Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: The Eric Trap

Book Review: The Eric Trap

It’s been a while since I read a book as quickly as I read The Eric Trap.  But, here’s the thing, I care about Eric Newman.  Having not read the book, you might be wondering who Eric Newman is and why I care about him.  The Eric Trap, a book written as a collaborative effort by Jim Wideman, Sam Luce & Kenny Conley, is told as a fable of sorts that walks the reader through a week in the life of Eric Newman, Children’s Pastor at New Hope Community Church.  Eric is your typical kids’ pastor and is a character I could quickly relate to.  As Eric faces the typical challenges those of us in ministry face each week (disgruntled volunteers, painful meetings, time away from our family, etc), it’s easy to see a little bit of ourselves in his thoughts and reactions.  Which leads me to the things I dig.

Things I dig

Not only is The Eric Trap a fable about a guy you learn to relate to, but it offers advice throughout for how those of us in children’s ministry can avoid the mistakes and situations that seem to drag Eric down.  I love a good story, but I’m also someone who really appreciates tangible next steps – The Eric Trap is able to pull off both, which I wasn’t expecting and was pleasantly surprised to discover.  The writing style of the book makes this an easy read and something I could pass off to a friend or intern without feeling like I’m asking them to read an encyclopedia.  Before I pass it off to them, however, I’m handing it over to my wife – with permission to call me out on areas where I’m falling into the Eric Trap.  I’d encourage others in ministry to do the same.

Things that Dribbled

My one concern about this book is how a female reader will relate to the narrative.  In children’s ministry, I recognize that most people who hold my position are women – and most people who should read this book are those who are in children’s ministry.  Having said that, I think that every lesson learned is one that applies to both men and women.  My concern, though, is whether or not a female reader will relate to Eric in the same way that I do.

Wrapping Up

I now have another book that will serve as mandatory reading for my staff and for those who volunteer on our team and may one day be called to professional ministry.  This book is the best of it’s kind.  I appreciate that it was developed by those who are serving in real-life, full time ministry.  The stories within it are relatable because they happen every week in the lives of those who serve in children’s ministry.  If you have a chance to get your hands on a copy, or you’re looking for a book to add to your wish list, this is a book worth asking for.


Want to get your hands on a copy for free?

For reviewing this book, I’ve been given a copy that I can give away to a lucky reader of this blog!  All you have to do is comment on this post (by next Wednesday, 4/18) and tell me your favorite book on leadership and/or children’s ministry.  I’m always looking to expand my library – and so should you!  I’ll then randomly choose one commenter below who will receive a FREE copy of The Eric Trap.


Posted by on April 13, 2012 in Book Review, Kidmin, Resources


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Guest Post: The Price of Privilege

The following is a post from our Middle School intern, Kailyn King (@kailynking).  You can share your thoughts about the book, or questions about this post, by commenting below.

I have to say I was really excited to start this book. I’m not a parent, or a teenager anymore (granted only by a few months) but I have known and now know plenty of teens that fit the demographic of this book (including my previous self) and I was really interested to see what Dr. Levine had to say about privileged teens and their emotional problems. I have known all kinds of teens struggling with the challenges of growing up, but this is the first time that I have read a book specifically about the particular needs of teens growing up in affluence. I grew up in an affluent home in an affluent town and am now graduating from UCSD with many more affluent young people raised all over the state. This book didn’t trivialize these kid’s needs, or the challenges presented to their parents and never reduced the root of the problem to some sort of “poor rich kid” syndrome. Dr Levine was able to talk about some of the challenges of raising kids in tactful and honest way that called particular attention to the difficulties in raising kids in an environment where money is no object.

The chapter on the formation of “the healthy self” stood out to me as particularly relevant to what I have seen. With statements like “It is hard to develop an authentic self when there is constant pressure to adopt a socially facile, highly competitive, performance-oriented, unblemished “self ” that is promoted by omnipresent adults” (page 65) it was hard for me not to see a little bit of myself, and tons of other teens I grew up with being described to some extent. I know young adults who were so over scheduled as kids, so encouraged by parents and adults, so socially crafted that they get to graduation and honestly have no idea who they are. I have seen people I love go away to college and have no idea how to self regulate, how to make decisions like picking a major or class schedule for themselves. They become literally paralyzed with indecision and with lack of self awareness. Having seen this in action, Levine’s book becomes an important resource for me to understand how being raised in affluence may be a risk factor for emotional difficulties instead of being a buffer as has been suggested in most of the other sources I have read.

