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I am a youth pastor who oversees and teaches 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students. And anytime I prepare to teach a passage of the Bible to them, these are some of the first books I grab. Here’s why these are some of my essentials for teaching:

  • The ESV Study Bible — I use this because it has a very comprehensive section of notes which helps me keep my message on track with the Biblical context. Plus, it gives me other ideas of points I may have missed.
  • The IVP Bible Background Commentaries — I use these because they unpack the cultural background of everything that happens in a passage. So when you read, for example, in Ruth 4 that the kinsman-redeemer took off his sandal and gave it to Baoz, you get 150 words or more on the cultural meaning of this action at the time it was written. This is indispensable for knowing what’s going on and for helping contextualize it for a younger audience.
  • The Illustrated Guide To Bible Customs & Cultures — I use this because it has pictures. And it’s not as heady as the IVP Commentaries.
  • Zondervan’s Teen Study Bible — I’ll check in here to see if there are any teen-friendly explanations/illustrations of a certain part of Scripture. When they do, it’s usually pretty helpful for my audience (and is often something I hadn’t originally thought of).
  • The Student Bible — The one pictured above is the same Bible I used when I was a student in a youth ministry. The publisher put in some short student-friendly thoughts, but this Bible also has my notes and markings from when I was a student. It helps me remember what was important to me when I was the same age as my audience.
  • The Message//Remix — I don’t teach from this translation, but I read it as I prepare to pick up any other nuance I may have missed in the previous resources.

I pull these books off the shelf each week as I prepare to teach my students the truths of God’s Word. And for me, I’ve found them to be essential teaching tools in youth ministry.

Sean Kahlich is the Mid-High Youth Minister at The Kirk of the Hills — check out his youth ministry blog called Awaiting Epiteleo.

Watch live streaming video from waterbrookmultnomah at livestream.com

Today (at 2pm EST) there will be a live web streaming session with Gabe Lyons about his book The Next Christians. I think the people he is writing about are in your youth group now, or will be soon. Might be interesting to watch it today.

JG



Thanks to Josh for letting me guest blog on MTDB. I had to have him stare at a picture of Obi-Wan Kenobi saying, “These are not the droids you are looking for” to convince him. And it worked.

This can be a difficult time of year in youth ministry, especially for us northerners. Discouragement runs rampant like gossip among cheerleaders. And we question whether we’re in the right place. Pizza delivery jobs look attractive – and definitely less stressful. The reality is that youth ministry has a devious way of pressing us to the point where we feel frayed and spent — and we just want someone to clean up the mess in aisle ‘us’.

I want to say one thing: Stay Encouraged. What you do in youth ministry is important. I get to see the results of your work – and it matters. So, hang in there.

In my work with leaders, I’ve noticed five practices that help cure the ministry blahs. They aren’t anything you probably haven’t considered before, but that doesn’t mean they’re ineffective. So, here’s my prescription to cure the ministry blahs. And, hey, I am a doctor.

1. Take your temperature: Watch your reactions – especially when things don’t go your way. Do you get angry? Fearful/insecure? Depressed? Lonely? These emotions are the canaries in the cave to let you know something’s wrong ahead. Anger is most common and, unfortunately, most of us are unaware of how we respond to others. Pay attention to how you react and learn why you feel that way. Those feelings could be telling you something.

2. Develop a non-digital hobby — this one may seem weird, but it’s one of my new recommendations to leaders. And it helps. Most healthy leaders I see have a hobby where they work with their hands or get outdoors. It can be fishing, sailing, gardening, biking, golf, tennis, woodworking, bird watching, weight lifting – or even dodgeball. I’ve seen dramatic changes among hard-driving pastors — changes that their staff and family appreciate. And, no, scrap-booking doesn’t count.

3. Get away on a non-digital retreat – as I blogged a few weeks ago, the social media world draws us in and demands more and more. It’s never done. Take a two-day retreat from all of your screens and from consumerism’s “discontentedness”. Create some margins in your life — get acquainted with a good book, your spouse, and the outdoors.

4. Renew your first love — Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day (and I hope you’ve done well to celebrate). I’ve discovered that I need to renew my love for Jesus — to remind myself of what he’s done in my life and of his call on my life. When I’m in the blah’s, I’ve often forgotten the “to serve” element of youth ministry (Mark 10:35-45) and made it about me. So, I’ll do whatever it takes to renew my relationship with Christ and quit being so self-focused.

