Friday, July 31, 2015

Rock Solid Series

The one nonfiction topic I enjoy reading about is Children’s Ministry. Here’s some summaries of my favorites:

 The Rock Solid series, mostly by Larry Fowler, executive director of program & training for Awana Clubs International

Book #1: Rock-Solid Kids: Giving Children a Biblical Foundation for Life by Larry Fowler, Gospel Light Publishing, 2004

Genre: Nonfiction
Target Audience: Parents and Children’s Ministry Workers, Church leaders
Subjects: Children’s Ministry, the Gospel
Summary: How important are children? Are they are future? Are they a tool we use to gather their parents into church? Or are they important for themselves? How did Jesus view children? How clear are we when presenting the Gospel to children? Do we confuse children with our language? When is the key time to try to reach people with the Gospel? This book covers the answers to those questions and more through eight simple “foundation rocks”.
Notes: The value of this book comes in it’s simplicity and in the importance of it’s message. As soon as I got to Jr. High I began volunteering in children’s ministry. Yet, the breakdown of what the Gospel really is, simplified the way Larry Fowler does in this book is not something I’d heard until I attended a conference where this material was being taught. We often confuse people with our language, especially children. There’s a great chart in this book that compares the various ways we present the Gospel with what the Bible actually says the Gospel is. For that chapter alone, this book is of value.
Recommendation Scale:  5/5

Genre: Nonfiction
Target Audience: Parents and Children’s Ministry Workers, Church leaders
Subjects: Children’s Ministry, the Gospel
Summary: What should be our true goal in children’s ministry? What is the connection between knowing Scripture, practical application and relating Scripture to life? How can discipline be used to benefit instead of hinder our ministry? What is the measure of success in our ministry? And where can we find the power needed to carry out our ministry? This book lays out seven principles of effective children’s ministry.
Notes: Just like the last one, the value is in the simplistic, clear layout of the book. It’s summarized in simple and clear terms that can have applications easily drawn from them. The last one challenged the specifics – the words we use and such. This one challenges our focus. That’s clear from the first principle where it talks about targeting the heart of children. I highly recommend this book too.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5

Book #3 – Rock-Solid Volunteers by Larry Fowler, Regal/Gospel Light, 2010
Genre: Nonfiction

Target Audience: Parents and Children’s Ministry Workers, Church leaders
Subjects: Children’s Ministry, the Gospel
Summary: If you asked leaders of children’s ministry programs what their biggest struggles are, finding and keeping volunteers would be near the top of the list with nearly everyone. In recognition of that, Larry Fowler uses the story of Nehemiah to address the issue. He highlights how Nehemiah was a great leader in terms of how he motivated his volunteers.
Notes:  The neat aspect of this book is how the author uses an actual Biblical figure as the role model for us to look up to. He has a lot of good ideas for how to find and keep volunteers. This one focuses on the challenges that both us and Nehemiah face. And it focuses on seven steps to solving these challenges. I also highly recommend this book.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5

Deuteronomy 32:45-47 – When Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, he said to them, "Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you--they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess."

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Seven Family Ministry Essentials

"Think about helping parents become spiritual leaders of their children. Think about how difficult it is in our culture to educate, inspire, and remain faithful to the cause. Now think about what it would look like if Christian parents barely thought about spiritually leading their families through every age and stage of their child’s development because it had become second nature. Just think, in one generation, this could change. And you could be a part of this transformation in your church’s culture."

Book: 7 Family Ministry Essentials: A Strategy for Culture Change in Children's and Student Ministries by Michelle Anthony and Megan Marshman, David C. Cook, 2015

Introduction: I have built up a reputation as the CTF Devourer, the one who reads and reviews everything Christian Teen Fiction. I do also devour Christian Adult Fiction. Rarely though, do I open up a non-fiction book. However, there’s one topic I’m just passionate enough about to read non-fiction books on: Children’s Ministry. I’m a teacher by profession and a constant volunteer of anything and everything children’s ministry in my church. So when this book was presented to me for review I couldn’t resist going out of the fiction realm. And it’s worth it. I can definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the spiritual development of children. It has some good thought-provoking things to say. I’ll discuss some of them in the “notes” section below.
Genre: Non-Fiction
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 18+
Subjects: Children’s Ministry, Family Ministry, Parenting
Summary: “Family Ministry”, “Children and Families Pastor”, “Family Program”, these terms are gaining popularity. Our culture has begun to recognize that complete total segregation of ages within church is not the ideal. We’ve started to recognize that church ministry leaders who see children 2-4 hours a week can not be the primary spiritual leaders of children instead of their parents. For a few generations those of us in the church have willingly tried to do the role of the parents and the parents have willingly let us. It hasn’t worked. More and more children are walking away from the faith when they leave home. So we implement this idea of a family focused ministry. But how does that work? What does it look like? In this book, the authors lay out seven values such a ministry can latch on to and make the focus of the ministry. Some of the ideas are radical and some are just plain practical. Some are a continuance of things many churches are already doing and some are new ideas that few have tried before.
Notes: The main points the author covers are that a good “Family Ministry” needs to include the following seven values: Empowering families to take spiritual leadership in the home, forming lifetime faith that transcends childhood beliefs, teaching Scripture as the ultimate authority of truth, understanding the role of the Holy Spirit to teach and transform, engaging every generation in the gospel of God’s redemptive story (of note: one great way to help with this point is to use the What’s In The Bible DVDs – they do a great job of presenting the big picture of God’s Grand Redemptive Story all the way through the Bible), making God central in every biblical narrative and daily living, and participating in community with like-minded ministry leaders. Each of these points is explained in very great detail. In fact, there are so many sub-points it’s almost like each chapter could be it’s own book! One of my favorite aspects of the book is the end of each chapter. The authors give suggestions for specific activities to apply the lessons in the chapter. It may be a way to evaluate your current ministry and see how effectively it is meeting the needs of those in it or it may be an activity for parents to do with their children.
From what I gather as I read through this book, one thing to take note of is that the authors present a slightly charismatic approach towards children’s ministry. There are a number of references to feelings and letting the Holy Spirit lead the ministry. There is nothing in the book that is directly contrary to Scripture, it just presents a slight slant towards the charismatic.
This book could be beneficial for anyone interested in children or family ministry or parenting. It is most useful though for leaders of a children’s ministry program or family ministry program in their churches. Most of the content has to do with changing the whole direction a ministry is heading and is applicable only to the actual leaders of the ministry as opposed to one teacher or one parent who does not have a say in the decision making process. It’s benefit for others is the mindset it creates, helping everyone involved in a ministry grasp why it is important to do things in a certain way.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 - These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.