Govember

October 31, 2017 — 1 Comment

“November is Summer Missions month” – Jim Sautner, Destino National Development Director

Govember is a month-long focus on God’s heart for the nations and our role in that (specifically focused on Summer Mission and STINT – one year international internship). We focus on Govember all across our movement: weekly meeting, community group, staff meeting, and discipleship content.

I got the idea from talking to University of Wisconsin Cru (and I know many others do it) and we’ve adapted it for our campus.

“If you create the momentum for Summer Project early it will snowball throughout the spring months. Plus students can drop the bomb on their parents over Thanksgiving break. Take advantage of this month, it will pay off in March.”  – Adam Penning – Cru staff at U of Wisconsin

If you want to use the Govember branding we use, here’s the logo.

Here’s what we do during Govember with lots of linked resources:

A monthlong focus at the Cru meeting on going – some ideas:
– Heart for the lost
– Heart for world (get the Traveling Team to come in November if you can!)
– Lordship
– Eternal perspective (my talk and slides)
– STINT night – this was by far the best Cru we did all year. Essentially, we spotlight Arkansas Cru grads who are serving God all over the world, mostly via video. Here’s the flow of what we do)

A Summer Missions recruiting dinner
– Here’s an overview of what we do
– Here’s the talk that I give at the dinner (and another talk I’ve used)
– A sample response card to follow up after the dinner (the pdf file is editable in photoshop)

All of our Community Groups do world-focused material during November:
– A 3 week study we adapted from The Traveling Team: Govember Study – Leader  — Govember Study – Student
– A great idea from Ball State Cru: assign a country to each student in the Bible study – give them an Operation World and they research it and present it back to their study and they pray for it

At least one week of focus on the world in all our student discipleship
– The Compass lesson on World Vision

– An article to read in discipleship: A Brief History Of Campus Missions

Staff Focus
– A couple great articles to read with your team during this month: A Missionary Call by Robert Speer and Mobilization of College Students by Claude Hickman

– Kick off the month by doing the “how to do a summer project challenge” document as a devo with your staff team. Don’t tell them what it is for until the very end.

Some other ideas (that we haven’t tried) from Wisconsin:

8 by 12/08: Each staff person personally challenges 8 students to Summer Missions by Dec. 8th. Give your team 6-7 min in staff meeting to actually write their list. Remind your team about the 8 by 12/8 challenge each week at staff meeting during Govember. Follow up with your team half way through the month to see how it is going by writing the names of everyone who has been challenged down on the white board. Then take 10 min an pray for those names and people left to be challenged.

Man-sized challenge: Two staff men do “Man-sized breakfast for a man-sized challenge” together with four students at a time, using the “How to do a Summer Missions challenge” document.

Share the wealth! What has helped your campus send students on Summer Missions or overseas as missionaries?

Here’s a few devos that I’ve done with our team that are great for vision/encouragement during this difficult and exciting time of the fall!

We Are Not Peddlers

  • Read and discuss II Cor 2:14-3:6 together – this is especially appropriate in the fall as we’re knocking on doors!
  • Who is adequate for such a task?
  • Our inadequacy forces us to trust in God

Parable of the Sowers – 

  • 75% of work evangelistically will go down the drain – which is incredibly discouraging
  • But we keep turning over rocks because that one gem, that one student who becomes a Christ centered laborer will “indeed bear fruit and yield a hundredfold”
  • Keep sowing. And sow broadly
  • We are turning over rocks, knocking on doors – looking for where God is at work
  • Trusting that God will lead us to open people
  • We’re not doing Find Build Send – our job is not to fill a meeting room.
  • Movements are built on lost students coming to Christ and experiencing radical grace.

