This isn’t a normal book review for me but from time to time I divert from typical reading to check out something fresh. I was given a few copies of The Almighty Bible (physical copies, though the book has also been released as an app on the iPad and iPhone) to read over and see what I thought. To be honest, it was quite a bit better than I expected – especially since I’ve never really connected with the Anime Bible or the the Bible in graphic novel format.

The Almighty Bible pulls no punches and is honest with the Scripture it depicts and it delivers the first two books of the Bible with vivid art. The recommended age is 8-14 years old, and my 9-year old son will be getting this copy of the Bible tomorrow and I’m eager to see what he thinks. I enjoyed reading the Bible in this format, and as an adult/parent appreciated the attention to the accuracy of the translation as well as the presentation. If you’re looking for a different way to get younger students into the Bible, this might be something to check out, especially as a Christmas gift this holiday.


99 Thoughts on Leading Well is the first book by Reza Zadeh and seventh in Group Publishing’s line of 99 Thoughts (I’ve written 99 Thoughts for Youth Workers and 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders). Reza’s little book of leadership wisdom is a collection of his learnings in his experience as a college pastor, as well as a collection of principles gleans from a host of other sources. If you’re an avid reader of leadership books (like me), the book may feel familiar in parts and only take stride near the middle and through the end. If you’re not overloading on leadership books from everyone and their mother, this assortment of experience and acumen will help guide you as you serve students and your volunteer team.


SIDE NOTE: The cover looks an AWFUL lot like it has a fried egg on it, right?

Few would argue that some of the most passionate, gifted energy among us is housed in those who are college-aged. And yet few have succeeded in pointing such passion and energy toward lasting, healthy ends-especially in the church.

Most churches and families have programmed a finish line at twelfth grade. We walk our seniors out the door, breathe a deep sigh of relief, and let them disappear. The problem is most never come back. Too old for youth group-and feeling too displaced by labels like “single” or “young adult,” the majority of college-aged Christians disconnect from faith communities. “They’ll rework themselves into our system once grown-up,” we of an older generation surmise. “Once they’re married with kids and able to tithe. For now, however, they seem like a lost cause and our attentions are better focused elsewhere.”

This slow fade is slowly eliminating the potentials and influence of this generation and thus, the impact of the modern church.

What would it look like for a senior pastor, a college pastor, and a twentysomething to sit around the table and flesh-out issues of the current generation’s fade from the church? In The Slow Fade, Reggie Joiner, founder and CEO of the reThink Group, Chuck Bomar, former college pastor of Cornerstone in Simi Valley, CA, and I have done just this. Moving between perspectives of pastor, father, and friend, we confront this fading generation and lend insights toward its halt.

The typical model of twentysomething ministry involves about four worship songs, a sermon, and an emotive ending song to stir the heightening finale. (In the more eclectic circles, the front- and back-ends of worship might be swapped.) From here the emotionally caffeinated crowd disperses to the nearest coffeehouse, Waffle House, or frat house and flirts with the herd until the next gathering.

And we wonder why adolescents are struggling to adequately move into adulthood. We wonder why eighteen to twenty-five year olds have little to no lasting involvement with our faith communities. When the reality is, as adult believers, we have some responsibility in this. We’re among the reasons adolescents are not healthily assimilating into adulthood, because we’ve not shown them how their role matters. Furthermore, how crucial they are to our whole, should we ever hope to bring lasting Love to the world.

A discussion of the most overlooked and underdeveloped facet of the modern church, The Slow Fade makes a case for inter-generational relationships as the way to keep college-aged people engaged in faith. Leveraged belonging is necessary for lasting connectivity. Connecting college-aged people to the life of the church requires more than a flashy band, or even a relevant sermon. It requires individual care and a felt sense of belonging. If you show me my part in the whole, I will continue to show up. Meaning, the answer is not a new program and doesn’t cost a dime. The answer lies within any willing adult wanting to have influence.

College-aged people are making some of the most critical choices of their lives. And any adult who chooses to invest in the life of a college student is likewise choosing to invest in a generation. More than ever, this age-stage needs a community of faith and willing individuals interested in their lives. And we have the chance to play that role. A clan of sleeping giants lies in our midst, and we have the chance to wake them-and maybe even be woken-up ourselves.

