Monday, November 29, 2010

A statement of monetization

I wanted to go on the record and explain any and all ways that I'm 'monetizing' this site.  For those of you who (like me) think monetization is a silly word, you're not alone.  Basically, this will let you know that I'm not attempting to do anything cheesy to make money off of this blog.

So currently (as of this posting) I'm only doing one thing to earn money off of this site:

Amazon Affiliates:  Since I want to share about the books I read it only makes sense to use an Amazon link to 'show' the book.

That's it.  I promise to update if I add more.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

2010 Audio Book Recap

Over the course of this year I listened to a handful of audio books.  Overall it was great and allowed me to "read" more books than I would have had time to actually sit down and hold.  Here's my rundown from worst to best (or least favorite to most favorite.)

How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill.  You caught me.  I only grabbed this book from the library shelves because it had "Starbucks" in the title.  I can't recommend it super highly, although the opening chapters solidified the truth that it is never worth putting your job over your family.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien.  I had forgotten how awesome this story is.  It's making me think that when the movie releases (at a still undetermined date) I will want to break my current movie theater fast to go see it.  Very entertaining.

Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur.  I had had this book on my 'want to read' list for some time, so it was great to 'check it off' the list while driving to and from work.  Overall, it had some excellent points concerning the twelve disciples.  (Bad Pun Alert:) It drove home the point that Jesus can make extraordinary followers out of anyone.

Free by Chris Anderson.  This was the only book that I didn't find at my local library, mainly because the audio version is available free online.  This was a fun 'read' because I don't normally do a lot of thinking concerning business models or economics in general.  It was definitely out of the box thinking and interesting.  I would recommend it to anyone with aspirations to start or improve their own business.

And the best audio book I listened to in 2010 was...
The World is Flat 2.0 by Thomas Friedman.  I'm not sure how many pages the paper version of this book is.  But the audio version was 20 (count them, twenty!) full length CDs.  Despite (or maybe because of) the length, this book was tremendous.  To describe it simply, The World is Flat lays out where we're at as a society and culture, how we got there, and what it means for life and business.  This is not a Christian book, but it has tremendous value in that it helps you better understand the world we're living in.  And if you understand the world we're living in, you can better relate to it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Posting Schedule

This post is not very exciting, but I wanted to go on record and say that I'm planning on posting on this blog two times each week.  I want to make this official because I know that having a posting schedule will force me to create and craft content; no schedule would very soon equal no posts whatsoever.

I'm aiming for new posts to go up on Mondays and Thursdays.  And I'm further aiming to have those pre-scheduled for 4:30AM.

So if you're not someone who likes to use an RSS feed to follow a blog, you can manually check back here on those days.  (I hope to be adding an e-mail following option in the next few weeks.)

There is a decent chance that I will edit this posting schedule for May through August, but I'll still hope to keep it consistent.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

TRAINing Disciples Bonus Discussions

In October I had led my TRAINing Disciples workshop for the Central Illinois Youth Network (hosted by the Peoria Area Youth for Christ).  It was a blast.  They asked me to continue a discussion about disciple-making at their next lunch.  While I was hoping to share the floor with someone else, I am also very excited to do a little more thinking, writing, and facilitating on the topic of "making disciples of Jesus."  So here is a blog format of what I am planning to talk about (today):

Discussion 1:

Discussion 2:    Whom does Jesus call to make disciples? 
The Church?
Your Church Organization?
Your Favorite Para-church Organization?  (I don't have to tell you that COCUSA should be your favorite!)

My Answers
(Keep in mind the real value lies in dialoging these with someone, not just eating answers like a spoon fed baby.)

Discussion 1:   Here is how I would draw a Jesus-like disciple-making strategy.   Here is why:  Hebrews 10:24, I Thessalonians 2:8, I Corinthians 11:1, John 16:13, Ephesians 4:11-12
Our goal is not to make disciples of ourselves.  Our goal is to make disciples of Jesus.  There may be a time when we have to lead a group of people toward Jesus (as Paul says), but I am continually amazed at how quickly mutual disciple-making happens if we let others speak into our lives.  Thank you Holy Spirit!

Discussion 2:
If you're a follower of Jesus, he calls you to make disciples.  (See Matthew 28:19-20)

THE church is all the followers of Jesus, and he calls those followers to make disciples.  (See Acts 11:26)

Hopefully your church organization (____ Bible Church, First Church of ____, First ____ Church, etc.) is filled with followers of Jesus.  Those followers are called to make disciples and the church organization they associate with should help that happen. 