Buoyancy and the Three P’s of Resiliency

  • How do you keep going when students never text back?
  • Buoyancy is the ability to bounce back from rejection. Over and over and over.
  • The Three P’s of Resiliency:
    • Personal—bad things are happening because I am bad in some way.
    • Pervasive—it’s not just one or two things that are going bad, nothing is going well.
    • Permanent—I don’t think things are going to change. Nothing is going to be any different. So why try?

photo courtesy of Boston Public Library

Here are 4 videos you could use to cast vision at a weekly meeting for what students are stepping into when they come to a Cru weekly meeting.

Have You Ever Wondered, “Why Me?”

Great vision. High energy. Maybe aimed more at leaders (it asks the question – “who will you share the gospel with?”).

Length: 3:23

The History of Cru 

Not sure if we’ll use this one as it ends on a bit of a downer (Vonette’s death). Good historical perspective of what students are stepping into – we stand on the shoulders of giants.

Length: 2:16

What is community to Cru?

This one might be the best of the bunch. No words. Just a picture of the global community of Cru.

Length: 1:49

Text Meeting Intro

This one is super old (probably made in 2011??). We don’t use it anymore. But here it is fwiw.

Length: 1:07 (it intentionally has 30 seconds at the end of blank screen with background music so MC’s can walk up on stage during that part)

 

I try to share resources that can be shared by any type of college ministry.

Unfortunately these videos will probably only be useful for Cru movements (because of the content/branding)!

What other videos do you know of that you’ve showed at a weekly meeting?

 

In college ministry, all weeks are NOT created equal. The first 4 weeks of the fall will have repercussions on your ministry for 4 years.
“If you pay the price in the first 6 weeks of the year you will reap the rewards for the next four years. If you blow the first six weeks you will pay the price for the next four years.” Brian McCollister
From a human perspective, what you do with your team and student leaders in August will determine whether you emerge from the hurricane of the first weeks riding a wave of gospel movement or find yourself completely spent with little to show for it.

 

So what do your staff need to do in August to get ready for the fall (while I focus here specifically on staff, most of this applies to student leaders as well)?

As you start the fall of college ministry, there are four big things your staff need:

  1. The Foundation= the indispensable priority of reading God’s Word

The foundation for the whole fall is built on your staff and student leaders walking with God.

Our ultimate goal in college ministry = every nation worshipping Jesus.

Specifically, we want to build movements of spiritual multiplication that send laborers to the world. We want students to graduate with a personal conviction from Scripture for fulfilling the Great Commission. The primary means for all of this is that our staff and student leaders would:

Read the Bible, see His glory, savor Christ, be transformed.

Only when this happens will He be proclaimed.

“God has made the natural act of reading the Bible supernaturally the indispensable means of achieving the ultimate goal of the universe.…The ultimate goal of reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation. The Bible is not incidental or marginal or optional in God’s ultimate purpose for redemptive history. It is essential. It is necessary.” John Piper- Reading the Bible Supernaturally

Do not assume that your staff are reading their Bibles and walking with God. Do not assume that your student leaders know how to spend time daily with God. Start with the basics. Once students trust Christ, the greatest gift you can give them is a lifetime of reading and being changed by God’s Word. The way you give that gift to your students is by teaching them, in college, how to daily read and submit to God’s Word.

This two page article Spending Time Daily in God’s Word is a great way to discuss this foundational first step with your leaders.

 

  1. Connect as a family (who) – 71% of Millennials want their coworkers to be a second family
  2. Direction and clarity of role (what) – what does it look like for me/us to succeed? The short of it- success in the first 4 weeks = reaching freshmen by sharing the gospel broadly. Here is a step by step on how to do that.
  3. Vision for reaching college students (why) – “You can pretty much assume that most staff return [in the fall] willing and able but not very motivated and with little or no vision.” As Simon Sinek says, I usually begin with this step – the Why.

