Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, by Kenda Creasy Dean
i hardly know how to write a “mini book review” for this book. it’s too important. i know i write “every parent and youth worker must read this book” from time to time. and, maybe that’s not true for this one if you only read people magazine or star trek novels — because this is not an easy read (there were parts where my brain really had to work!). but anyone who’s thoughtful, and cares about the spiritual lives of christian teenagers — well… yup, you gotta read it. kenda worked as part of the research team for the “national study on youth and religion“, the findings of which were most widely disseminated in christian smith’s soul searching. from her proximity to the study and its subjects, kenda unpacks the findings as a book of practical theology. in other words, she takes the findings and says, “what does this mean for us?” at times discouraging (as was true of smith’s book also), and at times fiercely encouraging and hopeful, it would be an excellent book to read with a team of youth workers, or a team of parents, and have a series of conversations about the implications for your church and youth ministry (and your home). certainly, if i had a “5 most important books on youth ministry in the last 10 years” list, this would be on it.
The 9: Best Practices for Youth Ministry, by Kurt Johnston and Tim LeVert
i don’t know tim (though he seems like a guy i’d really like); but kurt is one of my favorite human beings. deeply humble and wildly gifted as a youth worker, he is a passionate utilitarian, constantly asking, “what works?” not that this is a fluffy book of game ideas — not at all; but it’s a deeply practical book, as one would only expect from the creator of simply junior high. based on the findings of the exemplary youth ministries study (well, there were 8 findings in that study — tim and kurt, rightly, add a 9th), the book simply (ha) lists those practices, then riffs on what they look like in the real world of church-based youth ministry. particularly good reading if you’re in your first 5 years of youth ministry, this will be a book i’ll recommend often. sure, there are a couple places i don’t completely agree with the authors (for example, i think they’re overly optimistic about the health of youth ministry in general, and they would clearly say the opposite of my writing, that i’m overly pessimistic); but the book is a conversation, not a manifesto — so wholesale adoption isn’t required. whatever our youth ministry health, these are (9 of) the things we’ve gotta pay attention to.
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal, by Ben Mezrich
this story of the birth of facebook is about to be released as a major motion picture, so i thought i’d enjoy reading the full story (i’m sure the movie will have to compact much of the details) first. maybe i have a bit of an entrepreneurial dream — i’ve flirted, as have so many, with daydreams and almost-ideas for websites that would change the world (in fact, i’ve gone a few steps down the road on a few of ’em). and i have a couple good friends who are deep, deep into the major launch of an online enterprise software that really could revolutionize the workplace. so i came to this story with that kind of interest. mostly true (some fact, some reasonable conjecture), it’s an easy and fun read. but there’s some real pain in the story also, and fault isn’t obviously placed at anyone’s shoes: there are lots of gray areas, with varying viewpoints that would shift right and wrong. go ahead and use facebook without knowing the story behind it’s creation — it won’t impact your use experience in the least. but the backstory is a good one. not a ‘must read’, to be sure, but enjoyable nonetheless.