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Reading in 2014

Those who have followed this blog for a while know that I keep track of the reading I do and then at the beginning of each new year, post the list of the previous year’s reading. For some reason, this is something I enjoy doing, and others seem to enjoy it as well.

Here is my reading list for 2014:

  1. The Complete Calvin and Hobbes Book Two, by Bill Watterson
  2. In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, by Henri Nouwen
  3. The Gospel for Teenagers: An Old Message for Young Hearts, by Scott Bond
  4. Fit For The Pulpit: The Preacher & His Challenges, edited by Chris McCurley
  5. Social Media Quick Design: Instagram, by Lauren Hunter
  6. Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in your Kids, by Kara E. Powell and Chap Clark
  7. How Great Is Our God: What God Wants Us To Know About Him, by Justin Morton
  8. The Knight of the Lion, by Constance Hieatt
  9. Yolo: You Only Live Once, by Scott Bond
  10. Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar, by Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt
  11. Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, by N.T. Wright
  12. George MacDonald, by C.S. Lewis
  13. Red Square, by Martin Cruz Smith
  14. Esau’s Doom, by Michael Whitworth
  15. An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods & Ministry Formation, by David A. deSilva
  16. Headed to the Office: How Teens Become Real Men and Elders in the Church, by Glenn Colley
  17. Backgrounds of Early Christianity, by Everett Ferguson
  18. An Outline of New Testament Introduction, by Allen Black
  19. A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis
  20. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling
  21. Star Wars: In the Shadow of Yavin, by Brian Wood and Carlos D’anda
  22. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling
  23. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling
  24. The Treasure Chest of Grace, by Wes McAdams
  25. Bethlehem Road, by Michael Whitworth
  26. Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy, by Susan Neiman
  27. Heaven on Earth: Realizing the Good Life Now, by Chris Seidman and Joshua Graves
  28. Growing True Disciples, by George Barna
  29. Seven Congregations in a Roman Crucible: A Commentary on Revelation 1-3, by Richard E. Oster Jr.
  30. Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey
  31. Scribbles and Sketches, No. 1, by Ruby Jobey
  32. Tyranny of the Urgent!, by Charles E. Hummel
  33. Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: 4 Views, by Paul Helm, Bruce A. Ware, Roger E. Olson, and John Sanders
  34. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling
  35. Not Off Limits: Questions You Wish You Could Ask at Church, by Ross Cochran
  36. Hodge Podge: Powerful Proverbs, by Charles Hodge
  37. Who Is My Brother? Facing A Crisis Of Identity & Fellowship, by F. LaGard Smith
  38. Hurting With God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms, by Glenn Pemberton
  39. As I Remember It: An Autobiography, by Jack P. Lewis
  40. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling
  41. If I Be Lifted Up, by Batsell Barrett Baxter
  42. The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity, by William P. Young
  43. Meeting God at the Shack: A Journey into Spiritual Recovery,by John Mark Hicks
  44. Prophet and Priest: The Redefining of Alexander Campbell’s Identity, by Todd M. Brenneman
  45. What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith, by Thomas G. Long
  46. I Now Pronounce You _________: How Our Identity in Christ Informs Our Role As Husbands, by Jeff Grisham
  47. One Tree Hill: A Resurrection Message,  by Michael Whitworth
  48. Yet Will I Trust Him: Understanding God In a Suffering World, by John Mark Hicks
  49. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling
  50. Creation Untamed: The Bible, God, and Natural Disasters, by Terence E. Fretheim
  51. The Complete Calvin and Hobbes Book Three, by Bill Watterson
  52. Four Views on Divine Providence, by Paul Kjoss Helseth, William Lane Craig, Ron Highfield, and Gregory A. Boyd
  53. The Copper Scroll, by Joel C. Rosenberg
  54. An (Extra)ordinary Christmas: 25 Days of Devotions for Christmas/Advent, by Stephen Ingram
  55. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling
  56. ESV Single Column Journaling Bible

In 2014, I continued reading eBooks on occasion (something I hadn’t done much before 2013), and I also increased the frequency with which I listened to audiobooks. Also, a lot of my list (38 of 54 I think), centered on theology, Christian living, ministry, Bible study, and church history. Given my vocation and studies, this is not surprising.

