I think Fund Raising Dinners are by far the best way to fund your ministry.

 

We do one thing all year to raise money for our ministry – a Vision Dinner (also called Fellowship Dinners). And every year we see God provide abundantly ($50-$150k).
Why a Dinner? Because it easily has the best ROI. I have not heard of much success from golf tournaments, etc (seems like they typically raise around $10k and are a lot of work; I’m sure there are exceptions – leave a comment if you’ve found it to be successful!)

 

And I personally don’t think it’s a good use of your leaders and staff to have them pick up trash after football games or other money-making deals. Those are typically high investment/low return endeavors. A donor at a dinner will gladly write a check for $5,000 so your student leaders can be sharing their faith instead of working 7 weekends in the fall.

 

A great side bonus – Vision Dinners are incredible for building relationships and vision within the community.

 

My hope is that more and more college ministries around the country begin to have Dinners so that they are abundantly funded and more college students will be reached with the gospel.

 

Cru Staff: for more info on how to put on a Dinner, check out the website: TeamGold.co (step by step instructions on how to plan a Dinner, PLUS graphic design templates for invitations, etc). Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, its login only lets Cru staff use it.
(to access the site, enter your Cru email address and pick a password. After your email address is approved, you will have full access)

 

 

I recently got an email from a BCM director asking for help – he’s new completely new to Dinners and had lots of questions.

Sharing is caring, so I thought I’d post my email that I sent back to him so everyone can benefit:

  • Do you have a particular structure for how the evening goes? 
    • Here’s a timeline of our dinner – the structure for how the evening goes.
    • We have one “live testimony” from a student and then have several student life change stories via video. We save the video for the very end before we ask people to give because it’s usually the most moving part of the night. Here’s those videos from 2016 and 2015.
    • Here’s a script of what our MC’s say
  • How do you go about inviting people? 
    • We have our students send invitations to their parents (this is a HUGE win if parents come- they walk away loving Cru instead of suspecting that we are a cult; so when their son/daughter wants to go on summer mission or intern with us, they are for us instead of against us!) .
    • But other than that we almost exclusively invite people via table hosts (here’s a link to that strategy). We’ve pretty much stopped printing paper invitations (we only printed 100 this year – we used to do 1,500!) and almost exclusively do digital invites via email and Ministry Sync (an online dinner management tool – not cheap, but worth it for bigger dinners)

  • Do you ask for financial commitments there, or do you pay the groundwork and then follow-up with individual meetings? Do you primarily ask for/receive one-time gifts or ongoing monthly gifts?
    • We definitely ask for financial commitments. I don’t do any follow up after the dinner. Here’s my talk from last year – so you can see how I ask for money.
    • As you can see in my talk – I really push for monthly gifts. That way, even if they don’t come to your dinner next year, they will still be giving to your ministry. But we mostly get one time gifts. But we’ve grown our monthly giving from $100/mo to $2,000/mo over the years.
  • Do you do them on campus or somewhere else?
  • We do our dinner off campus at our Fayetteville Town Center (a big ballroom where they hold conventions or wedding receptions). But on campus would be great if there’s a good room.
  • What else should I consider or know?
    • Really, the main thing to know is what I say in this post –  that getting table hosts is by FAR the most important goal.
    • You can expect to make $20-25,000 for every 100 people you have at the dinner. Or to put it in different terms, for every table host you get, you will make about $2,000.
    • We do a silent auction at the dinner. It’s grown over the years:
      • 2016 – $12,400
      • 2015 – $10,475
      • 2014 – $8,345
      • 2013 – $5,800

 

Leave a comment if you have more questions, and I’ll do my best to answer questions and share resources.

College Ministers: What you are doing matters. Meeting with hundreds of disinterested freshmen to find a handful that want to know Jesus and make Him known. Turning over a multitude of rocks to find one or two gems. Teaching students how and why to read God’s Word. Discipling students who will make disciples.

We rarely get to see the fruit of what we so laboriously sow. Students graduate and get married and get jobs and move off. And we go back to meeting with hundreds of disinterested freshmen to find a handful…

This weekend my wife (with hundreds of thousands of other women!) watched the 2017 If Gathering Livestream. In the last couple years, If Gatherings have reached more than a million women in 50 countries.

And it started when Jennie Allen was a college student at the University of Arkansas and her life was radically changed by a Cru staff, Michelle Bost (Michelle and her husband Mike are still on staff and Mike serves at the regional director of Cru’s Northeast Region, reaching the least reached campuses in our country, most of which are Ivy Leagues).

