Book Review

The Most Expensive Game In Town: Book Review

By | Book Review, culture, Mark Hyman, parents, sports, teens, The Most Expensive Game In Town

The highlight of my short lived sports career happened in 8th grade when my town recreational soccer team did the impossible and won the championships.  We weren’t supposed to win, we were not favored; however, with great coaching and amazing teamwork we pulled off the upset.  While winning the big game was memorable, the part I will always cherish were the practices and games that lead up to that moment.  I just enjoyed playing and being with my teammates.
Growing up it didn’t matter if the game was part of an organized league or just a thrown together scrimmage, I just wanted to play.  When I look at youth sports today I wonder, “Do kids feel the same way as I did?”
As a youth minister I love watching my teens play for their school or town teams; however, it’s also created a tension in my life.  As each year passes by it seems like the schedules get more dense and the travel gets farther.  As a result practices, games and tournaments conflict with church.  I’m finding more and more teens being forced to choose between ministry and sport.  Why is that?
In his book THE MOSE EXPENSIVE GAME IN TOWN: The rising cost of youth sports and the toll on today’s families author Mark Hyman reveals the ever increasing popularity of youth sports in this country.  The times of sandlot baseball games and backyard football challenges are slowly disappearing as more leagues, and tournaments enter into the scene.  The reason this is a must read is because it addresses topics and issues that parents, and youth workers need to face, such as:

  • FINANCES: The cost is going up, especially when it comes to travel teams for youth sports.  What this book will do is challenge parents to start counting the receipts and answer the question, “Am I spending too much?”  Basically, they need to know if the investment is worth it.
  • BOUNDARIES: Tournaments are gaining popularity; therefore, teams are hoping on buses and planes to participate.  This means less family time at home and more on the road.  Not that travel is bad; however, how much of a toll does riding in a car and sleeping in a hotel take on a family’s dynamics.
  • FALSE PROMISES:  Even corporations are getting in on the game, telling teens if you drink this or eat that you can be like your favorite sports star.  From equipment to accessories families are being pressured to invest in whatever it takes for them to reach the next level in sports.  With only a limited amount of openings at the highest level, the question becomes, “Am I buying the hype?”
  • IDOLATRY: Youth sports are great for the teens when it comes to socialization, exercise and team building skills.  As parents we enjoy seeing our children succeed; however, is it because it brings them joy or gives you value?  When the sport becomes more important than your relationships with others, especially God it becomes an idol.  Families should engage in recreational activities because of how it helps you grow and not only what it does for you.

While this book addresses many of the negative issues arising in youth sports it does end on a very positive note.  In the last chapter author Mark Hyman talks about the opportunities sports can provide for an individual.  On top of opening doors it can teach valuable lessons in team work, facing adversity and leaning in during high pressure moments.
As youth workers we need to make sure that the families we serve are aware of these issues.  Again, athletics are important for this next generation.  You and I need to make sure that when decisions are made, that it is with God in mind.

How do you perceive youth sports?  What type of impact does it have on your ministry?

The 7 Best Practices For Teaching Teenagers The Bible

By | 7 Practices for Teaching Teenagers the Bible, Bible, Book Review, discipleship, resources, ym360

I just got done reading Andy Blanks’ The 7 Best Practices For Teaching Teenagers The Bible.  As someone who doesn’t have a seminarian background I’ve found it intimidating over the years learning how to incorporate scripture into my messages and small group curriculum.  Even if you have been to seminary or studied theology I’m sure you know learning scripture is a lot different from teaching it.  But, one of the responsibilities that comes with youth ministry is teaching the Bible; however, what about your volunteers?
Have you ever thought about their comfort level with scripture?  Do any of them have experience outside of personal use?  Most of them probably joined your ministry thinking, “I just want to spend time with the teens.” When you tell them to teach scripture I’m sure many of them are thinking, “Wait, what?  I’m no expert.”
That’s why this book is helpful.  For those of us in full time ministry it’s a refresher and a chance to refocus on the basics of one of the essential spiritual habits.  But, for our ministers it’s a chance for them to build confidence and a solid foundation when it comes to growing disciples.
There are many things I love about the book; however, two things stand out:

  • It’s A Quick Read – The book moves quickly because of the variety of story, exercise and application.  While there are moments to pause, reflect and go deeper, it’s really a book that’s easy to navigate through.  I’ve found many books on practical ministry overwritten that drag on, but this one gets right to the point.  Because it’s a quick read, I’m not worried about giving this out to my team to read.  I’m a book junky, not everyone is; but, this one is definitely worth the time.
  • It’s Filled With Concrete Application – At times the book encourages you to stop, reflect and even try some of the practices out.  It’s not the first book that does this; however, it’s done in a way that’s clear and easy.  Whether you are reading the book on your own or with your team, you can definitely use the exercises to build confidence.  

Again, this book is a quick read and it’s broken down just as the title suggest, 7 Best Practices.  They are:

Best Practice #1 – Engaging With God
Best Practice #2 – Prepare Well, Teach Well
Best Practice #3 – Context Is Key
Best Practice #4 – Embrace Unpredictability
Best Practice #5 – Plan For Interaction
Best Practice #6 – Teach For Application
Best Practice #7 – Know Your Role

My big takeaway from reading this book is the fact that I need to spend more time looking at scripture instead of just reciting and retyping it.  As Andy puts it:

To be an effective Bible teacher, you must regularly seek to know God by engaging with Him through His Word.

There have been weeks where I’ve gone preaching God’s word to students; yet, struggled to embrace His word for my life.  This book was a reminder that if we are investing in teens, we need to be invested in God’s plan for us, otherwise you have to wonder, “What am I doing in ministry?”  As a youth minister I greatly appreciate the love and encouragement poured into this book.
As great as this book is for youth ministers, I would strongly recommend it for any volunteer in your ministry that has fellowship or discipleship role with a student.  This will take the edge out of teaching scripture, give them some practical tools and show them how to go deeper.  So if you get a chance, head over to to learn more.

Which of the 7 Best Practices are you best at doing?  Which one do you need to revisit?

BOOK REVIEW: How Did You Do It, Truett?

By | Book Review, Systems and Structures

Last week my wife and I got invited to a Premier Night for a new Chick-Fil-A opening up in Hunt Valley, MD.  How I got invited is a long story but it had to do with Church at Chipotle…go figure.  But nonetheless I was thoroughly impressed with the evenings events.  When we approached the restaurant we walked up on a red carpet, were greeted by numerous employees and were seated as if we were at a regular sit down establishment.  We were waited upon and given our choice of anything on the menu, completely on the house.  They also gave away prizes and I was fortunate to win S. Truett Cathy’s Book – How Did You Do it, Truett?
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It’s a quick read, only 97 pages and large print.  The book is a basic rundown of how and why Chick-Fil-A was started.  After reading it I realized a lot of the same principles found in Truett’s book are transferable to student ministry, here are a few:

  • Courtesy Pays Dividends – Truett describes how important it is that the bathrooms are clean, that there are no lines and that people are greeted with a smile.  I found this interesting because recently I feel like the largest criticism about student ministry is how it’s turned into a show and less of a relationship.  In retail good customer service will take you so far.  It might seem insignificant, but you have to ask yourself, “How well do we treat each and every student that walks in through our doors?”
  • Timing and Sacrifice – Just because we have a good idea doesn’t mean it’s the right time to do it.  Two things on my heart right now that I know are very difficult to do are college ministry and a helping hurting kids ministry.  I just don’t have the staff, resources and ministers to do it.  Truett explains that timing is essential and even though we may have big dreams, we don’t need to accomplish them straight away.
  • Identifying the Product – We could say the product is Jesus or Salvation but what I got out of this principle was knowing your vision and mission.  If we are going in to a Sunday (or whenever you do ministry) just hoping to have fun you living out a mission it just might not be the one you planned on.  Truett took time to develop the Chick-Fil-A Sandwich, we need to take the time to develop our mission.

I’ll always talk highly of Chick-Fil-A because on top of good food, and family values, the restraurants purpose includes honoring God.  That’s one concept that Truett repeats throughout the book, that the only reason he is successful is because of the hardworking people that surrounded him and the God that created him.