Archive for category Book Reviews
By Allen White
This is my interview with Doug Fields, the author of Intentional Parenting. Doug serves as the Executive Director of HomeWord’s Center for Youth/Family at Azusa Pacific University, co-founder of downloadyouthministry.com, and the author of more than 50 books. He previously served on staff at Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA with Rick Warren, and South Coast Community Church (now Mariners Church). Doug is currently a Teaching Pastor at Mariners Church, Irvine, CA with Kenton Beshore.
Intentional Parenting is a resource for Couples, Small Groups, or Classes based on Doug’s 10 Actions for parents as described in the video). The curriculum includes a DVD teaching video, an individual workbook, and a downloadable discussion guide. As of March 2016, we are looking for churches willing to pilot the Intentional Parenting curriculum with groups, classes, or groups of friends. Space is limited to the first 50 churches who register. For more information on the pilot: allenwhite/org/ip-pilot
Please forgive the recording. It did not come out quite as well as I had hoped, but the Doug’s content is solid. So, maybe listen to this and not watch it!
If you are interested in joining the Intentional Parenting Pilot: http://allenwhite.org/ip-pilot
If you have any questions, please contact email@example.com
By Allen White
My family spends a week each year in a quaint old farmhouse with no television. “Quaint” and “TV” don’t really fit. I always bring a variety of books just in case one of them ends up being a dud. This year I brought a John Grisham novel (it doesn’t matter which one–they’re all the same); In Love and War by James and Sybil Stockdale (Jim Collins just mentioned it one too many times); and The Search to Belong by Joseph Myers (which was on Carl George’s nightstand).
Joe Myers’ book was the first book of the week. I enjoyed his writing style, well, until I actually began to pay attention to what he was saying. Then, it just made me mad. In mid-paragraph I would stop reading to myself and begin to read the book aloud to my wife. “Listen to this guy: Joe Myers says, ‘A church of small groups? Sounded like forced relational hell to me’” (page 10).
“Exactly,” my wife responded.
“You, you can’t say that. I’m the Small Groups Pastor. You can’t say that.” This was a matter of job security. The last thing I needed was bad P.R. from my co-leader and spouse.
I continued to read much like I watch Christian television or slow to see the wreckage of a car accident. With each page turn I anticipated that this guy would finally hang himself. What exactly was he getting at? What was his agenda? Did he envision the church as some sort of YMCA-like gathering place where belonging overshadowed belief?
The more I read, the more irritated I became. Jesus didn’t commission us to go into the world and connect people. Yet, Joe Myers so much as invalidated “fully-devoted followers.” What about Acts 2:42?!!
This book that I loved to hate gave me a key insight: Everyone in our congregation WAS already connected. Maybe not to each other, but they were all connected to somebody: a family, friends, co- workers, neighbors, and other church members. My job changed with one epiphany: I no longer needed to connect the unconnected. I just needed to invited folks to do a 6-week DVD-based Bible study with people they were already connected to. How simple is that?
I’m pleased to say that in our Fall campaign this year, just over 1/3 of our groups were formed exactly this way. Each week a group of friends, co- workers or neighbors are gathering in a home, a break room, even on a train and studying God’s Word.
Thank you, Joe Myers for writing the book that I love to hate.
I’ve just started reading Community is Messy: The Perils and Promise of Small Group Ministry. I promised to have a review out about a week ago, but I’m finding I just can’t rush through this book. It must be savored. Heather approaches the topic in such a unique way, I’ve decided to take my time and allow it to challenge my presuppositions of group life.
Right out the gate, Heather points out how the early church was a mess. We have the biblical evidence to prove it. Granted, they were new at this, but after 2,000 years, I don’t know whether the church has improved so much. The only exception is we might be better at hiding or avoiding our messes.
For many pastors, mess equals failure. This book challenges that notion, in fact, mess might just equal progress.
Thank you, Heather, for writing this open and honest book on group life. I will continue to savor it and will have a review out in due time.
Reviewed By Allen White
When you look at the success of groups at Saddleback Church, it would be easy, though cynical, to assume that you can only achieve that number of groups if they are an inch deep and a mile wide. After observing and participating in the ministry of Saddleback for the last 18 years, I have discovered that Saddleback is both deep and wide.
They cast a broad net to recruit small group H.O.S.T.s and to connect their members into groups. Today, Saddleback has over 3,500 small groups with more folks in groups than in their weekend services. This is due in large part to their small group champion, Rick Warren, the founding pastor of Saddleback Church. A God-given idea and Pastor Rick’s influence produced 2,000 new group hosts in their first 40 Days of Purpose campaign. His influence is huge in connecting people into groups. But, connecting and sustaining are two different animals.