Throughout her opening talk at If Gathering, Jennie Allen talks about what an impact Michelle Bost had on her life when she was in college, and how that altered the course of her life.

  • [If Gathering would not have happened] without a woman named Michelle Bost who took a nobody college student to coffee
  • We would go over to Michelle’s house and I remember sitting on our living room floor and I’d listen to her talk about Jesus and the surrender she had. And I would want that relationship – I would want to love Jesus like she loved Jesus.
  • As a result of that time, a lot of things changed for me.
  • [Sarcastically] You know, the University of Arkansas is SO Christian.
  • And I needed someone to tell me it was OK to follow Christ. When I was being driven through the drive-through liquor store being offered alcohol. I needed someone to say you can make a difference with your life. You need to be in the Word of God.
  • I still have my Bible from college and it is marked up from top to bottom. I was in my Bible because of Michelle Bost.
  • And all the sudden, when my friends were hung over the morning after, I no longer judged them or thought I need to be with them. I befriended them and there was no longer this angst in me.
  • Everything in my life shifted because of Michelle Bost.
  • I love Jesus because of her.
  • I have a fear that we’re about to have a generation that never had a Michelle Bost.
  • People were saved in front of our eyes at the University of Arkansas.
  • Peoples lives changed and I wanted to give my life to this mission. I wanted in.
  • I wanted to be a part of the kingdom of God because Michelle Bost asked me to coffee.
  • And that is why If Gathering exists because I still believe all the things she taught me.
  • I believe you can open your Bible and mark it up and it change your soul.
  • I believe that women with other women on living room floors can change the world.
  • And what happens if this generation doesn’t have that?

So keep meeting with freshmen. Keep discipling men and women. Because what you are doing matters. You may not see the fruit for 20 years. But God is using you to raise up laborers who will change the world.

Sharing what’s been helpful for our team…
Here’s three resources we’ve used with our staff team this year that have been helpful in keeping a razor sharp focus on Making Disciples.

7 week guide for doing Masterplan of Evangelism in discipleship. It has pretty detailed questions for each of the 7 weeks so it makes it really easy. We had all of our staff read Masterplan with the people they disciple.

From lost students to Christ-centered laborers in three stages – a super short (< one page) “article” that I compiled and we read through as a staff team. I asked each of my staff to do it with the people they disciple. To try to figure out where their people are “stuck”.
  • Are they Experiencing a vital relationship with God? (i.e. – focus on getting them consistently in the Word)
  • Do they Understanding how God works (via Scripture – open their eyes to the Great Commission and His heart for the lost)?
  • Have been invited to be a part of it?

My team found it very helpful.

Also – we read Dan Higgins’ Two Radical Commitments and discussed how we could to this better:

Two Radical Commitments

Two Radical commitments are needed to build movements. A radical commitment to ongoing broad sowing and a radical commitment to wise selection.

 

Broad sowing

I use the words radical commitment because that is really what it takes. Evangelism is the first thing to go. It is so incredibly easy to be distracted from doing it because it is really, really hard. You have to do it when you feel like it and when you don’t. When there is great response (ironically can be a distraction from doing more) and when it is really hard. Over the years I have seen staff, students, stinters and myself come up with every kind of reason you can think of why not to do it and keep doing it. It is really hard and you can be rejected and laughed at and ridiculed and persecuted. It is worth it.

 

Wise Selection

The second thing that you have to be radically committed to is wise selection. By that I mean you being very careful in who you give your time to. This is incredibly hard for someone who has just started doing campus ministry. The reality is that it does not feel kind or nice to say to someone that you cannot spend anymore time with them. Honestly you usually never have to have that conversation, they will usually self select them out.

 

This is so critical because you must follow Jesus model and give your life to those that are faithful, available and teachable. You have to choose to pour into those that will go on to reach the campus and change the world. When you say yes to one student you are saying no to every other student in your city. You must be committed to find the students that will go on to reach the campus. If you say yes to spend time with an unfaithful student you are saying no to the potential faithful ones. This is especially difficult to do when the soil is hard and there is not a whole pile of students to choose from. It also feels not very compassionate but if you spend time with the unfaithful you are saying that you don’t care about every other student on campus.

 

What you are really looking for are key, faithful students to lead a spiritual movement on campus. You must find and/or build these student leaders. You must select wisely.