A few helpful starting-the-fall tips for Team Leaders:
  • If you are a Team Leader I highly recommend reading this short article – Orienting Your Team
  • Pick staff to fill two key roles:
    • First Week Director (coordinates outreaches during move in week) and
    • Follow Up Director (getting thousands of contacts and making sure they get followed up). This frees the Team Leader to focus on the team/movement instead of the millions of details associated with the First 4 Weeks.
  • Don’t assume that everyone is on the same page as far as Ministry Philosophy. Communicate clearly on how we do things. We have a one page sheet called “How we do Ministry – One Page” which, as you would expect, tells our entire philosophy of ministry on one page!
  • Meet with key students leaders to plan the two night student leadership retreat (this retreat happens the week before classes start)
  • Encourage staff to get all personal things done before they report back. I usually email something like this:
    • “Please have all your personal stuff done before next week (moving in, raising support, prayer letter, etc) as we will be pretty slammed starting Aug. 8 (so take advantage of the next few days to get all personal stuff done!)”
  • Confirm details for fall retreat – speaker, location, band, start work on brochure/promo video (highly recommend just using one of these excellent designs)
  • Plan out planning days. Here’s what our planning week looks like:
    • 2 days of planning 9-noon. Afternoons spent working on reserving locations, getting donations from local businesses (for door prizes for cookouts), working in smaller groups with other staff on specific tasks
    • 1-2 days on a staff retreat (all fun/no work)
    • 2 more days planning 9-noon. Afternoons working on team to-do’s.

Here’s links to details for each of our planning days:

  • Day 1 – connecting as a family; immediate to-do’s
    • I think it’s helpful to have a new staff/intern orientation (for new staff and interns) – One of our senior staff leads that in the afternoon after planning. Here’s our content.
  • Day 2 – nailing down critical path steps; refresher on what we planned in the spring
  • Day 3 – Vision and Clarity of Job What does it look like for me/us to succeed?
  • Day 4 – split men/women to nail down student community group leaders and discipleship; odds and ends; vision for sending
What I usually do to get ready for the fall is read back over all our notes from our 4 days of spring planning (kept in Google Drive). Just get myself up to speed. Then I look over the the first four weeks calendar. Here’s ours:
1st 4 weeks of class Calendar 2015

What helps you prep for the fall?

 

An annual tradition on the blog – a ton of stuff you can use on campus these first few weeks. Hopefully it saves you some time or gives you ideas.

First Week Fliers, Snapchat Filters and Fall Retreat Resources

The Cru design folks have put together some phenomenal stuff at cru.org/fieldops. Best of all, it’s editable (making most of it is usable for non-Cru ministries) and FREE.

The Fall Retreat stuff is incredibly helpful:

  • There are Fall Retreat designs (includes a flier, powerpoint slides, and social media)

  • And maybe even more helpful, a bunch of resources for putting on a fall retreat – task lists, roles, timelines, sample content/program/schedule

There’s snapchat filters for things like your weekly meeting and fall retreat.

 

There’s a great guide on how to leverage Social Media in the first 6 weeks. There’s editable fliers for all kinds of first week events. 

 

Cool Music


Here’s an all-new 2017 Spotify playlist that we use at all of our freshmen cookouts and our weekly meeting.

It’s a mix of Indie Rock, Pop/Dance, and Christian Hip Hop.

We pay $10 for the month of August to get Spotify Premium so you don’t have annoying commercials.

glow sticks and beach balls1

As I’ve said before:

While cool, upbeat music may be #27 on the list of important things about a Christian meeting, it’s important nonetheless.

What’s the first thing students encounter when they come to your meeting? Your music that you’re playing before the meeting.

And what happens when they hear Newsboys or Michael W Smith pumping out of your speakers? You immediately confirm their worst suspicions that you are cheesy and out of touch with their reality.

As much as I am not a big fan of hip hop nor dance music, at our weekly meeting we include quite a bit of hip hop/dance. I run the music at our regional winter conference and can conclusively say that hip hop & dance makes a marked difference on the “vibe” of the crowd. It makes your meeting a party. Literally. People dance. Especially if you add beach balls and glow necklaces (we have our first 2 weekly meetings outside – beach balls may be a little less fun indoors).