First, I read through the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible this year. I wrote about this bible earlier in the year, and I really couldn’t be more pleased with my decision to do my personal Bible reading out of it in 2014. It is a great product: the ESV is a good translation, the strap is handy for keeping it closed and tucking a pen in for taking notes, there is ample space for writing, and there is a good reading plan in the back. I have a ton of notes I made and insights I recorded in the margins, and even though I fell behind in blogging some of this, I know my journal notes will be helpful to me for years to come.

Backgrounds of Early Christianity by Everett Ferguson is a classic in its field, and I can see why. Ferguson writes clearly and with great scholarship, and provides invaluable background information on the context and culture of the early church. I wrote a review of Seven Congregations in a Roman Crucible: A Commentary on Revelation 1-3, by Richard Oster. I thought it was an outstanding book, and mention it in conjunction with Ferguson’s book because Seven Congregations also excels at providing background information which helps the reader to better understand the context of the Book of Revelation.

N.T. Wright’s Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church is well-known, and I was glad that I finally got around to reading it. Wright is brilliant, but is able to write in an easy-to-understand way. I shared a couple of quotations from the book which I enjoyed. Overall, I thought Wright had a lot of good things to say, but I wish we would have done a little more work grounding his view of a renewed and transformed earth as the location of “heaven” (I know he does that elsewhere, but I wish he would have spent more time on it in Surprised By Hope as well).

A couple of books related to doctrinal issues and Christian fellowship which I really appreciated were Ross Cochran’s Not Off Limits: Questions You Wish You Could Ask at Churchand F. LaGard Smith’s Who Is My Brother? Facing A Crisis Of Identity & FellowshipI thought the greatest strength of Cochran’s book was his tone: as we address controversial issues in our churches, it is vital that we recognize that sometimes there are multiple possible interpretations on a given issue, and that even people with whom we disagree can be sincere people who are doing their best to understand and follow the Bible. The big takeaway from Smith’s book is his proposal for different levels of fellowship: I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, but on the whole I thought his approach was very insightful.

I took a class this fall on Providence and Suffering, and read a lot of books related to that topic. Yet Will I Trust Him: Understanding God In a Suffering World by John Mark Hicks (who, incidentally, was also my professor) was a really good look at the issue of suffering in the world. I think I would have enjoyed the book even more if I had read it straight through; instead, I ended up reading it in chunks as they were assigned in class. Hurting With God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms by Glenn Pemberton was perhaps the best book I read this year. It focuses on lament in Scripture, specifically in the Book of Psalms, and makes the argument that in our modern churches we have largely lost the ability to lament and, as a result, superficialized our relationships with one another and with God and, therefore, weakened our faith. I loved the book, have preached from it, and hope to share some quotations from it later. Also, for that same class, I re-read William Young’s The ShackI had originally read it back in 2009, and posted some thoughts after doing so. Interestingly, I don’t really disagree with those thoughts, but on the whole, I appreciated The Shack much more this time than I did back in 2009. Perhaps my life experience since that time and the contact with suffering I have had has something to do with that.

For books in no way related to ministry or theology, the highlight of my reading year was definitely the Harry Potter series. For years I have had people (specifically my wife) tell me that I should read these books, but I knew that there were seven of them, that the last ones were very long, and I simply did not have the time (I am very busy and don’t have a lot of spare time for pleasure reading). However, one segment of my day that I always felt was wasted was the time I spend driving in my car. Caroline suggested that I try listening to the Harry Potter books in audio format, and I did that this year. The books are entertaining and well-written, and it made driving much more enjoyable for me. I’m actually sad that the series is over and am looking for something else to listen to in the car.

My overall book total increased from 50 in 2013 to 56 in 2014. I really did not expect to exceed my total from last year. Last year I had pushed to get 50 and since it stressed me out a little, I decided this year I would just read and let the total be what it may. Interestingly, with this approach I still ended up with more.

I got some great books for Christmas, and I have a long to-read shelf filled with books I am excited about. What were your favorite books from 2014?

For comparison’s sake, you can see the books I read in 20132012201120102009, and 2008.

Revamping Our Youth Ministries

Youth MinistryLast year, I was surprised and humbled to be contacted by the Gospel Advocate and asked to write on the issue of young people leaving the church. What you read below is my offering, which was published in the May issue.