Bookmark this and save it for your next conference (or weekly meeting). It’s not easy to find good, upbeat, CLEAN music. Look at the top songs of 2016 – 1 out of the top 10 could be played at a weekly meeting. The rest are explicit.

I put together the playlists we play before and after meeting at our 2017 Cru Winter Conference.
And I thought it might save you all a lot of time to share those on here.
A couple notes:
  • We aim for 10 minutes of music while students come in (at night, we do 9 minutes followed by 1 minute of an epic “sit down song” – for the last couple of years we’ve used “Waking Up” off of the Oblivion soundtrack)
  • 5-6 minutes of music while students walk out
  • For the after meeting playlists, make sure to have a song that starts strong. It’s the signal for students to get up and leave, so you want it to start loud, not ease into it.
  • Pre-meeting night meetings, we aim for upbeat, danceable songs (hip hop and pop-py sing-along songs that people know)
  • Pre-meeting morning meetings, same thing, just a little more chill – Ride by Twenty One Pilots is a perfect morning pre-meeting song. Everyone knows it. Kind of upbeat. But not too obnoxiously upbeat.
Here’s all the songs we used in one playlist:

Here they are:
Here’s a slew of songs to use during a refection times:
And a bunch of possible songs you could use for competition games during the meeting (like, we do a mattress surfing competition, etc). I can’t vouch for all these being clean/appropriate (like Bangarang is great til he drops an F-bomb at the end):
And here’s some other good songs that we didn’t use but are appropriately clean and upbeat:

Every college student you’re trying to reach is a millennial. More than likely, your team of college ministers is made up of millennials (millennials were born between 1982 and 2004)

This is brilliant stuff from Simon Sinek on leading millennials. He’s talking about leading them in the workplace. But it applies just as well to leading and reaching millennials on the college campus. Well worth 15 minutes of your time (I typed up some notes below):

 

Simon describes four things Millennials are up against:

  • Parenting – too many of them grow up under failed parenting strategies. They were told they can achieve anything they want in life if they just believe in themselves. That they were special. You take this group and they get a job and they are thrust into the real world where they learn that they are not special and that there mom can’t complain to their boss to save them.
  • Technology – We have an entire generation that has access to an addictive numbing chemical called dopamine through social media and cell phones as they’re going through the high stress of adolescence. We’re supposed to learn to rely on our friends during adolescence but through unfettered access to technology too many kids don’t know how to form deep, meaningful relationships. Millennials don’t have deep, meaningful relationship because they’ve never practiced the skill set. And worse, they’ve never developed coping mechanisms to deal with stress. So when significant stress shows up in their lives they are not turning to a person they’re turning to a device. If you’re sitting at dinner with your friends and you’re texting somebody who’s not there, that’s a problem, that’s an addiction.
  • Impatience – they’ve grown up in a world of instant gratification (Amazon next day, Netflix, etc). You wanna go on a date? You don’t have to practice that skill, you just swipe right. Everything you want you can have instantly. EXCEPT, job satisfaction and strength of relationships. There ain’t no app for that. Those are slow, meandering, uncomfortable, messy processes. So I keep meeting these wonderful, fantastic, idealistic, hard-working smart kids. They just graduated school and they’re in their entry-level job. I sit down with them and I go “how’s it going”. And they go “I think I’m gonna quit. I’m not making an impact.” I’m like, “You’ve been here eight months!” It’s as if they’re standing at the foot of a mountain and they have this abstract concept called impact they want to have in the world which is the summit but what they don’t see is the mountain. What this young generation needs to learn is patience- that some things that really, really matter like love, job fulfillment, joy, or self-confidence. All of these things take time. The overall journey is long and difficult.
  • Environment – we’re taking this amazing group of young kids who have been dealt a bad hand. And they’re getting put in companies that care more about short term gains than life long skill-development and a lifetime of impact. That aren’t helping them overcome the challenges of a digital world and helping them overcome the need to have instant gratification and teach them the joys and impact and the fulfillment you get from working hard over on something for a long time that cannot be done in a month or even in a year. It’s the company’s responsibility to work extra hard to build their confidence and social skills. There should be no cell phones in conference rooms. When we are waiting for a meeting to start, no cell phones. Looking at your cell phone up until the meeting starts- that’s not how relationships are formed. Trust is built in those conversations before the meeting starts.

