultimately, the maturity of your faith determines the maturity of your life.”

mini book reviews, part 2 (of 3)

The Mosaic Experiment: Bringing Old Testament Practices Out of Retirement, by Lucas Cole, Padraic Ingle, Brian Schafer, and Wendie Brockhaus
3 stars

i wasn’t sure whether to give this 2, 3 or 4 stars. i sat and played with all three keys for a few minutes. for the attempt to do something very different, this thing would get 5 stars. graphically and conceptually, this small group study (really targeted at young adults, i’d say) is bushwhacking through the vapid undergrowth of christian publishing, boldly trying something new. props for that. but there are problems, alas. it would be a cool iphone app, or downloadable thingy. but there’s not enough there there for a book, and i would feel a bit ripped off, i think, if i’d bought it online (i assume this wouldn’t be true if i’d flipped through it first at a bookstore). and, it tries to walk the difficult line between being contemporary and even fun (!), but not overly hip or patronizing — and it succeeds and fails in this tightrope walk at various points. oh — the subject matter is good (as can be seen in the subtitle); but there were regularly application points i was surprised were missing. anyhow… if you’re tired of the same ol’ same ol’ for your college small group, you might give this puppy a lookee. maybe you’ll find it to be 5-stars all the way, baby.

Sh*t My Dad Says, by Justin Halpern
5 stars

i’m hesitant to review this, because someone’s gonna be ticked that i even reviewed it (and i don’t have the time to square off on that). but, hey, consider it cultural research if you need to; because the author is a freakin’ twitter phenom — well over 1.6 million followers when he’s only tweeted 127 times? and a book deal? and a tv show starting this fall, starring bill shatner? ‘nuf said. (and, here’s the skinny: i laughed my butt off reading this thing. it goes way beyond the funny, albeit courser than sandpaper, stuff his dad actually says. it’s a book about fathers and sons. and, seriously, the love of halpern’s crasser-than-crass dad comes through loud and clear in-between the soundbites. it’s unconventional, to be sure; but it’s clearly real. and that’s encouraging to me as a dad. maybe my mouth isn’t as crass, but my fathering is easily as flawed; and maybe i’m doing ok, if my love for my kids can leak through my insufficiencies in a similar way.)

The Orthodox Heretic: And Other Impossible Tales, by Peter Rollins
4 stars

pete rollins kinda scares me. first, he’s clearly so off-the-charts smart. he’s got some kind of super-rare combo platter going on of wicked smart and uber-cool and completely non-pretentious. he doesn’t care what i think of him, or what anyone else thinks, i’d guess. his book how (not) to speak of god blew me away — so good and so disequilibrating at the same time. i felt slightly off-balance for a week after reading it. so this book was a little let-down after that; but it’s still “so good and so disequilibrating.” it’s a collection of parables, each with a few pages of unpacking. i liked the parables more than the unpacking; but the unpacking was often helpful and necessary. there wasn’t enough of a thread to hold them all together as a book, for my taste (other than “so good and so disequilibrating”!). but it’s still very much worth the read if you want to be pushed a bit to think of the jesus way from different perspectives. no question: some of the parables are ones i will be reading in sermons or hoping to use (with permission, of course) in some future book i might write.

implications of the “lockbox theory” for youth workers

really excellent article on the fuller youth institute blog about tim clydesdale’s “lockbox theory” (which i’ve been seeing a lot about in the blog world). really, it’s a must read for high school and college pastors, as well as a helpful read for parents.

here’s the description of the lockbox theory from the article:

If collegians are neither abandoning their faith because of a hostile college environment, nor deeply interested in spirituality, what are they experiencing? College students seem to be following a third path of storing their religious beliefs, practices, and convictions in a sort of “identity lockbox” as they develop other parts of their identity (e.g., vocational identity, relational identity). Clydesdale explains that the lockbox “protects religious identities, along with political, racial, gender, and civic identities, from tampering that might affect their holders’ future entry into the American cultural mainstream.”

the article is worth the read for two main reasons:

1. it talks about a theory that is based on research, and counter to much of the popular thinking about older adolescents (or “emerging adults” — read: college students) and faith.

2. it offers a handful of very helpful suggestions as to what youth workers should do with this information.