 

Spiritual Interest Survey

We’ve put a lot of effort into streamlining our Spiritual Interest Survey card. We do it with 3000 freshmen/students the first week of class – so we want it to be quick and effective. Click here to download the editable PDF (open in Photoshop – it’s set up 4/page and it uses “smart objects” so if you edit one flier it changes all 4 fliers). Click for an adapted version we use at a Community College – pdf or Photoshop. And here’s one we use with athletes for AIA – pdf or Photoshop.

1 Minute Questionnaire

And this is NC State Cru’s sharp looking survey card (click to download – unfortunately it’s in Apple Pages – so Mac’s only):

Cru Freshmen Survey Card (NCSU)

Cru Card

Our Cru Card that we use for our weekly meeting is similar but a bit different from the survey. You can download the editable PDF (open in Photoshop – it’s set up 4/page and it uses “smart objects” so if you edit one flier it changes all 4 fliers) file here.

1 Minute Questionnaire

Simple Cru Flier

Nothing special. But I always think it’s fun to see what other campuses do for promo. Here’s the editable PDF for the first (open in Photoshop – it’s set up 4/page and it uses “smart objects” so if you edit one flier it changes all 4 fliers). And the Photoshop file for the color version.

Dorm studies 2015

generic dorm studies 2015

We used to do them in color but have found that b/w is just as sharp looking IF:

  • You print them on card stock
  • Have them “cut to bleed” (so that there is no white border)

First Week Events Flier

A few ideas from across the U.S.:

Ours:

welcome week events final

Florida Cru:

cru at UF welcome week events

Christian Challenge – Chico State – Paul Worcester:

worcester first week events

Older Fall Retreat Brochures

If you don’t like any of the aforementioned Fall Retreat designs, here’s some other designs we have used before.

Here’s our 2016 Fall Retreat brochure (designed by Cru designer Jamie Wang).

CARK Fall Retreat Template 2016_outside

CARK Fall Retreat Template 2016_inside

Besides the basic flier that you can edit and make your own, Jamie has a folder full of goodies: Facebook profile pics, slides, etc.

For Printing Flyers: You should be able to fit four of the flyers on an 8.5 x 11″ page. Tell FedEx it has a 1/8″ bleed.

Here’s our 2015 brochure (designed by Cru designer Libby Slaughter). And here’s the photoshop files so you can edit it and use it!

Fall Retreat outside

Fall Retreat inside

Here’s our 2014 brochure and a post with 4 different (older) Fall Retreat Brochure designs we’ve used. Photoshop file

Just front of brochure

Campus Brochures

A leaving piece that explains everything we do offer in Cru. See here for more details and to download.Arkansas brochure

Arkansas brochure inside

First 4 Weeks Calendar

Always fun to see how other ministries operate. So here’s an overview of what our First 4 Weeks calendar looks like. Here’s a template you can use.

first 5 week calendar

Other Stuff

All this stuff is from Jamie Wang that she has graciously made available to all – to edit and make your own.

From Jamie:

1. Cru Campus Magnet -I made this for Arkansas last year. This was a gift to their campus supporters.
2. Cru Main Meeting Slides -These are generic slides for a main meetings. Keep in mind the difference between 16:9 and 4:3
4. Cru Photos -to use in promo pieces for your campus or prayer letters, etc.
 
    – The retractable banners are all in viewing options because the files are too big
    – jpg for viewing
    -.psd file including 8 photo options for poster
-for Pages and Publisher
-Great if you need some help kickstarting your newsletters!

What about YOU?

Do you have any stuff your campus uses that would be helpful to share? Link to it in the comments!