Steve Gladen in Small Groups with Purpose outlines a success story not just for retaining numbers, but for life transformation and leadership development. Having run many successful church-wide campaigns myself, I know that it’s easy to create a spike in groups during a campaign, but helping those groups to continue is another animal. In this book, Steve Gladen outlines a powerful strategy for gaining and maintaining momentum.
Coaching and training are Saddleback’s keys to effective group leaders. Steve presents a unique coaching strategy. Community Leaders, rather than coaches, serve 20-25 groups leaders. This system works due to a key insight: not every group leader needs the same level of coaching. By determining whether the group is new, growing, mature or stubborn, community leaders offer an appropriate level of care. This is good news for churches who have yet to develop a healthy coaching structure, in that, existing groups have learned how to get along good enough without a coach. New coaches can focus on new leaders, and essentially serve existing leaders by benign neglect.
In the book, Steve Gladen articulates a proven strategy for starting and sustaining new leaders. At Saddleback, H.O.S.T.s start with the experience of leading a group for six weeks, then they are introduced to training. After leading for a few weeks, the training is more meaningful to the new leaders and can be directly applied to their group. Churches often make the mistake of over-training before a leader even starts to lead. If the prospective leader can survive the training, then they can lead a group. In my opinion, over-training actually reflects more of the small group pastor’s insecurity and need for control rather than adequately preparing members to lead. Community Leaders provide the help that new leaders need at Saddleback. Having someone in the new leader’s life is far more significant than endless hours of training up front.
Another outstanding strength of Saddleback’s training system is the intentional, on-going training pathway. Once leaders have completed Leadership Training 1, they receive care from their Community Leader and are offered on-going training that is appropriate to their skills and experience. The genius of this system is that all of the leaders start Leadership Training 2 with the third module, Health, then proceed to future modules based on their needs and experience as a leader. Custom, just-in-time training is key to serving new leaders and keeping their interest and participation in training. Cookie cutter, “one size fits all” training is a relic of the past. No small group pastor should blame their leaders for not attending training. If you’re not scratching where they itch, it’s on you.
Balancing the five biblical purposes produces healthy group members. While many churches develop groups that specialize in fellowship or Bible study, these types of groups focus on meeting the needs of the group members, but don’t necessarily produce well-rounded disciples. Then, you wonder why groups are unwilling to help in starting new groups or won’t reach out to others. It’s all about them. Why do they need to create any discomfort for themselves?
The Health Assessment helps both groups and individuals to identify their strengths and growth areas. More importantly, the Health Plan helps them create appropriate next steps for their growth. Whether the members are ready to crawl, walk or run, growth is determined at their own place and pace. No one expects a baby to get up and start running. No one should expect a mature adult to revert to crawling either.
Balancing the five biblical purposes is key. While most groups and group members will be strong in fellowship and discipleship, they will more than likely be weak in worship, ministry and evangelism. Rather than creating a group of comfortable, Bible eggheads, balancing the purposes challenges the group to think beyond itself and to get everyone’s gifts in the game of reaching out and serving others. Groups that grow inward will cease to grow both numerically and spiritually. The mere accumulation of knowledge is actually a waste of everyone’s time if they don’t seek to apply God’s Word in practical ways and to support each other in the transition.
The best part of Small Groups with Purpose is that the model Steve Gladen presents is scalable. The system that helps Saddleback effectively care for thousands of groups and tens of thousands of group members will also help a church with a handful of groups and a few dozen members. In my work at Lifetogether and Purpose-Driven coaching hundreds of pastors across the country, I have seen these principles work in churches of all sizes, in all regions of North America, and in practically every Christian denomination. Whether your church has 40 members or 40,000, the principles offered in this book will help your church grow both numerically and spiritually.
Purchase your copy of Small Groups with Purpose here.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and Baker Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
You’ll have to wait until Tuesday, August 16, 2011 for the review of Steve Gladen’s book, Small Groups with Purpose.
The contest has now ended. Instructions were left to give context to the comments below. Thanks for entering. Congratulations to Dan Brubacher. His curriculum reject, “What’s That? A Biblical Look at Infectious Skin Diseases” cracked me up.
My friends at only144.com are offering my readers a chance to win $600 in curriculum. Let’s have fun with this. Create a title for a study that no one would ever publish. If you can make me laugh out loud, then one humorous reader will get the whole shebang. Here’s what you will win:
How is your love life? Think it could or should be better? Married? Single? College Student? No other area of our life impacts our quality of life more than this one. It can lead us to the best of times and for many of us it has led to the worst of times.
