The Doc File

The online journal of Luke Dockery

Book Review: Before I Go: Notes From Older Preachers

BookCoverImageWhile taking a few vacation days last week, I read The Jenkins Institute’s Before I Go: Notes From Older PreachersI like the work that TJI is doing (helping to train and equip preachers), and I like gleaning wisdom from learned people who have come before me, so I was glad to have the opportunity to read it.


The premise of Before I Go is that several experienced preachers write on certain topics and share what they have learned from their many years of working in congregations. Combined, the authors represent over 1,000 combined years of preaching with 100,000 lessons preached. Clearly, these are preachers who have been in the trenches and have some valuable advice to share.

Before I Go is a quick, easy read. One of the good things about preachers is that they know (or should know) how to communicate well, which makes each chapter easy to understand. Furthermore, the book is only 182 pages long, and the type font is pretty large, so it did not take me long to read.


As mentioned above, Before I Go is an anthology with a different author writing each chapter. The problem with having different authors in each chapter is that it gives the book a very uneven feel: some authors write better than others, and significant differences in writing style and organization from one chapter to the next can have a jarring effect on the reader. I find this to be frequently true of anthologies (and is the reason why I am generally not a big fan of them).

Also, I thought the editing could have been better: there were several typographical errors that I found reading through the book.


In a book of practical advice from older preachers, you would expect to find some good quotations, and I certainly did. Some of my favorites are below, along with occasional commentary from me in brackets:

“I try to choose my battles carefully because not everything is worth going to mat for.” (26)

“Place the best interpretation possible on what others say and do; give them the benefit of the doubt. The judging of hearts in in good hands, not yours and mine.” (36)

“You must never be the source of a leak of information which is obviously confidential. This is especially true when elders disagree over a matter. You should never say anything to anyone that indicates that not all the elders thought a matter should have been done.” (52)

“Don’t harm His beautiful bride just to make yourself feel better. Leave so peacefully that perhaps someday they will invite you back for a homecoming or to preach in a gospel meeting. His bride is far more important than the hurt you feel when you are asked to leave.“ (53-54) [This is in the context of a preacher being fired and being careful about how he responds and leaves the congregation.]

“If I want to serve beyond my death, I had better build relationships with people who will outlive me.” (61)

“The preacher’s education should never stop; for if it does so, his message will grow stale.” (95)

Before I Go is a helpful addition to a minister’s library (especially a young preacher), and I recommend it. Learning from those who have gone before us is a key component of education in general, and I think that is especially true for ministers.

Healthy Parent-Teen Conflict


I do a lot of reading and research on issues related to youth ministry, teenagers, the development of young people, parenting, etc., and I like to share helpful information that I come across.

I am currently reading Chap Clark’s Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today’s TeenagersIt is a pretty well-known book in youth ministry circles, and in it, Clark engages in extensive qualitative research to enter the world of teenagers today and seek to understand and describe the pervasive sense of isolation and abandonment they feel from the adult world as a whole.

The book is a challenging read, in large part because of the disturbing claims it makes. I have some questions about some of Clark’s research methods and conclusions (especially the very generalized nature of the latter), but I think he has some really good things to say, and he brings up issues that should make anyone who works with teenagers pause and reflect (parents, youth ministers, teachers, coaches, etc.).

Any parent of a teenager knows that conflict with your kids is an inevitable thing, and I thought the following quotation provides some helpful thoughts for ways in which the inevitable conflicts of parenting can be dealt with in a way that doesn’t damage the parent-child relationship at the specific developmental time when teens need their parents the most:

“Research has shown that parent-child conflict increases during adolescence, especially during midadolescence [ages 15-18]. These conflicts are often rooted in how a parent deals with a growing adolescent rather than in a specific issue.

What matters most in the lives of adolescents, then, is how parents deal with conflict. Most midadolescents rapidly get over the day-to-day conflicts they experience at home, especially if they feel close to their parents. But parents are not as resilient. For many parents, even simple conflicts can push their buttons and drive a wedge in their relationships with their children. Over time, midadolescents pick up on this general sense of separation. This causes them to pull away from their parents.

Parents have a tremendous responsibility not to be thrown off or emotionally entrapped by parent-adolescent conflict. Adolescents know that their parents are supposed to be the adults, those who are to lead and guide them, without letting any conflict or emotion get out of hand. Far too often students described their parents as “out of control,” “always mad,” or “totally upset.” They responded by backing down to avoid conflict and becoming relationally disengaged. When pressed, few midadolescents wanted a distant relationship with their parents, yet most feel they have no choice but to distance themselves from emotional entanglement with their families.”

–Chap Clark, Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers (99)

Harding Lectures Audio Files

unnamedLast month, I had the honor of taking part in the Harding Lectureship. Several people who were unable to attend the Lectureship have asked me if there is a way to hear my presentations, and there is! You can click on the links below to listen to the lectures:

You can listen to a variety of other presentations from this year’s lectureship by going here.

Free Resource: Youth In Family Ministry Handbook

Youth In Family Ministry Handbook CoverLast week I had the honor of speaking at the Harding University Bible Lectureship. On Monday, I presented three lectures on “Youth In Family Ministry”, which is a youth ministry model that emphasizes the importance of the physical family unit and the faith family (the local church) when it comes to passing on faith to our children.

This is the youth ministry model that we are trying to implement and follow at Farmington, and to help with that, this year I started working on a Youth In Family Ministry Handbook to use and distribute at church to help people learn more about our youth ministry and why we do what we do.

That (lengthy) project is now completed, and I wanted to share it with you.

If you work in youth ministry (as a youth minister, youth deacon, youth committee member, etc.), are interested in youth ministry, or are a parent interested how best to pass on faith to your kids, I think this will be a helpful resource. Although it is geared specifically toward what we are doing at our congregation, it contains a lot of research about young people leaving the church and why that happens, what the Bible teaches about discipling young people, and other helpful information as well.

You can download a PDF of the Youth In Family Ministry Handbook by going to the Free Resources page.

Harding University Bible Lectureship


This Sunday begins the Harding University Bible Lectureship, and I am honored to have the opportunity to take part.

On Monday, I will be presenting three lectures on youth ministry at 9AM, 10AM, and 3PM:

  • Youth In Family Ministry, Part 1: The Current Crisis in Youth Ministry
  • Youth In Family Ministry, Part 2: The Physical Family, the Faith Family, and the Spiritual Formation of Young People
  • Youth In Family Ministry, Part 3: Crafting a Family-Based Youth Ministry in the Congregation

On Tuesday, I will have the opportunity to speak in both student chapels.

If you’re at the lectureship, I would love to catch up or to see you in class!

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