The next chapters of the book focus on different aspects of parenting that are affected by money and the kinds of societal norms that may emerge in areas where there is money. I won’t go into details about exactly what she covers, but I will say that I would strongly recommend giving this book a read. I think parents, prospective parents, people who work with teens or their parents could really use this book as a starting point (or a continuation of) taking a hard look at the effects of monetary comfort on their kids and teenagers. Levine is understanding and sensitive to the challenges parents face while still managing to get real about how important it is for parents to understand how what they do influences the emotional state of their kids. I know my parents fought hard to make sure to cultivate in me a sense of self and of personal ownership and responsibility and I so appreciate their hard work. I know it wasn’t easy for them to do but I have to say everything they did then is greatly appreciated by me now! This book seems like it would be a resource I would want to have if I were looking at the incredible challenge of raising kids.

I hope this was helpful, either in encouraging you to read this book or helping you decide it’s not for you.



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Book Review: 9 Things They Didn’t Teach Me In College About Children’s Ministry

At just over 100 pages, 9 Things They Didn’t Teach Me In College About Children’s Ministry is a fantastic quick-read for those of us in kids’ ministry who might not have the opportunity to spend most of our week reading books – in fact, it’s almost small enough to fit in your pocket… making it super easy to carry along on a road trip, lunch outing, or a plane ride to Maui (like I did). Ryan Frank, author and all-around good guy, keeps things simple enough to keep the reader’s attention while passing on some seriously good insights into effective children’s ministry practices. I’m trying to keep this review bite-sized (check out Elemental CM for a full directory of the other kidmin voices writing reviews on this book), so I’ll jump to some quick Digs and Dribbles.

Things I Dig

Ryan’s chapter on the importance of networking in order to keep you and your ministry healthy (Chapter 4: The World is Flat) is one of the best (and quickest!) chapters I’ve read on the subject.  Those of you who know me and connect with me regularly know that this is a passion of mine – so, it makes sense that this section would resonate with me.  Ryan offers a how-to guide for connecting – something I’ve never read in a book like this before.  If it weren’t a copyright infringement to photocopy this chapter and hand it out to my staff and kidmin colleagues, I’d be passing this chapter out at every meeting for the next year.  It’s that good.

Things that Dribbled

One of the things that works against this book is one of my favorite things about it – it’s short.  And, when I say short, I mean that each chapter is right around 10 pages and the pages of the book itself are only 7″ x 5.5″. With that said, I love how quick of a read this book is.  I never had to skip a page because the book was dragging on… which, with my busy schedule, is a rare thing.  But, if you’re looking for a manifesto or something to read over the course of a month, you might want to look somewhere else.

Wrapping Up

If you are in a network of kidmin leaders, get this book and discuss it at your next meeting.  If you aren’t connected yet to a kidmin community, get this book and read chapter 4… then discuss this book with someone you start networking with.

If you want a copy of this book, I have a free one to give away.  All you have to do is comment on this post or any other post on West Coast CM over the course of the next week and you’ll automatically be entered into a drawing for a free copy.  Consider it a “thank you” for being awesome.

If you want to check out what others are saying about this book, my friend Dan Scott ( is scheduled to post his thoughts tomorrow (Thursday, April 7) and you can follow along with the blog tour at Elemental CM (

Disclosure:  A complimentary copy of 9 Things… was provided by Standard Publishing for purposes of review.  I didn’t promise them I’d be nice… and, I’m pretty sure they’re cool with that.


Posted by on April 6, 2011 in Book Review, Kidmin, Resources


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Kidmin Book Review: Spiritual Parenting

Earlier this week, I mentioned that I’d be reviewing Spiritual Parenting by Michelle Anthony… and just that teaser post peaked interest from parents and fellow kidmin leaders.

I’ll tell you this up front – I think this is a great resource for some parents and it isn’t the right resource for many others.  I think there are truths in this book that any parent can take away, don’t get me wrong… I’m just not going to suggest that you put a copy in every parent’s hands.

