One of the great blessings of living in Australia is that Christmas and summer holidays go hand in hand. There is generally a wealth of time to ease into the Christmas and New Year season while taking a decent break with family and friends.
For those of us in ministry, it is also a great opportunity to rest and recover at the end of the year. We can take stock of what has been and gaze expectantly toward what is to come. It may also be a time to catch up on some reading and strategic thinking about your ministry. With a wealth of resources out there, we are never in want of quality content written by seasoned thinkers and practitioners in the children’s, youth and family ministry world.
With that in mind, let me share with you some of the books I hope to get through this summer season. You may have your own wish list that you are looking forward to digging into. My encouragement is to spend some of your summertime reading something that will encourage, equip and inspire you for your year of ministry ahead.
For children’s ministers: The Bible Story Handbook: A Resource for Teaching 175 Stories from the Bible by John and Kim Walton
This book has been on my wishlist now for several years. John H. Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate school, has combined forces with his wife Kim, an experienced Sunday School teacher and curriculum writer of 25 years, to develop this book for children’s ministry teachers and parents. Working through 175 stories from the Bible, the book promises to “examine seven elements in each story: focus, theme, application, place in the Bible, interpretational issues, historical and cultural background, and age-group appropriateness” (publisher’s description).
Given the expertise and experience of this husband and wife writing team, I am looking forward to growing my knowledge of the biblical context of each story as well as developing new ideas for teaching these Bible stories to children in my ministry.
For youth ministers: Weird, Crude, Funny, Nude by Thomas French
Weird, Crude, Funny, Nude is the first book by Melbourne-based youth minister Tom French. It has come to me highly recommended by many friends and ministry colleagues. Tom walks through fifteen ‘weird, crude, funny or nude’ passages of Scripture in a humorous way that will appeal to those who are ministering to teenagers; especially teenage boys. Graham Stanton, in his review of the book, states that “Tom communicates the gospel with young people in a way that chooses to not take himself too seriously while taking teenagers and their concerns very seriously.”
From what I have heard, I expect that the comedy of the writing will balance well with the seriousness of the Gospel message being proclaimed and that this will be a helpful resource in seeking to connect well with the world of youth.
For families: Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home by Traci Smith
The publisher’s description for Faithful Families states that I will find “50 easy, do-it-yourself ideas” which I can implement in my “daily routine with little or no prep.” My idealistic self is tempted to scoff at such promises. Surely it can’t be that easy to disciple my children?! However, my realistic self knows that as a dad, I need all the help I can get, and I would love some fresh ideas on how to continue guiding my children to know and love Jesus more.
I am expecting that Traci Smith will outline a whole range of ideas, some of which I will find relevant and engaging for my family in our current stage of life, and some of which I can use to encourage other parents in their daily discipleship of their children.
For SRE teachers: How to Develop Growth Mindsets in the Classroom by Mike Gershon
Growth Mindset is one of the hot button topics in modern education. Essentially, growth mindset advocates argue that a child’s capacity for learning is largely shaped by their attitude. If a child is motivated to learn and is curious enough to want to learn more about a subject, then their ability to learn that subject increases.
Written from a secular education standpoint, Gershon’s book is not going to shape the content of my SRE classes. However, I expect that his ideas and strategies will help shape the way I teach SRE and provide new and creative ways to engage children in the Bible.
For everyone: Intergenerate: Transforming Churches Through Intergenerational Ministry by Holly Catterton Allen
For decades the dominant paradigm in youth and children’s ministry has been one of age segregation. The instinct was well-meaning; if we can separate the ages, we can effectively teach at age and stage appropriate levels and therefore build long-lasting faith. However, the opposite appears to be true. High dropout rates from children and youth ministries show that we are not promoting the deeply rooted faith that we had hoped for. One of the most promising answers to the question of long-term faith formation in children, youth and young adults is the recent trend towards “intergenerational ministry.” By seeking ways to bring generations together, the intent is that the whole family of faith can build up one another in the Lord.
Intergenerate is a collection of writings which cover the theology, principles, and practice of intergenerational ministry. From the publisher: “ministers, church leaders, and Christian educators will find valuable, new generational theory perspectives, fresh biblical and theological insights, and practical outcomes backed by current research.” I am expecting to be challenged and inspired to keep finding ways to foster intergenerational Christian relationships in my own church, and with the church leaders that I meet with regularly.
Let me know what ministry books you are reading over your summer break, and if you are reading any of the above, share what you think! I would love to hear your thoughts and reflections and how your reading has encouraged and equipped you for ministry, so please feel free to send me an email.
I pray that your summer is spiritually, physically and mentally refreshing for you, and that you start the new year of ministry well, doing the “good works, which God prepared in advance for you to do” (Eph 2:10).