We are all weird! Seth Godin was just the first to say it out loud. I’ve read all of Seth Godin’s books and read his blog daily – so when his latest book comes out I’m pretty much first in line. This one is solid once again, focusing on our uniqueness as individuals and challenging leaders instead of thinking of mass we need to think of much smaller tribes. The book feels like an extension of his earlier (fantastic) books Tribes and Linchpin. Good stuff, lots of challenging potential applications to youth ministry.


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!


I was reading Terrace’s blog recently and also came across a slightly older post from Matt Cleaver talking about the must-read books for youth workers. And while this isn’t necessarily a definitive list by any means, I thought it might be interesting to post the books that have had the most shaping effect on my youth ministry philosophy and vision.

Purpose Driven Church – Rick Warren
This is the book that opened my eyes to church as it could be. Sitting at a summer camp in upstate New York, I read and imagined church in a whole new way. The Great Commandment and the Great Commission bonded together to reveal biblical purpose for the church. Life-changing read.

Handbook on Counseling Youth – Josh McDowell
An oldie, but a goodie. This book was a gift to me early in youth ministry career – and just this past week I gave copies of it to my team. Tons of topics, great questions, Scripture and counseling help for real issues. I hope the book gets a makeover soon and will include more help for newer issues that are gripping teenagers.

Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry – Doug Fields
The first of two great books from Doug Fields that made me into the youth worker I am today. Probably time for me to read it again – just solid reminders to help you start right.

Purpose Driven Youth Ministry – Doug Fields
The definitive book on youth ministry. It will get you thinking, challenge that thinking, and push your thinking toward a biblical model for success and health. So much of what we do in HSM still resonates directly from this foundation. I’ve had multiple copies, all dog-eared, underlined and worn. The best of the list.

Sustainable Youth Ministry – Mark DeVries
Maybe the 3rd best book written about youth ministry. A more recent title to make the list, I love the clarity and direction it provides youth workers in what it takes to survive the calling in the long run. Good, good, stuff.

The Heart of a Great Pastor – H.B. London
This book arrived at a time when I was feeling particularly vulnerable and ready to quit. The idea of “blooming where you’re planted” hit me that God called me to the place I was serving at, not to be looking for what was next or greener on the other side of the fence.

The Dip – Seth Godin
The Dip is a little book all about the phenomenon where after initial success there is a dip before an even larger gain. Fighting through the Dip or knowing when it is time to give up is crucial in youth ministry.

Linchpin – Seth Godin
A brand new book that is gripping me right now. The idea that God created you as an artist and an individual for His work – that you aren’t just a mindless cog in a wheel within the church. Takes a bit of translating since it is a business book, but worth it!

Made to Stick – Chip and Dan Heath
If you’re a communicator, you’ll want to know how to have your messages stick. I also loved Speaking to Teenagers, but this non-youth ministry specific book really stuck with me, too.

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni
Working in a larger church now I’m focusing on more team-based learnings, this book is one of the best. Told in his now trademarked business fable style, the book will walk you through the most common traps that trip up teams.

How about you? Read any life-changing books lately?


A Team of Linchpins

 —  July 15, 2010 — 5 Comments

I’ll admit it, I’ve been a little hooked on the Linchpin concept ever since reading a little book by Seth Godin. We’ve tossed around the term a little carelessly the past few weeks – so this week, I’m going to reclaim it once again.

Each of my team members are getting a little note attached to an actual linchpin. I want them to know how indispensable they are to this ministry, and more than that, that what they bring to the table is unique and special that no one else can do. Hope this reminder helps them keep that in mind!