It is well documented that a large percentage of teenagers who are active in church life and have committed their lives to Christ walk away from that commitment after graduating from high school and their youth groups. A study done in conjunction with the Fuller Youth Institute suggests that 40-50 percent of teenagers will leave their faith behind during their college years[1], and statistician Flavil Yeakley, focusing in particular on Churches of Christ, presents a similar figure saying that only 58 percent retain their church affiliation after growing up and leaving home.[2]

This alarming trend has developed despite the increase of full-time youth ministers on the staffs of our local congregations and the increased availability of Bible class materials and other resources for teaching our young people. So the question needs to be asked: why aren’t our youth ministries more effective when it comes to developing a lifelong faith in our young people?This is a complex question with multiple answers and a big problem with no quick fixes, but I do think there are some simple and important principles that we need to embrace on a congregational level to begin to combat this epidemic:

(1) Follow a More Biblical Model in Youth Ministry.

I am a youth minister. I like youth ministers and think that youth ministers have a vital place in the work of the church. That being said, today’s youth ministry has become mixed up: where do we get the idea that the task of discipling our young people should be removed from the family and congregation and outsourced to a youth minister instead? Scriptures such as Deuteronomy 6.4-9 and Ephesians 6.4 make it evident that parents are responsible for teaching the ways of God to their children, and in Titus 2.4-8, Paul extends the task of fostering spiritual formation in young people to the entire congregation. Older Christians need to be involved in mentoring and training those who are younger. Youth ministers should be figures who help to equip parents and the congregation as a whole to raise their children in the Lord; they should not take over that task themselves.

(2) Change the Way You Measure Success.

Typically, we measure success in youth ministry the same way we measure it in our churches: numbers. How big is your youth group? How many seniors did you graduate this year? How much has your youth group grown over the last five years?

Keeping track of numbers isn’t a bad thing—Luke certainly seemed to think it was worth noting the numerical growth of the church in the beginning chapters of Acts—but it shouldn’t be the main way we measure success in youth ministry. Rather than a primary focus on numbers, we ought to focus on helping our young people develop a mature faith that will stay with them all of their lives. In this regard, a youth ministry of eight teenagers may be more successful than one of eighty if the eight all grow up to be faithful Christians while half of the eighty fall away. As long as we judge the success of our youth ministries by how many people we are getting in the door, then we are likely to neglect the importance of long-term faithfulness and also try some questionable methods to get them to show up in the first place, which directly ties into the next principle.

(3) Be Careful How You Attract Young People.

It has been said, “What you win them with is what you win them to.” Basically, the idea is that if you get lots of people to come to your church by building a really nice building, then you haven’t really brought in a lot of disciples, you’ve brought in a lot of people who appreciate comfort and architecture and aren’t necessarily opposed to Jesus. If you get lots of people to come to your youth group by having lots of fun and exciting events, then you’re really just building a group of people who like to have fun—even if it’s good clean fun—rather than a committed group of disciples. But if you get people to come to your church or your youth group by teaching them about Jesus or offering genuine Christian community, then you’re building a group that is focused on learning about Jesus and trying to follow Him and live as His church.

(4) Pay Attention to Young Adults.

The years after high school are challenging ones. During this time the influence of parents diminishes, and young people really begin to determine for themselves what kind of people they are going to be and what they will believe. This isn’t a time when young people should just be graduated from a youth group and ignored, but rather a time when they should be specifically targeted and ministered to. Develop challenging Bible classes targeted at young people in this age bracket. Encourage them to continue their involvement in the youth program as chaperones, teachers, and helpers. For those students who are going off to college, make every effort to connect them to a church or campus ministry group. Most vibrant congregations arevibrant because they have found a way to retain and develop their young adults; most declining congregations are ones which have no young adults to speak of.

Ultimately, I think that youth ministry comes down to an issue of stewardship: as congregations, what are we doing with the young people that God is entrusting to our care? The statistics have shown that our track record has not been very good, but with a few changes in the way we think about youth ministry, a lot of hard work, and God’s grace, our future can be greater than our past.

[1]Kara E. Powell and Chap Clark, Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011): 15. Kendra Creasy Dean, “Proclaiming Salvation: Youth Ministry for the Twenty-First Century Church,” Theology Today 56, no. 4 (January 2000): 525, states that “more than half of those confirmed as adolescents leave the church by age seventeen.”

