teen ministry

Review: Master Criminals

Not-So-Nice Bible Stories: Master Criminals
by Jonathan Schkade, illustrated by Gleisson Cipriano

The Bible isn’t all sugar, spice, and everything nice. There’s a lot of stories in God’s Word that shows how dark this world can be. In Master Criminals, Jonathan Schkade takes some of the biggest stories of crimes in the Bible and takes an honest look at them. He retells each story in modern language, asks thought-provoking questions, and shows ties to other sections of Scripture. Every chapter ends with a section asking, “Why is this in the Bible?” and some “Extra Features” that usually connect the events of the chapter with works of fiction or events in history that may be of interest to the reader.

This is a companion book to Gory Deaths. While I don’t know which one comes first, I can tell you I think I liked Gory Deaths better. Master Criminals is still excellent, please don’t get me wrong! But I think if I were giving gifts or lending books out, I’d start with the other one.

That said, Schkade’s choice of criminals is, well, choice. He starts with Adam and Eve as the murderers of every human who ever lived, and then moves on to Cain and Abel. But he also includes a number of people that many readers might not be familiar with, such as Athaliah or two women who committed cannibalism in Israel. He also includes some people who were accused of wrong who weren’t doing wrong, such as the three men thrown into the fiery furnace, and Jesus himself. (more…)

I’m Going Back

This is me, doing high ropes at camp. It was… it was an experience! 

He asked my permission to leave the pool. I told him he could sit on the benches over there against the wall, but everyone had to stay in the room. I went back to the pool basketball game that was currently exhausting me.

A few minutes later I noticed he wasn’t sitting on the bench, nor was he back in the pool. A suspicious number of girls were running into the girls’ locker room, and not a few guys into theirs.

I grabbed a female counselor and suggested we might need to clean out the locker rooms. We headed to our opposite corners. As I did, several guys fled their locker room. Not the kid who’d asked permission to leave, though. He was still missing. I saw the female counselor ushering a number of girls back toward the pool. All the boys and girls gathered together in the pool and were clearly talking about someone. They got real quiet as I approached and shooed them to go play. They scattered.

I slipped into the locker room. No one there. I peeked out into the lobby.

Ah. There he was. He huddled on a bench, eyes darting around. There was no one else out there. (more…)

Review: It’s Not Too Late

It’s Not Too Late: The Essential Part You Play in Shaping Your Teen’s Faith
by Dan Dupee

So, your kid’s a teenager now. I guess that means your job leading them to faith is done, since they don’t listen to you anyway. Might as well hand them over to a youth minister. And if your kid’s in college? Well, expect them to sow some wild oats, and don’t expect them to ever show up in church. It’s just that time of their life.

Except… don’t.

In It’s Not Too Late, Dan Dupee puts out seven myths of bringing emerging adults to faith and keeping them there. He presents the myths and shows why each is false, using statistics, personal anecdotes from his position as a chairman for a national campus ministry, and lots of Scripture. He then shows how parents can use their influence to help their children continue walking with Christ.

Short review: Buy this book. Read it. Even if you don’t have a teenager or your children are grown, this book will be useful to you. Dupee points out that when infants are baptized, the entire congregation is asked if they will support the parents. That means every teen that has been baptized is part of every member’s responsibility to encourage. (more…)

Sometimes putting the inmates in charge of the asylum is fun.

antique crumpled crumpled paper dirty

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

By the time I left, he had something like fifty ideas, and excited for all of them.

I had come to ask questions and listen. This congregation has become content to a point bordering on apathy. I’m asking what they’re passionate about. I am not questioning their faith; I have seen it in action. But as a congregation, we’re certainly not moving together. We’re happy to show up for Sunday worship and nothing else as a family of believers. Time to tap into the passions they already have and use them.

I asked the family what we did that they were already passionate about.

Their young teen son said, “Helping at the hazardous waste cleanup! Can we do more of that?”

A couple times a year our congregation volunteers to help with various clean-up efforts in the community. It’s some of the few things we do outside our building, really. This was the first year this particular teen was old enough to participate, and he was excited to serve more.

He wants to make a difference. (more…)

Review: Do Hard Things

Do Hard Things
By Alex & Brett Harris; Foreword by Chuck Norris

Teens have been deceived. The teenage years aren’t the time to party and be kids. They’re the launchpad for the rest of your life. “The teen years are not a vacation from responsibility… They are the training ground of future leaders who dare to be responsible now” (13). In Do Hard Things, Alex and Brett Harris explain why so many teens have bought the lie and how they can make a difference – by doing hard things. Join the rebelution.

