Monthly Archives: June 2013

What are you reading this summer?

I have a friend who loves to say that in life, and especially ministry, one’s ability to  lead is directly related to one’s commitment to read.

I have another friend who objects to that statement.  He suggests that reading is good, but that leadership requires traits that cannot simply be developed by reading about them.

In some ways I think they are both right.  However, I tend to agree with the first statement the most.  I know that in my own personal life,  a lack of reading sabotages my confidence and effectiveness.  Certainly it is true that leadership requires courage, conviction, and commitment.  It is also true that the inner man is not fortified in these areas without the infusing of God’s presence.  God equips us for his work by calling us to a task, equipping us through Scripture, and conviction from the Holy Spirit.

But God has not called us as leaders to check our minds at the door.  We do not simply read instruction manuals (in our case lesson books) to those we lead.  We believe that God is the author of all truth, and that educated and experienced men and women follow God’s leading to communicate truth through books.  It is also clear that books influence culture.  Through the wisdom of God and the discernment of the Holy Spirit, we are called as leaders to engage the messages of our culture and separate what is good and healthy from what is not.  As teachers, we apply God’s truth to life in the midst of a culture that is largely being informed by what it reads.  One of my jobs in college and seminary was as a bookseller and Department Manager at Barnes and Noble.  Trust me, people are devouring what the New York Times tells them are the “must reads” of the summer, almost without consideration for the subject matter.  I have seen books fly off of the shelves in staggering quantities, simply because Oprah recommended them.

During the summer, many of our people are finding more time to read than they do during other parts of the year.  You may be finding the same to be true in your own life.  What are the books your small group members are reading this summer?  What are you reading?  Allow me to suggest three reasons that reading should be a priority for you this summer.

(We all know and agree that healthy discipleship involves reading the Bible.  It should go without saying that reading God’s Word is a crucial element to your personal health as a follower of Christ, your ability to discern truth, and your effectiveness as a teacher/leader.  Without steady and purposeful intake of God’s Word, the mental skill of separating truth from lies in culture is impossible.  When recommending books to our people, though this point should go without saying…go ahead and say it anyway.)

1. People in your small group are spending their summer reading.  Do you know what books they are into?  This is not a suggestion that you grill your people about their summer reading list, but I am suggesting that you pay attention to what they are talking about. The books they are drifting off to as they fall asleep each night are informing the way they look at the world.  Those ideas are in competition with what you are teaching on Sundays.  Or are they in agreement?  Where appropriate, ask people what they are reading, and share what you are.

2.  It is good when leaders can make good and healthy book recommendations to their people.  There is power in a book recommendation. It’s always good to have read a book that you are recommending, so you may need to go pick one up.  Whether it is fiction, history, biography, or Christian inspiration, you have the opportunity to inform your people’s reading choices.  Do a little research and make a meaningful suggestion.  Share your summer reading list with your class.

3.  Purposeful reading familiarizes you with the world of literature that is influencing our culture.  When making a reading choice, consider the author (what is their background, education?), who are the people who endorse the book (what organizations are they associated with, are they reputable?), and who is the publisher (what other books are they publishing, do they specialize in a genre or are they all over the map?).  I am always happy to talk with you about these factors.  I can recommend authors, help you evaluate endorsements, or talk about trustworthy publishers.

Here is a book that I have recently started.

Lifes Healing Choices

It’s called Life’s Healing Choices.  Here are some of the factors I evaluated in making the choice to spend my time on it.  The author is John Baker, who has served on staff at Saddleback Church, and is the author of Celebrate Recovery, which is a wonderful Christ centered program for addiction recovery.  Rick Warren wrote the Forward, and I know him to be a trustworthy source. Finally, the book was published by Howard Books, which is the primary imprint at Simon & Schuster for faith-based books and a member of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.  They do  publish some books that are not faith based, but generally have a good reputation.  Again, all these factors together led me to feel confident that this book was one worth reading.  It is a subject that I want to learn more about, and I read with discernment based on what the scripture teaches.  An informed choice in picking a book can reduce the wasted time and money of getting a book and then realizing it isn’t trustworthy.

What are you reading this summer?

Categories: Keeps People Connected, Studies God's Word Together, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Quick User Review of

The following is a quick review of my experience using to prepare a bible study lesson.

The primary difference between my experience and yours is that I was preparing a Bible study from scratch using only a Bible text and you will be using a written curriculum as well as the Bible text.  The review will still be meaningful to you I think, because you no doubt seek to use additional study tools when reviewing your lesson curriculum and preparing to teach.