Hopefully your favorite para-church organization is in the business of making disciples as well.

But Jesus didn't call church organizations or para-church organizations to make disciples.  He called you!  Why is that an important distinction?  Two quick reasons.
  • If you work for a ministry and got fired today, what would you do?  Would you still seek to make disciples?  If not, were you more interested in serving Jesus or serving your ministry?
  • If you're not working for a ministry, are you 'off-the-hook' when it comes to making disciples?  I don't think so.  Making disciples is not tied to a certain vocation.
These 'bonus discussions' were a little longer than anticipated.  Hope you hate 'em!

Monday, November 15, 2010

What we really need...

"More than bigger governments, bigger schools, more free school lunches, more child therapists, more child medications, more daycares, more prisons, and more birth control, we need godly men who raise their sons to be godly men who raise their sons to be godly men who raise their sons to be godly men."
-Mark Driscoll, last paragraph in Pastor Dad.  I highly recommend this short 50 page FREE e-book to any male (even if you're not a father or even married)!  It gives you some good things to think about if you want to follow Jesus as a father and husband.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Volunteer's Youth Ministry Manifesto (a work in progress)

In September 2009 my family and I became volunteer youth workers for the Pekin Bible Church organization. We have been having a blast but also feel very overwhelmed at times. My goal is to put together this manifesto so we have can have a guide for this ministry we are leading. And I hope that someday I can turn this article into a format that helps others make their own personal youth ministry manifestos.
(Two quick notes: 1) I have not read yet Youth Ministry 3.0: A Manifesto..., so any parallels, including title, are coincidental. 2) A manifesto is simply a "public declaration of intent," so please don't get hung up on the name.)

The (work in progress) addition to the title of this post is an important point to keep in mind as you read this. Throughout (and mostly at the end) you'll find comments in Italics. They're me " thinking out loud" as I reviewed this Manifesto, which was originally written in the spring of 2009.

Article 1 - Time
We need to figure out how much time we have to give. Not knowing will lead to overextending our family and under-serving the students in our ministry.

After a good amount of thinking, my wife and I decided that 5 hours a week is all that my family can currently give as volunteer youth workers. While that might seem small at first, we feel it is a reasonable amount of time to expect from a family with 3 kids less than 5-years old, a full time job, and intentions to home school. This isn't elevating our family as more important than other people. We just want to honor Jesus by putting a priority on our family: the best and most important place to do disciple-making. (Please also understand that we're not using a stopwatch and walking out in the middle of conversations when the timer beeps. This is a general guideline, not a strict rule.)

Article II - Foundational Principles
If we only have 5 hours a week, prioritizing that time becomes paramount because we don't have any to waste! Here are some foundational principles to guide us:

Section 1 - Key Concepts
  • Relationships. "We were happy to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us." (I Thessalonians 2:8) You care for people you know. You die for people you love.  (Hopefully that's the last time I mention 'death' in an article about youth ministry.)
  • Process over event. "Events are easier to manage, pay for and get excited about. Processes build results for the long haul." (Seth Godin) Not only that, but events can zap your time and energy while pulling your focus away from relationships.
  • Integration. The more students rub shoulder with other believers, the better. This includes older believers in our congregation as well as believers from other congregations.
  • Play to our strengths. We're not good at everything, so we'll be focusing on what we're good at.
  • Student-led. We want as much student involvement as possible. "You own what you create."
  • Consistency. While no program is sacred, it is important to give everything a proper chance. This will allow the adjusting to and testing of any new ideas.

Section 2 - What is a disciple?
We need to know the target. Specifically, what does a disciple of Jesus look like as a junior or senior high student? Knowing the target will help us decide how to get there. One of the best resources I've seen on this subject is Cadre Ministries "Description of a Discipled Person" training.
We're proposing the following as key markers of a disciple of Jesus:
  • A growing and unshakable love for the Lord
  • An unconditional love for people
  • A commitment to knowing and applying Biblical truth
  • An understanding of Biblical stewardship
  • A life that exhibits Christ-like character
  • A disciple-maker that can reproduce their spiritual life
In short, we want followers of Jesus.  It's really that simple.