The LoveLife Conference is a 6 hour investment into your present situation, your future and truly even your kids and grandkids. One of, if not the most important role we can play with our kids is giving them a happy and well-adjusted home, and that starts with a healthy marriage. An ounce of prevention is most certainly worth more than a pound of cure.
LoveLife features best-selling author, Pastor and International Christian Leader Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. With The Bible, primarily the Old Testament book of Song of Solomon as Pastor Mark’s guide, he will teach us with humor, candidness and grace, God’s design for Love, Dating, Marriage and Sexuality.
Our LoveLife events are designed for anyone 16 years or older, both married and single. God’s direct teaching on this subject will be convicting where needed, full of grace and forgiveness, and filled with tons of practical advice straight from the Giver of Love and Romance, God Himself.
Join Matt Chandler, Teaching Pastor of The Village Church in Dallas, TX, as he walks us through this most intimate of all Paul’s letters and paints a beautiful picture of what it is to be a mature Christian.
The story begins in Philippi where Paul introduces three individuals that were all enslaved by the kind of things that we often choose over the gospel: Lydia, the Business Executive, The Little Slave Girl, and The Hard Working Jailer
Their lives portray dysfunction and emptiness, but are totally transformed by the Gospel. True joy and Christ’s love begin to live within them, giving them a life of purpose. In fact, Paul himself was enslaved and then by God’s grace and mercy he could pen these popular and profound words: To Live is Christ and to Die is Gain. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Used and loved throughout the world, the Song of Solomon series teaches the Biblical design for relationships. For both singles and married couples, this exegetical study follows Solomon’s relationship from attraction to dating and courtship, marriage and intimacy to resolving conflict, keeping romance alive, and committing to the end. This 10th Anniversary Edition (released in 2005) updates Tommy Nelson’s original study with updated teaching and added features.
Here’s How to Enter and Win: (This Contest has Ended).
- Leave a comment below. Leave your humorous (but appropriate) never-published curriculum title below. (Comments on this blog are moderated, so don’t worry if your comment doesn’t appear immediately.)
- Tweet a link to this post. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can use Facebook. For example: Win $600 in Small Group studies just by being funny: http://wp.me/p1qrsD-gv #only144
By Allen White
Connecting in Communities is smart on many levels. Eddie Mosley gives us not just the ‘what’, but also the ‘why’ and ‘how’. He is not a philosopher or a demagogue. He is a practitioner with a heart for God and a heart for people. You can tell that Eddie didn’t write this book merely to sell books. He has a genuine passion for small groups and for helping other pastors and group directors.
First, Eddie shows how he has consulted with the best of the best in small group thinking and practice: Steve Gladen of Saddleback Church, Carl George, aka Small Group Yoda, Bill Donahue of Willow Creek, Bill Willits of North Point and many others. Why reinvent the wheel when you can build on the knowledge and experience of others? After carefully gleaning from these thought-leaders, Eddie does an even smarter thing — he adapts the best of these models to his church’s mission and culture.
Too many pastors are looking for a silver bullet out there that will be the one-size-fits-all, homerun solution that will address every issue and help every person grow spiritually. That silver bullet doesn’t exist. Eddie wisely integrates what works for others into what works for his church, LifePoint. In the book, we read about the host home strategy, the GroupLink strategy, the neighborhood strategy, the free market strategy among others. LifePoint has adjusted the strategies to fit the life of the church rather than adjusting the church to fit someone else’s strategy. Too many pastors are prone to throwing out what is working for some and replacing it with what might or might not work at all. LifePoint adds to their success by implementing additional strategies for success. They are in favor of whatever works rather than whoever is right. This is the smartest thinking to come along in a long time.
What makes the book even better is that Eddie shares stories, positive and negative, from his own experience. He is not writing from an ivory tower. He’s writing from the trenches. He lives where his reader lives. His humility in sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly of groups is refreshing and encouraging.
Connecting in Communities is the new primer for small group ministry. Whether you are just starting out in leading groups or you’re in need of a course correction, this book will inspire and inform you of some of the best practices in small group ministry today. The only thing that might have made this book better is if it were mine. Not that I would have done a better job, I would just love to have the credit.
Get your copy of Connecting in Communities.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Employers can pay for an employee’s time. They can pay for an employee’s output. But, employers can’t pay for an employee’s best. The carrot and stick incentives of the last century no longer apply in the current workplace. According to Pink, extrinsic motivation and incentives have actually proven to be disincentives in many cases. So, how do you get the best out of people?