Some quick thoughts:

  • One of college students’ primary needs is deep, meaningful relationships. What if we promo Summer Missions or Small Groups with: “want more deep, meaningful relationships but don’t know exactly how to accomplish that…” We have what students deeply long for- gospel-centered community.
  • We need to coach our students in how to build relationships and trust. One easy step – resolve to put your phone away when you are on campus. Look for people to talk to on the way to campus. Strike up conversations once you get to class. That’s how trust and relationships are built.
  • We should be teaching students a Biblical approach to technology
  • With our interns and new staff, we need to keep the long term vision in front of them – keep reminding them that world change doesn’t happen in a year or two – but over decades.

HT to Dan Allan for passing this video on to me!

Top 3 Posts of 2016

January 2, 2017 — Leave a comment

Want the cream of the crop? Here’s the most popular posts on my blog in 2016:

Top 3 Posts Published in 2016

Top 5 Old Posts that Google Search Seems to Like:

  1. Why You Shouldn’t Go to Seminary (lesson: clickbait titles work!) – by far the most popular post on my blog in 2016, even though it’s 5 years old
  2. Decision Making and the Will of God (lesson: lots of people are searching Google for God’s Will. Think about that for a minute.)
  3. We Are Losing an Entire Generation of Laborers to Student Loan Debt 
  4. Tim Keller on How to Get into Gospel Conversations
  5. Learning from Large Cru Movements

Top Songs of 2016

January 1, 2017 — Leave a comment

An annual tradition on my blog – My Top 100 Songs of the Year.

To further explore amazing music, here are my Top Songs from 201520142013201220112010 and 2009 (click “Follow” at the top of Spotify if you want to add any of the playlists to your sidebar of playlists)

There weren’t any clear “song of the year” candidates in 2016. I like every song in the top 8 equally.

2016 was the year of experimental/weird indie pop – with Yeasayer, Animal Collective and M83 all turning in a slew of great songs. Also really liked Phantogram’s album. But really, 2016 was Twenty One Pilots‘ year. By FAR my kids’ top album of the year. And as much as I’m a hipster music-snob and pretty much hate anything that is on the radio, I begrudgingly REALLY like Twenty One Pilots. Easily the best album of the year. Every song is different and good. Those two dudes have a knack for crafting perfect pop songs. AND their lyrics are super solid – with most songs referring to God.

Despite my hipster tendencies, my top 100 songs are actually really fun to listen to. If you follow indie music at all, you’ll find that most “Top Songs of The Year” are trying really hard to be cool and prove their hipster-ness. My Top Songs list is Indie Music for the Masses – Indie Music that’s actually enjoyable to listen to (not grating avant-garde or sleep-inducing-singer-songwriter).

Most of these songs are Indie-pop, Indie-rock, or Indietronica.

Here are my 100 favorite songs of 2016 (click to play individual tracks or here to play the full list in Spotify): 

