Monday, July 23, 2007

Kids say e-mail is, like, soooo dead

It's American based research, but it's still interesting ...

'E-mail is, like, soooo dead' is the headline at, where a piece looks at youth attitudes towards communication mediums. A group of teenage internet business entrepreneurs confessed that they really only use email to 'talk to adults'. Primarily, these folks are using social networks to communicate. 'More and more, social networks are playing a bigger role on the cell phone. In the last six to nine months, teens in the United States have taken to text messaging in numbers that rival usage in Europe and Asia. According to market research firm JupiterResearch, 80 percent of teens with cell phones regularly use text messaging. Catherine Cook, the 17-year-old founder and president of, was the lone teen entrepreneur who said she still uses e-mail regularly to keep up with camp friends or business relationships. Still, that usage pales in comparison to her habit of text messaging. She said she sends a thousand text messages a month.

Article summary taken from

Friday, July 20, 2007

Youth Leader Training Syllabus

I’ve been thinking more since first posting about training youth leaders. In particular thinking about planning a training strategy. Most of the youth leader training programs I’ve come across so far take a grab-bag of ideas that the trainer perceives as important for leadership and teaches about them. Thus, there may be training topics on the spiritual life of a leader, how to run a small group, or the strategy of youth ministry. Whilst topics such as these are vital to youth leader training, I think it could be helpful to have a broader structure that helps each training topic fit into a whole training strategy. Below are my first thoughts on how this could be done.

I think it would be helpful to have four broad training modules, which would link together as shown in the diagram below. There would be a number of training topics that would make up each module.

Youth leaders do not progress through the modules in order, as if they first gain a complete understanding of the bible and then move on to think about culture. Rather, the arrows show how each module provides foundational material for others. We should aim for youth leaders who are consistently maturing in each of the four areas.

I'll post some thoughts about what topics might be covered under each module over the next week or two.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Good Parenting Books?

Below is a review of 'The Danger of Raising Nice Kids' by Timothy Smith that I've just finished for the Journal of Youth and Theology. I've given it a mixed review, some good bits some average bits.

Part of caring for young people is encouraging their parents. Are there any good Christian parenting books you would recommend?

And as an added bonus, I'll post a free copy of 'The Danger of Raising Nice Kids' to the first person who asks for it (email to youthatnowrabaptistdotasndotau)

The Danger of Raising Nice Kids
By Smith, Timothy, IVP Books (Downers Grove, Illinois: 2006), 202p. ISBN 0830833757 (pbk).

Timothy Smith, author of The Danger of Raising Nice Kids, has written numerous books to equip parents to raise their children and teenagers. In this book, his underlying assumption is that most parents are not raising their children well, not out of neglect, but simply because ‘they don’t know how’ (p13). Smith takes the role of a parenting expert, promising that his advice will take readers to ‘the next level of parenting’ (p12).

Smith outlines his thesis in the first two chapters, which he summarises as ‘nice is not enough’ (p12). That is, socialising children to have nice exterior behaviour is not an adequate parenting goal. Rather, parenting should be seen as discipling a child (p28). Moreover, parents should aim at moulding the heart and mind of their children. Smith proposes nine virtues, or traits, that ought to be fostered by parents. These nine virtues are vision, authenticity, listening, empathy, compassion, discernment, boundaries, contentment, and passionate love. The majority of the book comprises discussion about these nine virtues, with a chapter devoted to each. In each chapter, Smith shares a number of anecdotal stories about teenagers, interspersed with his own observations and practical tips about how parents might nurture the particular virtue under discussion.

The Danger of Raising Nice Kids displays several strengths. Smith’s central thesis is helpful. I am sure all youth ministry practitioners would agree that ‘nice is not enough’ and also with the goal of fostering virtuous young people. Moreover, Smith’s writing is often warm and easy-going. The range of practical tips he provides is both helpful and empowering to parents. He even includes three appendices with a range of worksheets and activities for families to do together. Personally, I believe that one of the most effective ways youth ministry practitioners can care for young people is to care for their parents. Therefore, resources such as Smith’s book can have a helpful role in building up parents, and consequently strengthening young people also.

Despite the outlined strengths, the Danger of Raising Nice Kids has a significant overarching weakness. Smith has aimed to write a Christian book, and refers God and the Bible at numerous points. However I felt like the central truths that ought to orientate all of the Christian life were missing. Smith has no discussion about how Christ’s death and resurrection, the certain hope of his return, or any other significant Christian truth, should be shaping parental goals for their children. Having proposed that ‘nice is not enough’ Smith moves immediately to a list of virtues. Whilst each of these virtues may be noble, I was left wondering why he chose those virtues in particular, and not others such as humility, patience, or hope. Moreover, I wonder why obvious biblical material such as Paul’s virtue lists go unmentioned. Smith’s list appears to be the nine virtues that came to mind when he was writing the book, rather than a list of virtues self consciously driven by a Christian worldview. Indeed, some of the traits Smith promotes, such as vision and boundaries, appear to be drawn more from fashionable pop-psychology than biblical Christianity.

To be fair, Smith may have done a significant amount of groundwork in deriving his virtue list from Christian doctrine, but if so, left his working out of the book. In its current form, I fear that all The Danger of Raising Nice Kids has succeeded in doing is presenting parents with a better way of achieving nicety in their children. That is, by focusing on virtue rather than external behaviour, parents may encourage children to be nice all the way through, rather than only nice on the exterior. However I don’t think that even ‘nice all the way through’ is enough. In my opinion, if young people are going to become culturally radical disciples of Christ, then they must know why virtue is important, and how virtue is grounded in Christian truth.

Smith’s book may be helpful to the youth ministry practitioner. The practical parenting tips and activities in the appendices are resources that encourage healthy families, and healthy young people. However, Smith leaves too much unsaid for The Danger of Raising Nice Kids to be a solid stand-alone resource.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Lost and Found: The Series

Series aim:
1) To see that Jesus came to seek and save the lost
2) To see that without Jesus you are lost
3) To see that only through the death of Jesus can you be found

I'm writing a series of talks and studies on Lost and Found. These aren't talks or studies... just some of my thinking in preparation. Stay tuned for the talks on
In #1 we see that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. Throughout #2-9 we meet a whole bunch of different people - both real and fictional - who were lost. Some realised it. Others didn't. If you aren't a follower of Jesus and you've stumbled onto my blog (or you're a regular reader) - let me encourage you to see yourself clearly: you are lost... and see Jesus clearly: he died and rose so that you could be forgive and have life eternal.

Shout out to James and the peeps at Central Espresso - the Best Coffee in Gosford - it kept me going with all my early starts (6am in Gosford is very early for a night owl!) over the last couple of weeks.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

How To Measure Success?

How do you measure the success of a youth ministry? Should you even try?

I rekon the easiest, but least reliable, way to measure is by counting numbers.

I rekon the most relible, but difficult, way to measure is by the growth of God's kingdom as kids come to Christ and grow in Christ.

What do you think?