Pink focuses on three areas: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Employees who are given control over their own projects and even the ability to create projects on their own are by far more productive and more engaged than employees who are given monetary incentives. The more employers attempt to control their employees, the less productive they become. The more autonomy given to employees, the more engaged and productive they become.
Money does matter, but it’s not an adequate incentive for engagement. The role of money is simply that employers should pay their employees well enough that they don’t have money worries. But, beyond that, in knowledge work, money proves to be a disincentive. Given the ability to improve their skills or make a significant contribution to the world, employees can more easily reach “flow” in their work. Work becomes more like play. Time passes without notice. Employees are fully involved in their work.
Many innovative employers like Google offer “20 percent time” to their workers. This is an opportunity for employees to work on whatever project they choose while on the clock. Gmail was created by a Google employee during 20 percent time.
Goal setting and performance reviews can be motivating or demotivating depending on how they are proposed. An extrinsic set of goals is rarely achieved with a smile on the employees face. Intrinsic goals, however, are far more easily achieved. In fact, engaged employees will set goals for themselves even if the boss isn’t looking over their shoulder.
Pink offers a whole new take on human motivation. Employees are not Pavlov’s dog waiting for the bell to ring. Human beings have a higher purpose that each is uniquely designed to fulfill. The sooner that employers can identify and engage the activities that their employers will jump out of bed for, the sooner employers will find the key to not only productivity, but also creativity.
This book is especially significant to non-profits and volunteer organizations that depend on unpaid workers. How do you keep volunteers from becoming weary in well-doing? Pink’s findings are key to getting the best out of people.
To purchase a copy of Drive, CLICK HERE.
I grew interested in this book from the number of quotes that were included in Pete Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. For those of us who desire to know and fulfill our life’s purpose, Palmer’s book contains some rather interesting insights.
The book speaks to discovering things about yourself and your purpose or “way” through failures as much as successes. Closed doors speak as loudly as open doors. He also discusses a Quaker method of decision making where a group is gathered to question the seeker for three hours to determine his or her thoughts and motives regarding the decision. Palmer openly discusses his own self-discovery through depression.
Palmer offers a refreshing perspective. He is a member of the Religious Society of Friends or Quakers. For evangelical Christians, there may be some points of disagreement, yet there is much food for thought. While evangelicals may expect God’s will to be revealed moving forward, Palmer takes in all aspects of one’s being in determining God’s will or way: emotional, intellectual, successes, failures and God’s voice within.
I have just finished this short book, and I’m ready to read it again.
To purchase your copy of Let Your Life Speak, CLICK HERE.
by Allen White
I have read about many different methods for spiritual growth over the years. Some authors ask their readers to study more. Others ask their readers to do more. Still others want extroverts to become introverts, which seems impossible. Scazzero challenges us to rethink the whole thing.
This book offers a new take on spiritual growth. It’s not merely more knowledge added to our mental database. It’s not five more things to do in order to become spiritually mature and probably more guilty in the meantime. Scazzero offers an integrated alternative to much teaching on spiritual formation.
People don’t grow the same spiritually, because everyone starts at a different place. Through the use of the genogram and listing childhood messages, Scazzero helps the reader come to terms with who they are and what they were given by their family. He offers many insightful exercises through both the hardcover book and the accompanying workbook and Leader Kit.
Scazzero directs his readers to pay attention to oft neglected or disregarded avenues of growth. He encourages readers to monitor their emotions. Rather than denying or feeling guilty over anger, depression or frustration, Scazzero challenges readers to lift up the hoods of their hearts and see where these feelings are coming from. Getting in touch with ones emotions and the cause of the emotions is just as important as connecting with God. After all, if we don’t know what we’re dealing with, then how can God help us?
Other avenues of growth include the daily office and practicing the Sabbath. The Daily Office or daily “work” are set prayer times that include silence, Scripture, a devotional, a question to think about, prayer, and more silence. Practicing silence is a rare exercise in Western evangelical Christianity. It’s not meditation or emptying one’s mind per se. Silence is quietly spending time with Abba Father, our God and Creator. God doesn’t require us to figure anything out or think about anything. We can pause and experience His presence and the world will continue. God cares more about us than what we do for Him.
Scazzero ties all of these practices together in the Rule of Life. The Rule of Life is similar to a trellis that directs a vine. This is the integration of all of these practices into one’s daily life.
As I have followed Scazzero’s teaching for over a year now, heard him speak in person, read his book and studied the workbook with a group, I am gradually implementing these practices into my own life. I have found a new calm and stability in my life. I feel more centered in my approach toward others and especially difficult situations. I can respond rather than react to most things these days. I highly recommend the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality book, workbook, Leader Kit, and website: emotionallyhealthy.org