100        Family And Genus – Shakey Graves

99        Swim Against the Tide – The Japanese House

98        The Moment – Tame Impala

97        Arizona – Frances Cone

96        Everything All At Once – Local Natives

95        Crazy Eyes – Brother Moses

94        Strangers – Psychic Twin

93        Gemini Feed – Banks

92        Waving Goodbye – Sia

91        Sunday Love – Bat For Lashes

90        Do You Remember – St. Lucia

89        Prophecy Gun – Yeasayer

88        Gold – Jorgen Odegard Remix – Imagine Dragons, Jorgen Odegard

87        Dead Alive – The Shins

86        Wings of Love – LIV

85        Time – Mint Royale, Tom Cane

84        LIFE – HEALTH

83        Drifting – On An On

82        Way To Go – Empire of the Sun

81        Never Going Back – Caveman

80        Cheap Thrills – Sia

79        The Sound – The 1975

78        Silly Me – Yeasayer

77        I Can Only Stare – Sleigh Bells

76        Human – Caveman

75        Free – Broods

74        80 West – Caveman

73        All in My Head – Porcelain Raft

72        Club Aso – Palmistry

71        Two Vines – Empire of the Sun

70        I Was Wrong – A R I Z O N A

69        Celestial Creatures – Wild Beasts

68        For U (feat. Charli XCX) – Miike Snow, Charli XCX

67        8 (circle) – Bon Iver

66        May I Have This Dance – Francis and the Lights

65        A 1000 Times – Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam

64        High And Low – Empire of the Sun

63        Ablaze – School Of Seven Bells

62        Choose Me – James Blake

61        Bird Set Free – Sia

60        Don’t Let Me Down – The Chainsmokers, Daya

59        Broken Glass – Sia

58        I Feel The Weight – Miike Snow

57        Gone – Day Wave

56        Way Back Home – Cameron AG

55        Here’s To Us – Ellie Goulding

54        Lane Boy – Twenty One Pilots

53        22 (OVER S∞∞N) – Bon Iver

52        Easier – Mansionair

51        Conrad – SOHN

50        Tear In My Heart – Twenty One Pilots

49        I Need A Forest Fire – James Blake, Bon Iver

48        Same Old Blues – Phantogram

47        Sledgehammer – Rihanna

46        Mother Emanuel – Local Natives

45        Turning a Hand – Francis

44        Past Lives – BØRNS

43        Run Run Blood – Phantogram

42        Past Lives – Local Natives

41        Burn the Witch – Radiohead

40        Radio Silence – James Blake

39        Get Right – Jimmy Eat World

38        American Money – BØRNS

37        River – Bishop Briggs

36        Heathens – Twenty One Pilots

35        I Need Your Light – Ra Ra Riot, Rostam

34        Turn It Around – HAERTS

33        Warrior – AURORA

32        Doubt – Twenty One Pilots

31        Friends (feat. Bon Iver) – Francis and the Lights, Bon Iver – favorite part= “I’m Francis!”. Worth watching their goofy music video featuring Kanye

30        Chariots – Paper Route

29        In a Black Out – Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam

28        What Is Left to Solve – Rogue Wave

27        Cruel World – Phantogram

26        Golden Gal – Animal Collective

25        Divine Simulacrum – Yeasayer

24        If You Should See – Wye Oak

23        Hocus Pocus – Animal Collective

22        Trouble – TV On The Radio

21        Fairly Local – Twenty One Pilots

20        33 “GOD” – Bon Iver – pretty disappointed with Bon Iver’s album, overall. But a few solid songs.

19        You’re Mine – Phantogram

18        Malachite – Lydia Ainsworth – Lydia opened for Yeasayer when we saw them this fall in Tulsa and had some great songs. Eagerly anticipating a full length album from her.

17        Loan Shark Blues – Yeasayer

16        Ride – Twenty One Pilots

15        Warning Call – CHVRCHES

14        Lying in the Grass – Animal Collective

13        You Don’t Get Me High Anymore – Phantogram

12        Polarize – Twenty One Pilots

11        Used To – Mutemath

10        Watching the Waiting – Wye Oak – got to see Wye Oak in Kansas city this summer. She’s super talented and amazing live.

9        Fountain Of Youth – Local Natives – this song reminds me of the crazy election season with it’s lyric “I have waited so long, Mrs. President”.

8        Go! (feat. Mai Lan) – M83, MAI LAN

7        I Am Chemistry – Yeasayer – you’ll never hear a better song about the gas C4H10FO2P (sarin gas) and other toxic chemicals

6        Dream Awake – LIV – an early single from one of my most anticipated albums for 2017 from supergroup LIV – made up of two of  my favorites, Lykke Li and Miike Snow

5        Do It, Try It – M83 – give this song a chance. Super weird at first progressing to what M83 does best – epic soundscapes

4        FloriDada – Animal Collective – another super weird song. But you can’t help but have a smile on your face and tap your toes as you listen to it. And surprisingly deep song on the Dadaism and the elite’s snobbery toward Floridians.

3        Take Me Home – Phantogram – easily the best cover song this year. Who knew Phil Collins could be so cool?

2        Hometown – Twenty One Pilots – a great song from the best album of 2016. They did a smaller concert in NW Arkansas (which is an absolute miracle – NO ONE comes to Arkansas). I took all 5 of our kids to the show and they LOVED it (It was a few days after we got back from our summer in East Asia so we didn’t have tickets – we just scrounged up a few at the gate!). Those two dudes are legit entertainers and great musicians. My kids wouldn’t let me play anything but Twenty One Pilots in our van ALL fall. Seriously. “DA-AAD, can you put on Twenty One Pilots – this music is boring!”

1        Cold Night – Yeasayer – we got to see Yeasayer in concert in Tulsa and they were absolutely amazing – cementing their status as our #1 alltime favorite band. I thought their new album was pretty disappointing – but still a few gems on it.

Would love to hear – What were your favorite songs from 2016??