Abbie Smith wrote her first book, Can You Keep Your Faith in College (Multnomah, 2006), while a Religion major at Emory University. She recently graduated from Talbot Seminary, in Los Angeles, with a degree in “Spiritual Formation and Soul Care” and resides in Savannah, Georgia.

Book Review: The Slow Fade

 —  September 15, 2010 — 2 Comments

Over the weekend I read The Slow Fade: Why You Matter in the Story of Twentysomethings by Reggie Joyner, Chuck Bomar and Abbie Smith. Despite the fact that I don’t work with college-age students, I enjoyed the book quite a bit. The different perspectives are interesting (Reggie observing the slow fade from afar, Chuck addressing it as a pastor, Abbie living it out) and there were a couple of really exceptional learnings from the book.

The actual “answer” in the book is deceptively simple. To combat the Slow Fade of college-age people leaving the church, they must be connected to a caring adult. That inter-generational ministry is the answer to this problem. Each of the authors go after the “older should teach the younger” Scripture in Titus 2 and I Timothy 5. The other thought that engaged my mind the most was the discussion of the youth ministry finish line. That we take students to the end of their senior year then set them free. The challenge in part of the book was to extend the finish line through college – that small group leaders, mentors and adult figures should continue on through this most crucial time in a young person’s life.

Some good stuff to think about – the book isn’t quite as long as it appears at first, there’s quite a bit of filler appendixes and a chapter of another book in the back. Good read if you work with upperclassmen and/or college Twentysomethings.


In the process of finishing two books on the topic of Jesus. Here are a few thoughts:

The first, Jesus Manifesto:Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, is a challenging read simply exalting Jesus above everything else. They contend that a complete emphasis on Jesus would completely change the world – if we can introduce people to the real, life-changing Jesus, everything else will follow. Lifestyle will follow. Church growth will happen. Discipleship will happen. Simply teach Jesus. Not sure how much of it I’m ready to go after, but preaching and teaching Jesus has to be what the church is all about. Definitely lives up to its subtitle elevating Jesus to the highest place. Pretty academic read, you’ll want to break it into chunks and not speed read for sure.

The second book I’m tackling is Humanitarian Jesus: Social Justice and the Cross by Ryan Dobson and Christian Buckley, and it is a much more accessible read. It attempts to tackle the social Gospel and evangelism question, giving a brief history of the concept and conflict of the ideas of sharing Jesus. The first half of the book is written by the authors, the second is interviews with people in key churches and organizations that are attempting to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Good stuff, drives me to my current thinking – the Social Gospel must be both social (helping people) and Gospel (spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ)! There are many books on this subject, this one probably isn’t the most academic or comprehensive, but by far the most current.


99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders

My new book with Doug Fields comes out this month – it just went up for pre-order! – just in time to get it into the hands of your small group leaders. Want to take a look inside – check out the first few pages for free in the widget above. Hope you’ll think about picking up a few copies for your small group volunteers this fall!


I couldn’t be more excited – my latest book with Doug Fields is here!

99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders is now available for pre-order from Simply Youth Ministry. Super proud of this one – we took some serious time creating what we hope is an insightful, helpful and practical book for you and your volunteers. I’ve included close to 150 thoughts in the book, and some additional content from voices in our small group community. Good discounts if you order 10+ – ships September 29th. Yeah!


Just finished up reading Kurt Johnston and Tim Levert’s new book, The 9 Best Practices for Youth Ministry. This is the first book that Kurt (full disclosure – he’s my boss at Saddleback!) has written for youth ministry in general, not just something junior high specific. The best practices are based on the Exemplary Youth Ministry Study and made practical by the authors from their 30 years of youth ministry experience and observations of youth workers and churches across the country.

The book was good – ranged in content from familiar to very fresh – my favorites were Chapter 5 (Increase the Congregation’s Appreciation of Students) and Chapter 7 (Develop Confident, Competent and Committed Leaders). I learned some great principles to help communicate the wins to the church as a whole and was reminded to intertwine the youth ministry as part of the entire church. I also really appreciated the chapter on the TILT model of volunteer placement within a specific area of ministry.

Good stuff on a whole lot of fronts – probably one of the must-read youth ministry books of 2010.