[2]Flavil R. Yeakley, Jr., Why They Left: Listening to Those Who Have Left Churches of Christ (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 2012): 39. Yeakley’s findings are somewhat more hopeful than the others upon closer examination: while fifty-eight percent remain affiliated with Churches of Christ, only twenty percent abandon their faith in Christ, with an additional twenty-one percent joining denominational groups. Even still, these findings are less than ideal.

Bible Class: Bringing Teens and Parents Together

stickyfaith-parent-edition

A couple of weeks ago I published a review of the book Sticky Faith, and described how much I liked it and how influential it has been in my thoughts about youth ministry. In that post, I mentioned that I had been teaching a Bible class on that book, and I wanted to briefly share some thoughts and information about that class.

What We Did

For a quarter (roughly the beginning of January to the end of March), we had our teens and their parents combined in one class together. Each family received a copy of Sticky Faith, and was encouraged to read one chapter each week in preparation for class.

When we met together each week, the class would be divided into smaller groups—sometimes we had parent groups and student groups, and sometimes we grouped families together. Each week we would review that week’s chapter and try to cover the main points which the book had presented, and then give discussion question to our small groups to talk about.

Our small groups would then share what they had discussed with the entire class.

What Was Good About It

At times I felt that our class struggled with continuity and momentum because we missed a few weeks because of bad weather, but on the whole, I felt that the class was very beneficial for our youth group and our parents. I am glad that we did it for at least a few reasons.

First, it helped our parents become much more informed about what was going on in our youth ministry. I spend a significant amount of time trying to communicate and publicize the things we are doing as a youth group (trips, devotionals, youth rallies, etc.):

  • Every week I write an article in our church bulletin which announces and emphasizes these events.
  • A calendar of upcoming events is posted on our youth group bulletin board.
  • Events are announced publicly in our worship assemblies.
  • I tell the students over and over and over again about upcoming events.
  • On a fairly regular basis, I send out text reminders to students and parents about certain events.
  • Less regularly, I post information on our youth group Facebook page.

Despite all of these efforts, I routinely have students and parents act like they have no idea what is going on. It is a frustrating thing. But those concerns were largely eliminated, at least for one quarter. It was nice each week to be able to mention upcoming events directly to parents when I had their attention, and I noticed increased participation as a result.

This was certainly not the purpose of the class and it’s not something that I can do every week, but it was a nice side effect.

Secondly, it was good for our parents and teens to learn practical ways to build a lifelong faith. That is what Sticky Faith is all about—practical things that parents and families can do each day that help to build a faith that lasts for a lifetime instead of getting shelved after high school.

As I mentioned in my book review, there is a ton of helpful information in Sticky Faith, and a class like this was a very helpful way to ensure that our teens and especially their parents were exposed to this material.

Third, it was good for our parents to hear from their kids. It’s no secret that it can be hard for parents and their teenage children to communicate with one another. One of the nice things about this class was that it provided an environment for that to happen. As our student small groups reported out the results of their discussion, parents got to hear about things that were important to their kids and learn more about how they think.

Fourth, it was good for our kids to hear from their parents. The reverse was also true. Teens do get to hear from their parents, but a lot of times it is in the form of a lecture after they’ve messed up somehow. Getting to hear their parents publicly express their love, concern, faults, and ideas was a powerful thing for our students.

Sticky Faith class

Overall, this was a class model that I enjoyed, and I plan on using it again. It won’t become our primary educational model (there’s a lot to be said for developmentally appropriate, age-based instruction), but having our students and their parents learning side by side and learning from one another is an important thing, and one that we want to continue to develop as part of our educational program.

One final, but important note: lest you think that I came up with all of this on my own, I want to give full credit to my friend Joseph, who taught a similar class at his church and was gracious enough to give me pointers and share his (excellent) class notes and resources with me. Joseph is a great youth minister, and his thoughts have been helpful and influential for me.

The Current Crisis in Youth Ministry

CrisisNote: This post is part of a larger project which you can read in full here.