4278335002_3e90e703c3_mNothing has been better for my consistency in God’s Word- leading to greater intimacy with God and understanding of Him- than reading through the Bible each of the last two years.

 

I think the reason it is so helpful is simple, in the words of Robert Murray M’Cheyne:
“Time will not be wasted in choosing what portions to read. Here the question will be solved at once in a very simple manner.”

 

That’s it. Not having to decide what I’m going to read every morning- I just open up and let the calendar tell me what to read – is enough to reduce the friction on the tracks to get me going.

 

Some tips and helpful tools:
  • Use a plan where you read from multiple parts of the Bible every day- that keeps you from getting bogged down in more difficult books (I’m looking at you Major Prophets). The Navigators and Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s Bible Reading Plan are excellent. The Navs plan has 25 days/month to give you some grace days. M’Cheyne’s method is everyday and reads through the NT and Psalms twice in a year, which I modify to read the NT and Psalms only once – which makes it more like 2-3 chapters/day instead of 4 which I find to be more doable.
  • I highly recommend DA Carson’s For the Love of God Volumes I & II. Carson provides commentary and reflections on each day’s scriptural passages in the M’Cheyne plan. I just wake up and open up For the Love of God on my Kindle. It tells me what to read, and then gives me a brief commentary on what I read. It’s almost always insightful, and always short. For the Love of God is also available for free online.
  • My wife uses Dr. Constable’s FREE online Bible commentary as she reads through the Bible. Constable’s commentary is an unbelievable gift to the body of Christ – most commentaries are either unhelpful because they are:
    • too obvious/short or
    • too long/intense/parsing Greek
Dr. Constable’s is like a best-of-commentary: he does all the heavy lifting, reading all the commentaries and presenting to you the best of what he found to be helpful. He’s my go-to commentary when I don’t understand a passage and he almost never disappoints. Just google “Constable Philippians” or whatever book you’re reading and it will be the first Google result.
  • The Bible Project has phenomenal, short (8 minute) summary videos for every book in the Bible. They illuminate how each book of the Bible tells one story of redemption through Christ.
  • You don’t have to start at the beginning of the year in January. And you don’t even have to finish the Bible in a calendar year (though it IS very doable; and having a measure of my progress spurs me on to keep going and not fall behind).
  • I’ve written a short 2 page article on Spending Time Daily in God’s Word that gives a little more re the why’s and how’s.
I’ve had several friends push back on reading through the Bible in a year (RTtBiaY). They’ve said that it led them to duty instead of delight. They felt that they were merely checking boxes, rushing through the daily reading to get it done.

 

All I can say is that it has had the opposite effect for me. Maybe it’s personality differences. For me, RTtBiaY has been incredibly motivating and life giving. I’ve found it also helps to give yourself plenty of time: if you only have 15 minutes to read, RTtBiaY will feel like duty and a checklist. But if you have 30min-hour, you can really soak in the Scriptures.

 

I’ve found a regular time in God’s Word, making regular process plodding through the entire Bible does not produce a rut but freedom. John Piper offers great insight on routine and structure in your Quiet Time:
“If your longing is to be spontaneous in the way you commune with God, then build discipline into your Bible reading and prayer. It sounds paradoxical. But it’s no more so than the paradox of corn spontaneously growing in a Minnesota field because of the farmer’s discipline of plowing and sowing and guarding the field. He doesn’t make the corn grow. God does. But God uses his farming disciplines as part of the process. The rich fruit of spontaneity grows in the garden that is well tended by the discipline of schedule.”

 

Tim Keller, John Piper, my wife… All the great spiritual giants recommend RTtBiaY as a daily Quiet Time plan.

 

My only regret is that I haven’t been doing this for the past two decades that I’ve been walking with God. Early on in walking with God I read through the Bible annually. But somewhere along the way I stopped.

 

May we see Jesus more clearly in 2017 as we soak in God’s Word this year!

 

What tools and tips do you have that have helped you read God’s Word?

 

photo courtesy of Dwight Stone via Flickr
In his book The Conviction to Lead, Dr. Albert Mohler highlights reading as one of the keystone habits of leaders:
  • Those who would lead with conviction must read with conviction.
  • When leaders gather, books are usually part of the conversation.
  • Leaders are ravenous consumers of historical biographies.
  • Keep reading and developing the skill of reading over your lifetime. We can train ourselves to enjoy reading.
9435974561_815b1cb291_zInsightfully, Dr. Mohler identifies what I believe is the irreplaceable benefit of reading in the life of a leader:

“There is no substitute for effective reading when it comes to developing and maintaining the intelligence necessary to lead. Leadership requires a constant flow of intelligence, ideas, and information. There is no way to gain the basics of leadership without reading. We simply cannot lead without a constant flow of intellectual activity in our minds, and there is no substitute for reading when it comes to producing this flow.”