Who is Spiritual Parenting written for?

Our goal as parents should be to endeavor to pass down our faith to the next generation in such a way that they will be able to pass down their faith to the following generation in our absence.

Go ahead, read that quote again.  If you agree with Michelle’s premise (and I do!), then you’re going to dig this resource.  If that doesn’t resonate with you, if that’s not the end you have in mind, then your going to struggle with the house that gets built on that foundation.

So… who is this resource for again?

The answer to this question is simple and complex.

The simple part – this book is for those of us who deeply desire to pass the faith on well to our children, our grandchildren and the generations that will follow.

The complex part – it’s not just for parents.  This book is for children’s minstry leaders, pastors, moms, dads, grandmas, teachers – anyone who can shape a child’s life and wants to shape it in a way that makes a lasting impact for generations to come.  Anyone who has the power to help shape a child’s environment should take the time to read through this resource.

Digs and Dribbles

Not familiar with what “Digs and Dribbles” means?

That’s okay… I just made it up.

Basically, there are parts of this book that I really dig.  They will shape the way I parent and the way I minister to families from here on out.  There are other parts of this book, as there are in any resource, where the content dribbles a bit.  That is, if the book were a fountain of take-aways, there are sections where the water merely dribbles out.

Things I Dig

The best gift we can give our children is the confidence to see that we believe everything is filtered (even the bad stuff) through God’s hands.  We need to release our control of their circumstances.

More than any chapter, Michelle’s chapter “A Heart of Dependence: An Environment of Out of the Comfort Zone” (chapter 7) is one that I want the families at our church to own.  I would buy this resource and pass it out to every parent in our Homebuilders class and every family that hangs out with us on Wednesday nights if you could guarantee me that 10% of them would own this value after reading the book.

I think what I dig most about Spiritual Parenting is how Michelle takes values that I think I own and challenges me as a parent to cultivate environments that help produce what God desires for my son and daughter.  Her concept of cultivating environments is fascinating – it’s going to help shape the way I parent.  Because, in the end, it’s not about perfect behavior.  It’s about passionate hearts. (her line, not mine)

Things that Dribbled

Throughout the book I kept wondering – what about the parent who isn’t “there” yet?  How do I walk a parent to a place where they care more about their child’s spiritual development than their test scores, their soccer practice or even their safety? (seriously, I DIG chapter 7)

The only dribble is that I think you need to have built a ton of trust with a parent to put this resource in their hand and have them begin to own the ideas behind it.  Let me compare this to a book I recently put in the hands of as many parents as I could – Parenting Beyond Your Capacity (this year alone, we handed out copies to over 100 families).  At their core, the parents in our community feel overwhelmed – and that book speaks to that in a mighty way!  It was easier to hand it out because it answered a felt need.  I’m not sure, in the hustle and bustle of family life, that parents know how much they need a resource like this. (but they do. They really do!)

Wrapping Up

I want families to be as transformed by this book as I have been – but, it’s going to take some work on my end.

If you’re a parent reading this post, you’re probably already in a place where this book can touch your life and your parenting style – heck, you’re already looking to have other voices and thoughts in your parenting circle.  However, if you’re a leader of parents, you’ll need to pick up a copy and start planning baby steps for the parents in your community to get to a place where they feel like they need a resource like this.  Because they do – they really do.


Order your copy here.  Share your own review here.  And, as always, share your thoughts below.

Disclosure:  A complimentary copy of Spiritual Parenting was provided by David C Cook for purposes of review.  I didn’t promise them I’d be nice… and, I’m pretty sure they’re cool with that.


Posted by on November 24, 2010 in Book Review, Kidmin, Resources


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Book Review (Preview): Spiritual Parenting

I’ve been given the opportunity to read through and review Michelle Anthony’s new book, Spiritual Parenting.  Later this week, I’ll re-read the sections that stood out to me on my first pass and write up my thoughts.

My preview: This is a great resource.  There’s a good chance it’ll be the book I put into parents hands in 2011 when they ask me for a parenting resource.  Actually, to be honest, I may put it in their hands even if they don’t know what they’re asking for.  It has that much potential.

In the meantime, I want you to read what my friend, Dan Scott, has to say about the book.  Dan’s voice in children’s ministry should carry further than my own… so there’s a chance that you’ve already read about how much he digs this new resource.