 

The two largest college ministries, Cru and InterVarsity, have announced a desire to work together to reach every campus in the U.S.
Jason Thomas, the Executive Vice President of Field Ministry for InterVarsity (the Chief Ministry Officer for InterVarsity), made the announcement to 4,000 Cru staff at Cru17, Cru’s biennial staff conference.
Jason Thomas shared how in the last couple years InterVarsity has undergone significant changes.
He shared that several things have led to InteVarsity’s organizational reorganization:
  1. “We’ve been growing – new staff and team leaders
  2. We’ve had an unprecedented number of staff hitting retirement age
  3. We’ve been trying to ask our directors to not think about how many campuses do you have (what is) to how many campuses are in your scope (what could be). It’s very clear – that our focus has become every campus in the nation.
So we’ve been asking how can we reorganize around that vision?
It’s led to a lot of new leadership.
90% of our IV executive leadership team is new to their job in the last 10 months (among the 25 leaders at the VP, Executive VP, President level).
We are working to discern a 2030 vision that is forcing us to think differently – to innovate and to partner. To ask: “what could we do together with Cru that we couldn’t do alone?”
Could we together think about every campus? Could we mobilize people to pray on every campus?
We’re praying for revival, renewal, a great awakening among the 23 million college students and faculty in America. And I’m praying, “God, I want to be a part of this!
Founded in 1941, InterVarsity is one of the oldest and largest campus ministries. Cru started in 1951 and is the largest missions organization in the world.

 

In 2015-2016, InterVarsity was on 667 campuses, with over 41,000 students involved, and 1,329 Staff.

 

Cru is on 758 campuses and has roughly 68,000 students involved and 4,000 U.S. campus staff.

May God use this new partnership to reach more college students with the gospel on more campuses!

I thought this was fun to see – how God continues to use Cru to reach college students with the gospel.

note: stats include faculty and high school although vast majority involved (93%) are college students.

A few thoughts:

  • In college ministry, numbers like these are all the more incredible because every year you have to reload. Even maintaining the number of students involved requires a tremendous amount of work. It’s not like Cru just added 19,000 more students involved in the last decade. Those 48,367 students from 2006 graduated and are gone. 67,958 new students got involved.
  • “Exposures” counts EveryStudent.com (a website of Cru campus ministry) in 2006 and 2016 (1996 being pre-internet) – Praise God for the internet! But obviously that skews the numbers a bit.
  • “Decisions” does NOT count EveryStudent.com. If you include decisions made on EveryStudent.com, 84,859 and 378,564 trusted Christ in 2006 and 2016 respectively.

cru-over-last-two-decades

This just represents one organization among many churches and organizations that are reaching an increasing number of college students. The best is yet to come in college ministry! I can’t wait to see what God does in the next decade through churches and organizations committed to doing the hard work of reaching college students with the gospel.

The History of Cru

July 14, 2017 — 7 Comments

These videos and this book should be required for all Cru staff.

Cru just released (June 2017) a 5 part video series (you can watch them below) on the History of Cru (They’re not exactly going viral – only 49 people have watched them!).

As a staff member, they’re really fun to watch, and a reminder of how greatly God has used Cru to bring millions to know Him. We truly stand on the shoulders of giants.

So much of what we take for granted now in Evangelicalism is wrapped up in the history of Cru. Not to say that Cru is exclusively responsible for what God did in these areas. Obviously all glory goes to God and not Cru or these men and women. And MANY ministries and churches played a role in all of the following. But Cru played a major role in:

  • Developing the personal support raising model that is widely used by all missions organizations – “In an era of falling church investment in evangelism, Bill Bright pioneered the individual missionary support model, which seeks commitments from 50 to 100 individuals to give regular monthly amounts.” Now, there is some debate on whether this was good or bad. And obviously it’s not the ONLY way. But it radically widened the bottleneck for laborers. You can only send out as many laborers as you can salary. And central fund raising severely choked the laborer pipeline. And Bill Bright’s innovation enabled hundreds of thousands of laborers to GO. If you’re on support, you may not be the biggest fan of MPD, but consider this – Cru staff made $100 a MONTH before Dr. Bright innovated the personal support raising model! Which do you prefer?
  • The rapid spread of the gospel through the Global South via the JESUS Film. Aside from the aggressive translation of the Bible by Wycliffe, I can’t think anything else that has so greatly multiplied the reach of the gospel.
  • The rise of evangelicalism in America (not aways a good thing!) – more on that below, with the book
  • Christian contemporary music (again, definitely not always a good thing!)
  • The renewed focus on evangelism in the 20th century= Cru + Billy Graham. Billy Graham brought a crusade/event driven evangelism. Cru brought training in personal evangelism.
  • Sending college students on summer missions trips
  • Using culturally relevant means to share the gospel (as opposed to the cloistered fundamentalism that was the dominant form of evangelicalism). Cru was widely criticized for their open stance to the culture. America was greatly altered by this.
  • Millions of churches being planted across the U.S. and around the world. Case in point – Cru played an ENORMOUS part in shaping my state of Arkansas. Fellowship Little Rock and Fellowship Northwest Arkansas are two of THE most effective, large, and fruitful churches in the state. Both were started by former Cru staff and students who graduated from college and longed to replicate what they had experienced in Cru – aggressive evangelism and discipleship – in a church. So they started those churches. Not to mention the incredible impact an Arkansas Cru grad, Dennis Rainey, has had on our state/nation/world through founding Family Life Ministries. That’s not to mention the number of Cru alumni who went on to seminary to become pastors- I heard the story once that in the late 1970’s at Dallas Theological Seminary, someone conducted an informal survey in his first year Greek class of 40-some students, “How many of you here either came to Christ, or were discipled through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ?” Every hand (except for one) was raised.
  • And last, but certainly not least, the critical importance of the college campus in changing the world for Christ (shoutout to Navs and Intervarsity for doing this too!)

What first opened my eyes to the history of Cru is the book:

Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America.

The author set out (for his doctoral dissertation) to find the roots of the rise of American Evangelicalism in the latter half of the 20th century. He was not familiar with Cru but in his research he began to see what a critical role Cru played in the surge of Evangelicalism. So he gives an (what I thought was very) objective history of Cru (warts and all).

On the less objective side (but nonetheless excellent and well worth watching!) – these five 20-minute videos do a great job of summarizing the history of Cru. Very inspiring. We stand on the shoulders of giants – men and women who have creatively, boldly, and passionately shared the gospel with millions of people. There’s much work to be done. It’s a privilege to take the baton from them to continue the work.

 

Back in 2010, Jim Collins gave a brilliant talk on leadership at the Drucker Day Keynote.

The whole thing is worth listening to, but starting at minute 47 – Jim spends the last 10 minutes of his talk addressing young leaders – with 10 words of advice.

The best of what he says:

1) Build a personal board of directors
  • For me – this has come through seeking out meetings with great leaders. Not sure who to meet with? Ask a great leader – “who are great leaders I should learn from?” Cru staff – SPEND YOUR CRU17 DOING THIS.
  • As you meet great leaders, you’ll find leaders that really challenge you to grow and that, personally, you just like. Just give them a call every few months to see what they’re learning and what interesting problems they’re trying to solve. And ask them for help on a problem you’re trying to solve.
2) Turn off your electronic gadgets – not for others but for yourself. Great leaders take time to think.
3) Work on your three circles-
  1. What are you passionate about?
  2. What can you be the best at in the world?
  3. What drives your economic engine? What are you useful for?
    • This one is more difficult in ministry. Business leaders are driven by profit.
    • Collins says the question for non-profits is, “How effectively do we deliver on our mission and make a distinctive impact, relative to our resources?”
    • I would offer that laborers is a key metric for college ministry.
    • Another possible measurement – staff to student ratio (how effectively we are delivering on our mission relative to our resources). How many students are involved per staff on campus? I’ve heard 50/1 is a good starting place.
  • These three build on each other – “Consistently well executed, accumulating one upon another, over a long period of time.”
4) What is your questions to statements ratio and can you double it? You spend way too much time being interesting. Why don’t you channel your energy into being interested. Learn from everyone you meet.
10) Prepare to live a life where at age 65 you’re 1/3 of the way through your work
  • This is definitely my goal! To live and do ministry in such a way that each decade builds upon itself and when you hit 65, you’re doing your best work with the greatest influence.
  • Love this from John Piper (that he wrote during the Presidential campaign of 2016) – Hillary, Bernie, Donald and Me. At age 70, his zeal and work output are ramping up!
Here’s Jim’s talk, starting at minute 47 when he begins to address young leaders:

 

We’re halfway through the year AND it’s summer. What better time to share some of my favorite books I’ve read this year?

My 20 favorites I read in the first half of 2017, ranked:

  1. You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity – Francis and Lisa Chan – as one reviewer put it “A bait and switch but in the best possible way.” Not really on marriage – but about living on mission as a couple and family. Such a good book (I listened to it on audiobook). “There are plenty of marriage books that will teach you how to get along and be happy. This is not one of those books. Those books don’t account for the fact that you can have a happy earthly marriage and then be miserable for all eternity. We’ve made happy families our mission. That’s not the mission Jesus gave us. God has entrusted you with children so you’d make them into disciples who will go into every part of the world & make disciples. Our parenting is not exempt from the command to make disciples. You exist to make disciples. Your marriage exists to make disciples. This should dictate where you live/work/spend your $/time—everything!”
  2. The Meaning of the Pentateuch by Sailhamer – everything you think about the Old Testament and the Pentateuch is wrong. It was “not written to teach Israel the law. The Pentateuch was addressed to a people living under the law and failing at every opportunity. The Pentateuch looks beyond the law of God to his grace. The purpose of the Pentateuch is to teach its readers about faith and hope in the new covenant.” Read the free (50 page!) intro and have your mind blown! As a (seminary grad) friend commented – “Just reading the Introduction left me feeling like I had never read the Pentateuch before!” REALLY long and kind of difficult. But so worth it. Great to read during your quiet time over a couple of months.
  3. The Blood of Emmett Till – this should be required reading for every American. The story of the horrific death of a young black boy, and more widely, the civil rights movement.
  4. The Meaning of Marriage – Tim and Kathy Keller – I’ve read over 20 books on marriage/dating/sex and this is by FAR the best (yes, better than the #1 book on my list. I’d recommend this book first as a marriage book. And then You and Me Forever as a follow up. You and Me was just more impactful for me personally this year). Cannot recommend highly enough. This is my second time to read it and I plan to re-read it often. Incredibly practical and insightful. I work in college ministry and I recommend this to every college student I counsel re relationships or dating. Every person who is single should read this book pre-marriage.
  5. Silence by Shūsaku Endō – a fictional book but based on true events. Enthralling and challenging novel based on the real life persecution of Portuguese missionaries in Japan.
  6. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike – Had several people recommend this book and what cemented it for me was seeing it on Bill Gates’ top 5 books of 2016. Not your typical Gates’ recommendation (usually his book recs are pretty cerebral!). Shoe Dog did not disappoint. Knight is incredibly honest, not skimming over his regrets and mistakes. And I was surprised by the amount of spiritual searching throughout Knight’s life. The audiobook is particularly good.
  7. Darkness at Noon – Outstanding novel based on real events in Communist Russia in the 1950’s. Really helped me understand the mindset of communism in a way no other book has. As an American, I’ve always discounted communists as idiots. Koestler’s account is not favorable to communists but it does show the very intelligent rationale behind brutal communist policies. Makes me want to learn more about the worldviews of the 20th century (which is why I read Paul Johnson’s Modern Times).
  8. Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties – Thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s long. And ambitious. I want to read everything by this author. He has such an unbelievable grasp on an amazing amount of topics. He truly gives a thorough education on the twentieth century. I listened to it on audiobook. Probably would have been better to read but worked fine as audiobook. I probably just missed some of the more profound, difficult ideas.
  9. Elon Musk: Inventing the Future –  about the fascinating founder of Tesla and SpaceX.