Reading keeps my brain flowing with a flood of ideas and intellectual activity. Part of it is that it plays into my strengths – especially Analytical (I like to connect the dots in information) and Ideation (new ideas are exciting to me). I really like chewing on and processing new ideas.

This year I read three times as many books as last year. And I can definitely see the impact on my ability to lead from vision and fresh ideas.

 

A lot of what reading has done for me is captured in this Tweetstorm from Patrick O’Shaughnessy:
  • I’m often asked how I read so much and how I choose books. So, my I’ll try my first tweetstorm
  • 1/ I love @naval‘s idea to ask yourself: what that you do looks like hard work from the outside, but doesn’t feel like work to you?
  • 2/ For me, one answer is reading. In most down time, I read.
  • 5/ A new book often makes you realize something essential about an old book.
  • 6/ This is why knowledge compounds. Old stuff that was a 4/10 in value can become a 10/10, unlocked by another book in the future.
  • 9/ Usually, it’s some combination of books that has a non-linear impact.
  • 11/ When you start out reading, you are collecting distant dots in a constellation with no apparent connection
  • 23/ Ten years in, I now have an incomplete but dense set of interconnected dots. It is my most valuable asset.
  • 25/ Reading gets more and more enjoyable the more you do it.
His whole tweetstorm is worth reading for great tips on how to organize book highlights (in Evernote) and other tips on reading.

One of the main things I discovered this year in greatly increasing my reading – A new book often unlocks an older book you read. The faint dots in the constellation suddenly become more clear. Reading multiple books opens up powerful connections. Simultaneously reading Masterplan of Evangelism and Movements that Change the World was incredibly helpful.

Several have asked me what helped me read more:
  • I sucked it up and subscribed to Audible.com (a ridiculous $15/month). 16 of the 52 books I “read” this year were listened to on Audible. I’ve found one of the easiest ways to read more is to take advantage of dead time in my schedule – like driving and working out. 15 minutes here and there really adds up. I listen at 1.25x or 1.5x speed (depending on the narrator) and can get through a book every 3 weeks.
  • I started tracking what I read. For whatever reason, this really helped me. I like to keep score (I have ‘Competition- driven to win’ on Strengths Finder!)
  • I spent less time on Twitter (still a HUGE fan of Twitter though – see tweet storm above- Twitter spurs me on to be a better leader AND to read more books!)
  • I got up 30 minutes earlier and used that time to read.
  • For most of the year I read every night. A couple of years ago my wife introduced the new rule of “no blue light an hour before bed” = no checking twitter or reading online. I’m thankful for God’s grace through her! It made me take up the habit of reading before bed every night. A great side-effect: when my head hits the pillow I’m asleep in seconds.
  • I started asking every prodigious reader I know for book recommendations. Having a book I’m looking forward to makes me want to read more. And it has greatly increased the quality of the books I read – I’m reading the top books recommended by top readers.
I previously listed my Top 20 books list. Here’s some other good “best of 2016” book lists in which to find great books to read in 2017:
I’ve started piecing together books I want to read in 2017. One of my main goals is to increase the number of serious, Christian books. Much of my reading tends to be Audiobooks or light reading before bed – both lending themselves to an “easy reading” genre of fiction or historical non-fiction. I haven’t figured out a way to carve out more time to read books that require deep thinking and underlining/taking notes.

Here’s what’s on my list so far for 2017:
Devotional/Morning Quiet Time
  • Discipline of Grace
  • Courage and calling- Gordon Smith (Calling at different stages of life)
  • Gordon McDonald – Ordering Your Private World
  • The Imperfect Pastor by Zack Eswine
  • Zeal Without Burnout (showed up on several best-of-year book lists)
  • The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson
Leadership/Growth
  • The Art of the Commonplace – Wendell Berry
  • Switch – Heath
  • Next Generation Leader: 5 Essentials for Those Who Will Shape the Future by Andy Stanley
  • Epidemic of narcissism
  • The Starfish and the Spider
  • Wendell Berry – Hidden Wound (his personal story of having black servants)
  • The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism – Yuval Levin (showed up on several best-of-year book lists)
Audiobooks
  • Invisible Man
  • Silence – by Shūsaku Endō
  • The Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe
  • The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor
  • Undaunted courage – Lewis and Clark
  • Command and control- re nuclear security
  • A Winston Churchill biography
I’ll leave you with this “encouragement” from Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, nominated to be Secretary of Defense by President-elect Trump.

