Wednesday, October 19, 2016

3 books every youth pastor needs to read

We recently called a new Junior High Director to serve on our staff team. Its been such a joy having her on the team. Basically ever since my call to ministry I've had a passion to see students find and follow Jesus. At first I was hands on in this, then I began training more leaders and now I'm in a spot where I get to empower younger leaders to lead.

In the transition it reminded me of being a new youth pastor. It reminded me of how much I didn't know when I started in ministry and how much I still have to learn (leaders are learners). As I thought about what I wish I would have known it clicked, there were three books that I had to recommend to Michelle!

Here are three books that I think every new youth pastor needs to read

1) Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry
I had been in full-time student ministries for a whole 5 weeks when my pastor Chad Blood brought to the PDYM (Purpose Driven Youth Ministry) Conference. At this conference I heard about youth ministry in a whole new way. I listened to great speakers, talked with other leaders and bought this book.

Doug has a passion to to help youth pastors be successful in ministry. This book is a hands down survival tool for thriving in your first few years of ministry. Doug covers important issues such as: dealing with discouragement, ministering to parents and families, leading leaders, working with volunteers, resolving conflict and much more.

The added bonus for me, on this book, was going through it with a fellow intern. After the PDYM conference Charity Fairfield and I meet on a weekly basis to talk about this book. Who would have guessed that less than two years later we would be married. Thanks Doug for writing this book and giving me the tools I needed as a young youth pastor. Thanks Chad for having Charity and I read the book together, I may owe you both for setting us up!

2) Criticism Bites
Every youth pastor (and leader) that I know has experienced criticism at some point in their life. Brian Berry does a great job at sharing how he has handled criticism. When the book first came out my whole staff team went through it. Read what the back of the book says:

Maybe you've asked that question because you're tired of the relentless, nagging voice in your head saying you should quit, or you're inadequate, or your shortcomings are what people will remember most about you. Perhaps you're simply discouraged, frustrated, burned out, or isolated because of the criticism you've endured.
This book is for you.

After nearly 20 years as a pastor, Brian Berry has come to the conclusion that we cannot escape the critics, but we can learn how to think through and respond to them in healthy ways. Put another way: Criticism isn't something you solve. It's something you manage.

Drawing from his own experiences, Brian will guide you through the painful but necessary journey we face in life. He'll examine why criticism hurts so bad, and he'll discuss specific methods and strategies for handling it--including those times when critical words reveal insight and truth from God. When you face criticism, the best response isn't to hide, run away, or quit. The answer is to search your soul, pick yourself back up, and determine how you can deal with, respond to, and learn from the critics.

3) What Matters Most; When NO is Better Than YES
This quick read is a must for anyone in ministry. This book is not confined to the realm of youth ministry. Doug taps on his decades of pastoral leadership to help give leaders the confidence to give the best response. When I read this book I found myself struggling with people pleasing and saying "yes" to every request. I thought it was my job to be super-pastor.

If you can't remember the last time you said "no" to someone then you're on the road to death. It is impossible to say "yes" to every request, wedding, speaking engagement, small group, missions request, family crisis and other requests. I found myself struggling with feeling like I had to say "yes" to every request because that is what Jesus would do... I was so wrong!

This book gave me the freedom and power to say "no" more. It was tough at first but in the long run it has been so healthy for me, my family, the ministry I lead and my spiritual growth. In this read Doug gives you permission to say "no" more and helps set up youth pastors to have a thriving ministry!

What books would you add to this list?

Sunday, October 16, 2016


This weekend it rained most of the weekend here on the San Francisco Peninsula. When that happens you have two choices: stay inside and watch movies or go outside and stomp in puddles. Our kids did a little bit of both!

Puddle Jumping
On Saturday I was officiating a wedding for a great couple and Charity sent me this picture of Isaiah. It was his first rain (that he knows of). All weekend long he kept saying, "wawa". It was so cute! He loves water and you can see it in his face in this picture. When I think back to my childhood it reminds me of the blissful joy on splashing in puddles. There is something innocent about running around in the rain and splashing in puddles.

I also love his Batman jacket. He is so cute in it! He has his first pair of rain boots and like any little boy he never wants to take them off his feet. Today, he asked me three times to put them on. When I say asked me, he brought them over to me and said "shoes shoes".

Good Morning
This morning (Sunday) Isaiah woke up at 4:30am. Just read that sentence one more time because it's true. Charity went in to check on him and he had a hard time getting back to sleep. Obviously we also had a hard time getting back to sleep. Finally Charity said to me, "Let's pray for him together." It was a wise decision from my wife. We were both begging God, separately, for our little guy to fall back asleep.

After we prayed together he ended up falling back asleep. He kept sleeping and sleeping and sleeping. He finally woke up just after 6:40am. Normally I get to see him more on Sunday morning but this Sunday it was going to be quick so I went in to wake him up. He had the biggest smile on his face and was just stoked to see me.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Back from my Social Media

Last month I took a break from social media and... it was exactly what I needed.

If you missed the post where I explained what I was doing you can find it here.

My goal in taking the month off was to accomplish three things:
1) Re-center my life on Christ
2) Engage fully with my family
3) Redeem my time spent on social media

As I look back on the time off I can defiantly say I was able to accomplish my goals. I feel like my focus is more fully in Christ than it's been in years. I used some of the time where I may normally be scrolling through a newsfeed to be praying. Instead of being so concerned with sharing pictures I was more focused on sharing Christ. Instead of caring about what was happening in others lives I cared more about what was happening in my kids lives.

One struggle I noticed this summer was I would pull out my phone instead of engaging with my family. I'd come home from work and instead of hanging out with my kids I'd plop on the couch and pull out my phone. Instead of putting my phone in the room and leaving it there to charge, I would check emails and answer text messages.

When I look back on my break I can honestly say this was a great month for me with my kids. Part of the benefit is I didn't have any work related travel so I was able to travel and focus on them. Instead of being concerned about getting the best shot for Instagram I was concerned with being the best dad for my kids. Instead of being focused on getting the right date planned for my wife and sharing the picture on Facebook, I was intentional about being with my life. I feel more engaged with my family then ever!

The final goal really would be the "proof in the pudding". It took a few weeks (almost two to be exact) to think less and less about social media. But once the thoughts had stopped consuming me it became easier to take control of the time God has given me. I didn't have any desire to log-on to social media because I wanted to be present in my current situation.

As I think about re engaging on social media now I have done very little. I posted once on Instagram and twice on Facebook. Twitter is actually my favorite platform but I haven't been on much (I have used tweetdeck to slot posts). I'm sure I will slowly re-engage more and post more often, but right now I'm happy with the balance in my life and where my focus is. I'd prefer to keep it this way because I think I've chosen what is best.

This was by far the best distancing from social media I've done and I think it's because of the plan I started with.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Preparing for Victory

Last month our church started a new teaching series through the book of Joshua called Ventures in Faith. The book of Joshua is a fantastic book that details the Israelites transition from a group of wandering nomads to occupying the Promised Land.

On September 18 I preached on how the Israelites prepared for victory. Watch the sermon and my guess is you will be as shocked as I was on how God's people prepare for victory!

9/18/2016 - Neal Benson | Preparing for Victory from Central Peninsula Church on Vimeo.