New: First Steps for New Christ-Followers

NewAndy Blanks and the people at youthministry360.com have come out with an incredible resource for students.  The book New: First Steps for New Christ-Followers is really much more than what the straight forward title describes.  It is book, it is a journal, it is a helps tool for students to understand the Bible and a launching pad for continued study and growth.

As I first read through the book, I simply viewed this book on the merits of how it would be received by students who had just recently given their lives to Christ.  I know my students are pretty cynical and hate being patronized.  To tell you the truth, I was kind of expecting a simple how-to book that treated my students like 5th graders.  (Sorry Andy)  But to my surprise, I found this book to be an engaging and relevant.

One of the things I love about this book is that they layout design is captivating.  The color, the images, and the font layout actually draw you in to read the page and push you to the next.  This book was made for students with short attention spans. Every page gets right to the point and has clear and simple teaching, directions, questions, and reflections.  Andy has found a great balance between keeping his information simple and straightforward without being light in the content.

Besides the superficials of the book, the content is perfect for students.  I know that few students read through the 100 page plus books I hand them on being a Christ-follower.  If I am lucky, they simply arrive on their shelf with only a handful of pages read.  Because the layout is so great, the content is incredibly easy to take and I think will be easy to absorb.

Andy allows for the joys and fears that come with starting out on a Journey with Christ.  He doesn't patronize the students while doesn't expect them to know things they should know, but don't.  He gives clear guidance on how to read the Bible, how to pray, how to share about this new life, and where to go after they have worked through this book.

This book is a great gift for students who have recently given their lives to Christ.  It sets up a daily, 4 week regiment that sets the tone and pace for continued growth and discipleship, and is written and presented in a way that is captivating and engaging.  

After I read through this book with my patronizing lenses on with "those" students in mind, I actually came to a surprising conclusion.  It would be a mistake to classify this book as simply a tool for bran new Christians.  The tools and theology that are presented are things my students, even some of my most solid church kids are sorely lacking.

If we are honest, our students are having less and less biblical background and have little practical help or experience in some of the basics of our faith.  It is easy for me to assume they know much more than they do and that their devotional life is much stronger than it is.  But the sad truth is that we am simply putting our heads in the sand.  (I used the we instead of me so you wouldn't think I am an awful youth worker.)

I am choosing to buy this book for every one of my students and give them away on our first youth group of the fall.  I will sell it as a "refresher."  But I know that for many of my students it will be brand new material.  By using it as a refresher, this book sets the tone and rhythm for spiritual conversations, spiritual disciplines, and spiritual growth.  (Can you hook me up with a bulk rate option?)

Andy, thanks again for being a great resource for those of us in the trenches, for making our jobs easier, so we can love students into the kingdom better.  This is a great book and thanks for letting me take a look at it.

Don't let the title fool you.  And whatever you do, don't think your students are farther down the spiritual maturity road then they really are.  This book is a must read for every high school student!  And if you are cheap like me, than a must read for a small handful of my favorite students who I will encourage to read and write in pencil so I can collect at the end of the month and give to my second tier students, and repeat until every student as had a chance to read it.  :)

 

The 7 Best Practices for Teaching Teenagers the Bible

the 7 best practices for teaching teenagers the bible

I just finished reading a really great book by my friend, Andy Blanks.  Andy is the co-founder of a the website youthministry360 which is chalked full of great resources for anyone connected to student ministry.  I found his book, The 7 Practices for Teaching Teenagers the Bible, to be one of the most helpful tools I have come across that equips, inspires, and challenges youth workers and volunteers to teach scripture in a way that is impactful and transformative. As someone who has developed my own curriculum as well as used just about every curriculum under the sun, I found this book to be the right tool that walks through the difficult process of having curriculum in your hand to actually presenting it.

Keep the main thing, the main thing!

One of the best parts of this book his Andy's first chapter on engaging with God.  He immediately dispels many of our reasons we think we want to teach scripture, like information transfer or behavior modification.  "You teach the Bible so students will know God and grow in their imitation of Him."  And then he hits you between the eyes with a true gut check.  "You can't lead students to desire that which you don't desire."  Our walk with Jesus is foundational to our teaching students to know and love Jesus.

In a very pastoral way, Andy shepherds the reader through a little bit of self-evaluation.  And I have to admit, this was pretty convicting as a youth worker who is struggling with senioritis!  Because these were words that were difficult to hear, I found Andy's tone and heart warm and inviting.  There is no shame, just grace and a kick in the pants.

Every chapter is full of practical nuggets you can implement NOW.

Andy could have milked this book and made it a couple hundred pages, but instead he made it totally accessible and easy to read.  Each chapter is formatted in a way that you can skim to what you need, but written in a way you won't want to.  What I appreciated most is that in every single chapter there were things I could use this week in youth group to do a better job in my teaching.  Here were some of the highlights for me:

  • Practical step by step plan to take curriculum and translate it into an actual lesson
  • A renewed call for biblical context to make sure students know how particular stories, themes, people, and points fit into the larger biblical narrative.
  • People have different learning styles.  No kidding, but I don't teach that way.  Andy gives a huge list for ways to connect with different learners.
  • A tutorial on how to ask good questions.
  • A list of different types of application questions and activities you can use so that students can lean into life change.

Two thumbs up!

I have to admit I was feeling a little patronizing about reading this book.  I have been teaching teenagers the Bible forever.  What could this small book have to teach someone as wise and good looking as me?  It turns out quite a bit.  This book only took me an evening to read.  And every other page is marked up and underlined with things I want to remember and implement in my ministry.  In fact how I am doing my talk this week is completely changed, and changed for the better simply by using a different application tool outlined in this book.

I highly recommend this book.  Anyone, including you who is responsible for the teaching in any form within the context of student ministry, this book will be a blessing and dramatically improve your ability and effectiveness.  Good curriculum is great.  But someone who is working out their own thriving walk with Jesus equipped with the right tools to take that curriculum and make it personal for their context is golden!

I hope you find this book as encouraging and equipping as I have.  And if you are struggling with a little senioritis, this book is a good kick in the pants from a true pastor and shepherd of students and youth workers.  Thanks Andy for your heart and for this great tool!