“Mattis’s colleague reportedly asked him about the “importance of reading and military history for officers,” who found themselves “too busy to read.’” 
He responded:
“The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience, i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men. We have been fighting on this planet for 5000 years and we should take advantage of their experience. “Winging it” and filling body bags as we sort out what works reminds us of the moral dictates and the cost of incompetence in our profession…
As a result [of my reading], the enemy has paid when I had the opportunity to go against them, and I believe that many of my young guys lived because I didn’t waste their lives because I didn’t have the vision in my mind of how to destroy the enemy at least cost to our guys and to the innocents on the battlefields.
Semper Fi, Mattis”
Read the full transcript here.
Sobering words.

What were some of your favorite books you read in 2016? What’s on your list of books to read in 2017?

 

image courtesy of Pimthida

The feedback we were hearing from our students was pretty unanimous –
They knew how to share the gospel. But they didn’t know how to get into gospel conversations with their friends.
One of our students, Laurel Sitton, compares leading someone to Christ to scoring a touchdown:
“When the offense goes out to try to score a touchdown, sometimes they’re 90 yards away. They might be able to throw a 90-yard pass and score a touchdown. That’s great, and everyone celebrates,” she says. “But that doesn’t happen very often. That’s kind of what it’s like to get to share the gospel and see someone come to Christ the first conversation.”
What is far more common is the offense slowly makes their way down the field getting first downs.
Laurel continues: “So in one conversation you might be 70 yards or 50 yards from getting to share the gospel with your friend, but all you’re looking for is a first down, not a Hail Mary”
+1 is our answer to helping students get more first downs in conversations with their friends. And what makes it GREAT is the momentum that comes from taking steps of faith together. 
The goal is for students to take the initiative with their friends to move them one step closer to Christ – no matter where they are starting on this scale:
spiritual-journey-chart-plus-one
We rolled it out at Fall Retreat (could be done anytime though). At Fall Retreat we wanted all 200 students to jump into the mission of God on campus- to have an easy, appropriate next step into mission. We wanted them to feel like “Anyone can do it. Anyone can take a baby step in evangelism.”
So on the last day of Fall Retreat we challenged everyone to write down 5 names of non-Christian friends to pray for. And then to follow 4 steps toward moving them one step (+1) closer to Jesus:
  1. Pray –  for your 5 non-Christian friends
  2. Befriend – your first step might be just to get to know them better. To ask them about their weekend. Invite them to watch football or go to the movie with you and some friends.
  3. Ask Spiritual Questions – often the easiest line of questions – “What’s your story? Where are you coming from spiritually? Did you grow up going to church? What did you think? How do you identify now with regard to religion?”
  4. Share the Gospel 
1 Minute Questionnaire
Each of those steps sets you up for equipping. Ask students you disciple which they struggle with the most:
  • Are you praying for your friends?
  • Do you know any non-Christians well enough to talk about real life?
  • Do you know how to get into spiritual conversations? What questions could you ask?
  • Do you know how to share the gospel?
Here’s where the momentum comes in- We then asked them to do three things every day for the next 5 days:
plus-to-do-everyday
We created a Private +1 Facebook Group that we asked everyone to join. It’s been really encouraging to see students taking steps of faith and sharing/spurring each other on as students shared how their +1 convos went that day. It would be a great outreach to launch at Winter Conference.
We’ve found +1 to be a GREAT way to celebrate First Downs and not just touchdowns. We want to celebrate students’  steps of faith that move their friends one step closer to seeing Christ.
We’ve found that if students equate “success in evangelism” as “fully sharing the gospel and leading someone to Christ” then they will often bypass great +1 opportunities like a 4 minute walk from class to the Union or the 5 minutes before class. They can’t share the full gospel so they don’t take any steps of faith nor look for little open doors for spiritual conversations. Touchdowns never happen because they haven’t made any incremental first downs.
We need to help students learn how to incrementally move conversations and friendships toward Christ.
— The full, written-out Hail Marys vs First Downs in Evangelism analogy is linked – it’s great to use to cast vision for +1. —