Article 3 - The Specifics
Keeping in mind everything listed above, what is the most effective and efficient way to use our time to make more and better disciples of the students involved with our ministry? We propose the following:

Section 1 - Meetings
  • Weekly- Sunday 9:30-10:30am in the Pekin Bible Church building youth room. The primary activities will be Bible teaching time and prayer.
  • Monthly- Once each month during the weekly meetings we plan to do a service or outreach activity with the students. This could be anything that gets us out of the church building and into the community. (Volunteer or service projects, getting involved with local events that are happening, etc.)  (These have not happened yet this fall.  We still want them to, but planning them has been more difficult than we originally thought.)
  • Monthly- Fun event: A no frills/no pressure hang out at various places.
  • Quarterly- Leadership Lunch: Hold a lunch for adult and student leaders to get on the same page. Enable and equip volunteers to help with any and all areas of the ministry.  (These have not been going as planned.  Probably due to my failure at leading the time, they have become a "List all events you want us to pull off" Lunch.)

Section 2 - Additional Elements
  • Facilitate 1 disciple-making group per adult leader each week.  (We're a little behind on this goal.  But I think we'll see some huge fruit if it happens.)
  • Write 1 note to students per adult leader each week.
  • Write a monthly update letter for the congregation at Pekin Bible Church and others.  (These last two writing goals have also not happened. It could be a lack of time, it more likely is a lack of priority on my part.)
  • Prayerfully pursue additional adult volunteers.  (Another family recently joined us, but as of yet we haven't figured out an overall team strategy.  We need to do this soon!)
  • Pray for the students.  (I personally need to do this more.)
  • Create and use a document template to help keep ourselves accountable to The Specifics.  (We have a BETA version of this template.  But it definitely needs to be tweaked to be more useful.)
So I realize there are a lot of "we need to do this" and "we haven't done this" in 'The Specifics' section.  Suffice it to say this is definitely a work in progress and we'll be checking back in on this strategy periodically to make any necessary changes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Goals for this blog in 2011

I only have one goal for this blog in 2011.  And that is to build a "following" of at least 10 people by the end of the year.

I'm looking for 10 people I wouldn't otherwise be able to encourage and challenge to follow Jesus.  If this goal is reached, I will most likely continue to blog in 2012.  (And at the same time I want to write like 500 people are reading... Each post should be well thought out and have quality content.)

The toughest part about this statement is finding a way to measure followers.  I'm not sure asking everyone to raise their hand will do.  Comments aren't a great way because not everyone leaves a comment.  Pageviews are hard to quantify as well. (For example, at the writing of this post, I had seven pageviews from Pakistan.  And while I want to give a shout out to my Pakistani friends, I'm not sure I would consider you followers... yet.)

I'll probably try to quantify a number of followers by smashing the following equation together:
Followers = (Comments + Google Reader usage + E-mail Subscribers + Pageviews) / Healthy dose of reality

And since I'm only counting to 10 I think that the above equation will work.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Quotes on "Misquoting Jesus"

The title "Misquoting Jesus" should automatically speak to the fact that I don't think very highly of Bart Ehrman's book.

I will admit I am neither a seminary grad nor a textual critic, and as such I offer these thoughts as a guy who reads his Bible and loves Jesus:
This book confirmed my faith more than it tore it down. I kept waiting for a clear “You-can’t-trust-the-Bible” argument, and it never happened.  Most of his examples of textual criticism actually reinforced to me that we do have a very accurate rendition of Biblical text today, even though we do not have the original manuscripts.  His explanation of mistakes in our current translations still appeal to the fact that there is a correct original reading that can be discovered (because with every mistake he highlights he still gives his opinion of what the correct reading should be.)  I believe God's Word is 100% divine, yet has been written, transcribed, translated, and interpreted by 100% humans.  Hold both truths as equal and you should do fine.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Why a blog?

I originally launched a website bearing my name for reasons detailed here.  To summarize, I knew it would be a good way to challenge myself to write more, which in turn would force me to be more clear about all I say and do.  Hopefully it doesn't come across as prideful, but I feel that I have accomplished that.

So I recently decided to go one step farther... I want to regularly publish on this blog (stay tuned for my posting schedule).

But why?  Here goes:

Here is my explanation of why I have this blog (and yes, it is one sentence long on purpose):
I want to use this blog to inspire, encourage, challenge, and equip others to follow Jesus and be more like him in every area of their life. *

Here is my description of my intended audience (also one sentence long on purpose):
This blog is for you if you want to be more like Jesus tomorrow than you were today. 

If you don't fit this description, you're still welcome to keep reading.  But I thought you should know who I'm writing ahead of time.

*Hopefully I am doing this without a blog too!  Specifically I hope to lead people that I could not otherwise connect with due to time constraints.