First things first, The main tabs you will need to familiarize yourself with are the tabs at the top and the drop down tabs on the right hand side of the page.  The most useful tab at the top is the “Library” tab.  There really is an impressive amount of information there in terms of Bible versions, commentaries, dictionaries, and video series.  All by Broadman & Holeman of course, produced by Lifeway.  That’s fine with me because they are excellent. is produced by Lifeway, so naturally they showcase their resources and you can easily make purchases from the site if you want a hard copy resource at home.

The central pane of the website is where you will do your reading, and is organized by tabs as well when you open different resources.  It’s pretty user friendly.  The Bible texts are well presented, and if you hover your cursor over underlined words there is excellent word study research available.mybiblestudy

Here are some highlights:

Most Helpful Tabs:

The top Library tab: use the Bibles and commentaries.  I found them convenient and resourceful.

The Bible Study Notes tab on the right hand side of the screen:  These tabs provided pretty good contextual insight, referring to other texts in the scriptures.  Under the HCSB Study Bible heading, click on “Read”.  This provides good study guide notes on the text.  The other study guides are for sale and not for use on the site, but the HCSB Study Bible is very insightful.

The Pronunciation Tab:  This was good for me as I was teaching an old testament text with some hard to pronounce names.

The Video Player Tool tab:  There was a 6 minute video on my passage that totally influenced my insight into the text.

Least Helpful Tabs: 

The Topical Concordance tab:  This seems to be designed to show you resources you can purchase, not readily use on the site.

The Commentary tab:  Use the Library tab on the top bar for commentaries.  This tab on the right hand side seems designed to sell you commentaries rather than provide immediately accessible information.

There are certain features that are available only if you “sign in”, and I would recommend spending some time on the site before you sign in, so you can know if you feel you will use it frequently enough to warrant keeping up with another username and password.

You can use the Options tab to personalize the site if you like it enough.

All in all I found the site to be useful enough that I will refer to it in the future when preparing lessons.  I hope this quick review has been helpful and might save you some time in exploring this resource.

Again, thank you for all that you do, and if I can ever serve you, please let me know.



Categories: Studies God's Word Together, Sunday School | Leave a comment

4 Ideas to Fire up Sunday School this Summer

Summer is here. We all know that Summer can be challenging when trying to maintain a high interest level in our churches and small groups. Summer brings free time and distractions, vacations happen, and regular routines are out the window. Hopefully that doesn’t mean that church attendance is out the window…but sometimes it does.

If the church just chugs along with business as usual, we make it easier for people to check out. I think that this is especially true in Sunday School. Summer offers opportunities for Sunday School groups to do some different, and creative activities which accomplish our vision (Keeps People Connected), and drive up the interest level . Here are a few suggestions:

1. Outdoor service projects. Meet on a Saturday morning and clean a senior citizen’s yard.
grill Have someone in your church or group who was in the hospital or has a newborn? Meet on a Saturday, or an evening and do their yard work together. It’s a way to reach out, and stay connected. Remember, we are Organized to Serve! Small groups that serve together, stay together.

2. Host a block party to create interest in your small group. There’s someone in your group that lives in a neighborhood which would be open to a block party. Have several people in your group bring their grills, pass out invitations to everyone on your street a week ahead of time, plan some games for the kids, and end the evening by inviting your neighbors to join you for Sunday School and worship. This is a great way to Reach out to New People!

3. Pick a Friday night and have everyone in your small group invite a neighbor over to their home for dinner. If you have 10 families in your small group, with everyone participating that would be 10 new families receiving an evening of relationship building and a personal invitation to Sunday School and worship that weekend.

4. Take advantage of the church’s 4th of July community outreach. On the evening of July 4th, the church is hosting a fellowship for the community that will feature free food, fireworks, inflatables for kids, and the band Big Blue Planet. Set up a tent for your Sunday School group and invite all of your neighbors to attend. Treat it as a Sunday School class fellowship. The point is to experience it together, and invite a friend.


If I can help you with resources or brainstorming for any of these events, I will be more than happy to. Last summer we enjoyed strong attendance throughout, and with some creativity and hard work this summer can be even better! Thanks for all you do. Always contact me if you need anything at all!

Categories: Keeps People Connected, Organized to Serve, Reaches Out to New People, Studies God's Word Together, Sunday School, Wants to Grow | Leave a comment

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