But, if you haven’t, you need to follow this link:


Posted by on November 23, 2010 in Book Review, Kidmin, Resources


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Collaborating (kind of): Dick Gruber

Children's Ministry Talk: Listen Now!


Dick Gruber: Families Serving Together

First Things First

This is no dig at Dick Gruber… but, if I have to read another chapter intro that rehashes Deuteronomy 6, I’m going to put the book down for a week.

I get the fact that each author was given a chapter to work with, and that many of us who are called to ministering to kids and families are currently wrestling with that text.  However, couldn’t there be some way that an intro to the book could talk about texts that inspire family ministry?  I’m just saying… I never thought I’d be sick of the Shema.  Yet, 8 chapters in, and I’m there.

Quick Take-Away

Dick looks like he’s done an amazing job of releasing families to serve in ministry together.  If families serving together is a new concept for you, Dick lays out multiple ways you might be able to apply this concept to your context.  However, as this chapter makes clear, you have to start with the things that people are already passionate about.  Dick didn’t go around creating program after program and forcing families to serve together.  Instead, he takes things that families are already excited about and infuses a family ministry approach to those volunteer opportunities and programs.

My take-away is going to to download some free ideas on some of the large events he’s pulled off in the past.  You may want to check them out as well.

This post is 1 of many in a series.  I’m assuming that the contributing authors of Collaborate want to have a conversation with me.  You can read my open letter to them here.


Posted by on April 21, 2010 in Book Review, Collaborate Book, Kidmin


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Collaborating (kind of): Carey Nieuwhof


Carey Nieuwhof: The Change You Need to Embrace

First Things First

Carey Nieuwhof seems to be a pretty great guy.

Next week at the Orange Conference, he’s going to be explaining to Senior Pastors from across the country why they need to take on the mission of reaching families in their communities.  I’d imagine that anyone attending his breakout would have a foot up on everyone else in the room if they read this chapter.

I’m just saying.

Quick Take-Away

So, I’ve loved some chapters of this book, and I’ve wanted to scream at others… this chapter did a little bit of both for me.  It would be easy for me to miss the chance to explain why this chapter is awesome… so I’ll first speak to what spoke to me and our church’s current context.

Our church is a church that cares more about those who are not attending our church than those who are.  So, reasons #1 for why Carey embraced family ministry is one that I think would resonate with our staff: Family Ministry Might Be The Greatest Outreach Opportunity The Church Has Today.  That is huge.  Parents in our community aren’t staying awake at night, wondering what our senior pastor is going to be preaching on Sunday morning… they’re worrying about their kids.  The crazy thing is – I’m staying up at night worrying about their kids too.  I think we can leverage that.

Okay… the thing that drove me crazy…

Carey talks about different kinds of changes a Senior Pastor has to face in leadership.  He talks about how it’s important for someone in leadership to be able to overhaul entire systems for the hope of a better tomorrow.  Then, Carey shares his own story… a story in which he realized that a massive restructuring would have to happen in order for his church’s ministries to align.  Then, after realizing his system needed a huge overhaul, he left his denomination and started a new church.

If I’m being totally honest, this made me scream a little bit in my head.

I understand that someone’s story is someone’s story.  Carey can’t change the way in which God led him to embracing family ministry.  But, the last thing I want to do is have my Senior Pastor read this chapter and get some crazy idea about leaving our church to plant one with a clean slate.  I want to know that a church which thrived in the 70’s and 80’s can reinvent itself as a church that exists to serve and equip families in the year 2010.  If I pass this chapter on to our pastor, I may actually white-out these two sentences:

Ironically, two years later, in late 2007, a few of us left the denomination we were serving to start Connexus Community Church.  When we had a chance to plant a church for the first time, we built it around a family ministry model.

Seriously, I am a big fan of Carey.  I’m stoked for the way that he’s reaching uncommitted families in his community with the Gospel of Jesus.  And, if I seriously cut out those two sentences, then I’m going to pass this chapter on to our senior leadership team.

This post is 1 of many in a series.  I’m assuming that the contributing authors of Collaborate want to have a conversation with me.  You can read my open letter to them here.


Posted by on April 20, 2010 in Book Review, Collaborate Book, Kidmin


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