It is well documented that a large percentage of teenagers who are active in church life and have committed their lives to Christ walk away from that commitment after graduating from high school and their youth groups. A study done in conjunction with the Fuller Youth Institute suggests that 40-50 percent of teenagers will leave their faith behind during their college years[1], and statistician Flavil Yeakley, who focuses in particular on Churches of Christ, presents a similar figure, saying that only 58 percent retain their church affiliation after growing up and leaving home.[2]

Extending Society’s Problems To The Church

Although there are certainly several factors at play in this low retention rate, one problem which ministry experts and researchers have cited repeatedly is age segregation, or, the way “…churches have systematically isolated young people from the very relationships that are most likely to lead them to maturity.”[3]

This is part of a larger societal issue, where teens have less frequent contact with adults than ever before (including their parents), and what contact they do have tends to occur in “…role-specific ways with adults who are paid to spend time with them.”[4] One particularly disturbing study illustrates the extreme unavailability of adults in teenagers’ lives, revealing that teens spend less than seven percent of their waking hours with any adults.[5] In churches, this age segregation is played out in a number of ways, including Bible classes divided by age group, having separate worship for children and teenagers (sometimes in a separate building), paying a youth minister to interact with teens so parents and other adults do not need or have to, and frequent youth trips which physically and emotionally remove young people from the rest of the congregation.

The net result is that by the time teens have graduated from high school, they have spent a vast amount of time doing “church activities” with the youth group, but have had little real interaction with the church at large.[6] In a sense, the youth group becomes almost a parallel congregation,[7] so it is no great surprise that when teens graduate from the youth group, they struggle to remain loyal to the larger congregation or to their faith. As John Roberto observes, “Teenagers do not leave the church; the church and teens were never introduced!”[8]

In most traditional youth ministry programs, this age segregation extends to families as parents are typically separated from their teens and the task of spiritual formation is outsourced to a youth minister. This divorce of parents from the task of discipling their children is extremely unfortunate: it is not only a departure from biblical example, but also research overwhelmingly indicates that parents are the “primary spiritual influencers of their children.”[9] Parents do not simply have more spiritual influence on their kids than the church does; they have more influence over them than any group does.[10] To put it another way, regardless of the efforts of a youth minister to help the process of spiritual formation in teens, if parents are not also engaged in the process they are unlikely to be effective since children are so greatly influenced by what their parents do.

No Youth Ministry At All?

Observations and realizations such as those mentioned above have led some to conclude that youth ministry should be done away with altogether, and I’ve seen some go as far as to say that these results aren’t surprising since the Bible doesn’t authorize youth ministry in the first place.

But I don’t buy that. From a sociological and developmental perspective, adolescence didn’t even exist when the Bible was written, and the reality is that teenagers are developmentally very different from adults, and therefore, need special attention.

So the solution to the problem of bad youth ministry isn’t no youth ministry, it’s good youth ministry!

And I think good youth ministry would seek to disciple children by combining the strengths and efforts of the local congregation (including the youth minister) and the family. If we can learn to work together to do that, I think we’ll see a dramatic change in the long-term faith of our young people.[11]

If you’re interested in reading more about how we are seeking to do this at the church where I serve, click here.


[1]Kara E. Powell and Chap Clark, Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011): 15. Other sources suggest different percentages. Kendra Creasy Dean, “Proclaiming Salvation: Youth Ministry for the Twenty-First Century Church,” Theology Today 56, no. 4 (January 2000): 525, states that “more than half of those confirmed as adolescents leave the church by age seventeen.” Wesley Black, “Youth Ministry That Lasts: The Faith Journey of Young Adults,” Journal of Youth Ministry 4, no. 2 (Spring 2006): 19, cites a Southern Baptist Convention study which found that “88 percent of the children raised in evangelical homes leave church at the age of 18, never to return.” Although the findings of these studies differ, they all point to the fact that an alarming number of young Christians are leaving the church after high school.

[2]Flavil R. Yeakley, Jr., Why They Left: Listening to Those Who Have Left Churches of Christ (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 2012): 39. Yeakley’s findings are somewhat more hopeful than the others upon closer examination: while fifty-eight percent remain affiliated with Churches of Christ, only twenty percent abandon their faith in Christ, with an additional twenty-one percent joining denominational groups. Even still, these findings are less than ideal.

[3]Mark DeVries, Family-Based Youth Ministry, Rev. ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004): 36.

[4]Don C. Richter, Doug Magnuson, and Michael Baizerman, “Reconceiving Youth Ministry,” Religious Education 93, no. 3 (Summer 1998): 349. This would include the specific roles played by teachers, coaches, and youth ministers.