5. Take intentional ministry steps. Pick five students you don’t know well to invest in for the remainder of the school year. It’s easy to figure out how to coast until the end of the school year and just manage. However, developing an intentional and relationally intensive ministry to five new teens will remind us of why we entered youth ministry in the first place — to personally make a difference in the life of youth. Some of my greatest youth ministry ‘successes’ with students came during these February/March efforts.

If you tried any of these (and they helped), I’d love to hear about it. You can let me know at terrylinhart.com. And stay encouraged. What you do in youth ministry matters!

Terry Linhart is co-editor of the forthcoming book, GLOBAL YOUTH MINISTRY, and author of the popular TALKSHEETS: LIFE OF CHRIST series.

I heard recently that a scary 90% of people who get into ministry fail for one reason or another. And I’m not na



One of the most profound books that I read over the past five years is The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. This book is not just a book for understanding your spouse (which I didn’t even have at the time of reading) but I believe understanding the love languages will transform how you minister to students, and your whole family. This is a must read for everyone and it has changed how I view my students as a teacher and as a youth director.

The whole premise of the book is the idea that each person has a primary and secondary love language. It is through that type of love that our “love tank” get filled. Each person is different and gives and receives love differently.

There are five love languages that the book talks about. Acts of service, Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch (platonic touching, not necessarily sexual) , Gift Giving, and Quality Time. Often the way that you give love the best is also the way that you recieve love the best, however that is not always the case. There are several online tests that you can take to help you figure out your love language, but I do recommend you read the book because it details each of the love languages, how to best understand them, and how to best incorporate those into your day to day life.

You may be wondering how this goes beyond your spouse – well I believe that the more we understand how our students give and receive love, the better we are able to minister to them in a way that they feel as though they truly are loved. So many of our students come from broken homes or unhealthy relationships when all they have ever learned is put up your walls and protect yourself. We can help break down those walls by learning first how they love, and filling their love tanks. We can then help them learn how to best love others regardless of their love languages.

For me it changed how I taught my students, it changed how I ministered to my students, and it helped me to better individualize my ministry to help connect in a deeper way with my students. To me it was revolutionary!

Jana Snyder is a youth pastor and a good friend who blogs at www.tarajaministries.com.

You are a performer. Every day, you rise to the occasion and give a performance. It is built into every presentation, interaction and talk you give. And this book will guide you to success in that new realization. I really enjoyed the quick read The Encore Effect by Mark Sanborn (author of The Fred Factor). It reminded me of the size of a Patrick Lencioni book and the insights of a Seth Godin masterpiece. Together, it makes for a powerful combination to process and challenge your thinking. Lots of quick applications for youth ministry – you are always on stage with parents, your talks can sink or swim and practice makes a world of difference which of those happen. Here’s the 5 main sections in the book:

Passion: The fuel for remarkable performance
Prepare: How remarkable performance begins
Practice: It won’t make you perfect, but it will make you better
Perform: How to engage your audience
Polish: Making your performance shine

Good stuff!

JG



This fall our whole team read through Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone – a book that focuses on relationships, networking and giving/receiving an infinite supply of gifts and favors to help you be successful in life. The book was specifically written from a person in the entertainment industry but can easily be translated to a church setting. I found the chapter on conferences the most helpful – I happened to be reading it on my way to a conference so put a ton of it into practice. Keith is a master networker, and dances on the thin line of using people to get where he wants to go. I think he would fully dispute that charge, suggesting that we are all symbiotic to each other, and he would just as quickly cash in a favor for someone else as he would expect it to be done for him. Good stuff to get you thinking about where you’re going in your career and how other people are the key to the journey as well as the destination. Might give you a fresh perspective on relational ministry, too. A

JG

Just finished up What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis. It was a really interesting read – helping unpack the Google way of doing business and transferring those game-changing principles to your world. I enjoyed it a lot, the first two thirds more than the ending act I have to admit. In the main section of the book Jeff teaches us how to be more Googly, sharing principles of how to build business through relationships, how (and why we must) hear and respond to our customers and tons of other great insights about the new work ethic and new speed of business: instantaneous. The illustrations are fantastic and deepen his points throughout. Then he changes pace and begins to apply its own principles to various industries – some were a total hit and interesting, some not much honestly. Of course, I was wishing he had done a chapter on churches or non-profits than I would be singing a different song. All in all a very helpful book that I enjoyed reading and translating internally to youth ministry and the church. B+

JG