Just finished up Seth Godin‘s latest book, Linchpin: Are you Indispensable? This is easily one of the best business books I’ve read so far this year – the emphasis is that the cogs in the wheel are infinitely replaceable and that creative artists are the real linchpins of the workplace. There were so many great learnings in the book for me – primarily that the art of relational youth ministry far outweighs the ability to get tasks done. You have two choices in the new world: be the best at something in the world, or do something so uniquely and specially that no one else can do. I loved the segment about “thrashing” and shipping products – how we’re tempted to process and brainstorm very late in the launch of a product and end up sabotaging it in the end. I want to be the linchpin in our youth ministry – what I bring to the table is excellent and unique that I become indispensable to the church. I want develop my team of staff, interns and volunteers into linchpins. Easy to read segments (like blog posts strung together) and super easy to translate to the church and youth ministry, too.


I will read everything a select group of writers put out there.

Usually that works for me, because the people on there deserve it after crafting several life-changing, personal and impactful books. Malcom Gladwell tops that list (which also includes Doug Fields and Seth Godin), so I’ve read every single book of his so far. He’s the mastermind/author behind Blink, Outliers and The Tipping Point. His latest book, What the Dog Saw, is simply a collection of his columns in the New Yorker. My expectation bar was set super high – and while it isn’t as epic as his typical book, I loved reading some of his older stuff in smaller doses. Highly recommend, it’ll make you think.


Met this week with the weekend program team to talk through the process of creating a strong service. For us, our main visible program is on the weekend, so here is what we’re now calling The Weekend Tornado. Some weeks it is an F5, others not much more than some whipping wind, but never just a gentle breeze. Here’s how the process works each week:

This is the brainstorming stage, where ideas are thrown up on a whiteboard and randomly bantered and tossed around. There are no bad ideas. Some of the best ideas each week come from students, who gather every Tuesday in my office to do just this. Don’t worry if they are possible, and don’t worry about the size of the idea. Big ideas are little ideas that no one killed to soon. If we were really good, we could be doing this several weeks in advance, like the -2, 5, 12, 19 meetings.

This is where we turn the ideas into an order of service called a program sheet. The program sheet gives a framework from which to work for the week, and proposed idea of the emotional arc/tone of the service.

Using the program sheet as a guide, assign tasks and projects to various volunteers or students. Who is making the bumper video, creating announcement slides, etc. You can also begin asking people to help on stage as well, figuring out who is giving announcements or running the game, too.

If you’re going to survive the weekend tornado, you have to follow-up on the projects that have been assigned. Talk to the students or volunteers who are owning tasks, help them fight through roadblocks or adjust the idea so that it can be accomplished by the service time. You might have to cut bits at this stage, but it is better than being surprised/dissapointed a few hours before the service starts.

This is the step of actually holding services. We do 4 student services a weekend, so execute actually takes two days. Making sure each service improves and is as good or better than the last is always a challenge. Execute with excellence is tough, especially when you’ve seen/given the message, songs or game 3 times already.

After the first service we gather the main players together and talk through what happened. We make tons of adjustments and tweaks to the next service. Sometimes it is small, sometimes we almost start over with the order (like last week). There is also a weekly debrief focusing on big picture thoughts, major changes, and adding to the list of things we’ll never do again.

At the end of a series, everything gets archived. MP3s of the talk, outlines, handouts, videos – everything ends up on the team network drive to be stored permanently. We post a ton of elements online as well.

When it’s all done – get ready for the next weekend tornado to hit – it’ll be here in days!


Book Review: Tribes

 —  May 28, 2009 — 1 Comment

Wrapping up another book that’s been on my reading list for a couple of months. Tribes, by Seth Godin, is a book about everyone leadership. Gone are the days of the royal select, the elected and the CEO – now is the time for us all to lead. It is a call to action that the opportunity is ripe for there to be many chiefs in many tribes. If you are a fan, lead a band of fanatics. If you are a rebel, lead the rebellion. If you have a love of any sort, chances are there are people out there just like you waiting for you to lead them. I loved the section on fear and how belief must scream through the heart of a leader. The paragraphs (there are no chapters) encouraging heretics, rogues and rule-breakers made me smile reassuringly, too. It’s a must read. A+