[5]DeVries, 37-38. Later, speaking of this same trend, DeVries, 91, astutely and sadly observes, “It has become a novelty for a teenager and an adult to have more than a passing conversation.”

[6]There is certainly a place for age-specific groupings, but they need to be kept in balance with intergenerational interaction.

[7]Carol Duerksen, Building Together: Developing Your Blueprint for Congregational Youth Ministry (Newton, KS: Faith & Life Resources, 2001): 42.

[8]John Roberto, “Our Future Is Intergenerational,” Christian Education Journal 3rd ser., 9 (Spring 2012): 110.

[9]Brenda Snailum, “Implementing Intergenerational Youth Ministry Within Existing Evangelical Church Congregations: What Have We Learned?” Christian Education Journal, 3rd ser., 9 (Spring 2012): 173.

[10]Reggie Joiner, Think Orange: Imagine The Impact When Church And Family Collide (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2009): 85-88, estimates that churches only have about forty hours of influence a year with a young person, while the average parent has approximately 3,000 hours a year to spend with their children. Wesley Black, “Youth Ministry That Lasts: The Faith Journey Of Young Adults,” Journal of Youth Ministry 4 (Spring 2006): 20, “Many facts contribute to the development of religious involvement among youth, but parents easily constitute the strongest influence, whether positive or negative.”

[11]Joiner, 24-27.

Deeper Youth Conference, March 14-15, 2014

Deeper Logo (Blues) PNGI am pleased to announce an exciting event that will take place in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on March 14-15, 2014: the Deeper Youth Conference.

The Problem

If you are a Christian and have been paying attention, you’re probably aware that we have a lot of work to do when it comes to helping our young people grow up to be lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ. Studies have shown that about half of our young people are leaving the church after they graduate from high school.[1] Furthermore, American teens struggle to put into words what the Christian faith is all about, and what’s worse, many of them don’t even know what it is about, and have replaced the teachings of Scripture and the demands of discipleship with a watered-down Christianity which makes them feel good. Jesus is viewed as someone who will come to their aid when they are in trouble, but doesn’t make any demands of their lives.[2]

What is the Deeper Youth Conference?

These realities should not cause us to wring our hands in despair, but they should cause us to do something to address the problem. It is in the context of this problem, and our desire to fight against it, that my good friend Jake Greer (the youth minister at the Center Street Church of Christ in Fayetteville) and I developed the idea for the Deeper Youth Conference. This will be a two-day event for 6th-12th graders and as mentioned above, will take place on March 14-15, 2014 at the Center Street Church of Christ in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

There are a lot of youth conferences out there and they all have their strengths and benefits. What we hope to emphasize at Deeper is a slate of quality classes that will help teens to address tough issues, deepen their faith, and learn what Christianity is really about while they are still teens. In other words, the Deeper Youth Conference has been specifically designed to combat the problems regarding young people and their faith mentioned above.

We have already done a lot of planning to make this event a reality, and I am excited about the speakers and teachers we have lined up so far. You can find more information about this event, including the schedule and speakers, cost, and registration information at our website or Facebook page (information is being continually added).

How You Can Help

Hopefully, the information you have read in this post has excited you, and maybe you’re wondering how you can help out. Here are three huge ways you can help us out:

(1) Pray for this event. Jake and I are working hard to make this a successful event, be we know that ultimately, it will only be an effective means of building faith in our teens by the power and glory of God. Please pray for God to bless our efforts, and teenagers to be powerfully influenced.

(2) Bring your teens. If you are a youth minister, or an elder, or a youth deacon, or a parent, do what you can to get the teens or youth group from your church to decide to take part in this event. I’m confident that it will be a quality event, but obviously teens need to be present at it in order to benefit from it.

(3) Publicize it. If you have connections or influence with other youth ministers or youth groups, share this information with them and encourage them to take part as well. We are doing all that we can to publicize Deeper and spread the word about it, but your help would be greatly appreciated.


[1] See Kara E. Powell and Chap Clark, Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids and Flavil R. Yeakley, Jr., Why They Left: Listening to Those Who Have Left Churches of Christ.

[2] See Kenda Creasy Dean, Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, and Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. These authors refer to this watered-down version of feel-good Christianity as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”, and you can read a brief description of it on Wikipedia.

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