For what this book is, I’m pretty impressed. Two teens (nineteen when they wrote the book) talk about how low expectations have shackled their age group, and how to get past it. They talk about how the entire idea of “Teenage years” is so new, and in the past people the ages of thirteen and older were adults tasked with very adult responsibilities… and they changed the world. They share the stories of Clara Barton and George Washington. They point to how we often live up or down to the expectations put before us. (more…)

The End of Sunday School

We have a problem.

We’re a smaller church. While we certainly do have a fair amount of children (and a glut in the 3-5 grade range), we don’t have a lot of them. And many of their families don’t attend every week. Sure, they’re regular in church, but not every single week. What that means is that sometimes the Sunday school classes will have one child. Sometimes they’ll have eight or nine. It’s been a real problem for the teachers to know what to prepare for.

The knowledge ranges within the classes are also amazing. Some of the kids can tell you the Bible stories well and faithfully; others seem to have never heard of that Bible thing ever before. On top of that, some are voracious readers, while others in the same classroom can barely write their names. I realize that this range is typical in a school classroom, but in a Sunday school room where you’ve only got the kids for an hour a week, that range can make things so very, very difficult.

Our goal is to connect kids to Jesus. We want them grounded in God’s Word, knowing both Law and Gospel well, even if they never use those terms. However, our current model of “an hour a week after worship” doesn’t cut it.

Last night I met with my education chairman. And we’ve decided that we will no longer offer Sunday school. (more…)

Review: For Young Men Only

For Young Men Only : A Guy’s Guide to the Alien Gender
by Jeff Feldhahn and Eric Rice with Shaunti Feldhahn

Girls are weird. Maybe you’ve noticed. And they’re even weirder when you and they are teenagers. Just strange. Maybe if someone talked to a whole bunch of them and explained what they said in normal words – you know, like the words guys use – there’d be hope. Well, good thing that Jeff Feldhahn and Eric Rice wrote this book! They interviewed 1,000 teen women and wrote their findings here, lining up several ah-ha! moments.

First off, I’ve loved every book in this series and I highly recommend them. For Men Only and For Women Only helped me, personally, in both my marriage and in my professional life. I didn’t even know this particular book existed, and when I saw it I snatched it up. Did it stand up to the good ratings of the others?

Mostly! (more…)

Alone in a Church

“Why is it people I scarcely know know how to talk to me better than anyone at my church?”

She asked me that. She’s a young adult trying to connect at her home congregation. (Yes, I asked her permission to quote her, anonymously.) Her perception is that no one in her home congregation cares about her, nor do they care about their surrounding community. They insist on doing things the way they have always been, without any further examination. They don’t reach out, especially if it means breaking out of a very narrow comfort zone. And for her and her needs? A lot of shrugging. Connecting with her? Whatever.

She just came back from a conference where she vaguely knew… two people, I think. And she connected with them more and better than people she’s known her whole life at her congregation.

This is a problem. (more…)

Why did they become atheists?

He had Scripture. It was all right there, plain as day. He already believed in God, but had a hard time putting things together. Now, he wasn’t a dumb man. Not in the least! He was in charge of a very important governmental office – the treasury of a kingdom! You don’t get that job by being dumb. It takes intelligence and wisdom! But God’s Word… that was difficult to understand.

He was riding home from a religious obligation in Jerusalem. He wanted to know God more, so he read his Word. (Incidentally, the fact that he had a private copy of some of the Bible also spoke to this man’s wealth.)

He read from Isaiah: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

Again, this man was smart. He knew how the world worked. He already believed in God; he didn’t suffer from a heart hardened against God’s Word. There was no language barrier; he understood the language. And though he was visiting from another nation, there’s wasn’t an immediate cultural barrier that kept him from understanding the words in front of him.

But he still didn’t get it. (more…)

Connecting through Sadness


Is it ok for Christians to be sad?”

The teens looked at each other and me, not sure how to answer the question. I sat somewhat in front of them, though we were really in a circle. We’d just finished watching Inside Out, and it was time to show them that it wasn’t just movie night.

And I took them to Psalm 13:

1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and every day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”

and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6 I will sing to the Lord,

for he has been good to me.