  10. The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance – a LITTLE difficult to read. But a good book to read bit by bit in your Quiet Time. This book was incredibly helpful for me, especially reading it on the heels of Sailhamer’s “The Meaning of the Pentateuch.” Ferguson answers “how do the law and grace relate?” He asserts that legalism and antinomianism are not opposites but “nonidentical twins from the same womb.” “The cure for both legalism and antinomianism is the gospel.”
  11. Dedication and Leadership – a former Communist who becomes a Christian, looks at what we can learn from Communism. In some ways this book is dated. In others, it is particularly well suited for our times. The book is a case study in how a small minority can literally change the world: “It is probably true to say of the Communists that never in man’s history has a small group of people set out to win a world and achieved more in less time.” Caveat: The book is 100% not gospel centered! Definitely “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and “if the communists can be so dedicated and sacrifice so much for a lie, how much more so, Christians…Come on Christians! Try harder!” But… taken with a grain of salt, the book is VERY thought provoking. Particularly relevant for my line of work – college ministry- as the book focuses particularly on how the Communist Party mobilizes young people.
  12. Churchill – Paul Johnson – from what I researched, this is the best short biography of Churchill. What an amazing man who almost singlehandedly saved civilization!
  13. Zeal Without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice – Great, short book. Can easily be read in a week of quiet times.
  14. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania – great book by one of my favorite authors. Reads like a novel but is 100% historical.
  15. Undaunted Courage: Lewis and Clark and the Opening of the American West – Stephen E. Ambrose – Fascinating book. Name a more iconic duo. Now name one fact about them other than that they were the first to explore the west. I knew nothing about this famous duo before reading this. Their passage across the virgin west is fascinating – their discoveries, their courage, their leadership. The ending of the book was shocking. I won’t spoil anything but I was truly shocked- mostly that I had not heard any of it before.
  16. Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety – another fascinating book. It’s only by God’s grace that we haven’t nuked ourselves into a nuclear holocaust by now.
  17. When Breath Becomes Air – VERY well written memoir of a neurosurgeon who gets terminal cancer
  18. Thinking, Fast and Slow – great and fascinating, if a bit academic, insights on how we make decisions
  19. The Pilgrim’s Progress – Mixed feelings on this book. I set out on my pilgrimage to read the book because many great Christian thinkers list it as the book that has most influenced them (apart from the Bible). I did NOT think I would be recommending this book. But as it gets going, you get used to the Old English (if you can’t get over that, there ARE modern English versions). For some tips on how to read it see my full review over on GoodReads
  20. The Church in the Bible and the World: An International Study – DA Carson – very helpful for my understanding of ecclesiology
Though I haven’t quite finished it, I can’t help but include the book I’m trudging (in the best possible sense) through right now because it will easily be in the top 5 – Piper’s Reading the Bible Supernaturally. SO good. Not a real easy read. But perfect to bite off a piece every morning in Quiet Times.

“When young leaders in my organization ask me what they can do to grow, my first response is always pretty obvious: read! Leaders are readers. I believe the answer to pretty much every question you can think of is already in a book somewhere.” – Dave Ramsey

If you’re looking for lighter, summer reading (i.e. – not heavy, theological books), the list would be-

Super-easy, fun reads:
  1. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
  2. Elon Musk: Inventing the Future
  3. Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety
  4. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
  5. When Breath Becomes Air
 
A little more challenging, but not-too-hard reads:
  1. The Blood of Emmett Till (NOT light in subject matter, but easy to read and a very good and important read)
  2. Silence
  3. Darkness at Noon
  4. Churchill – Paul Johnson
  5. Undaunted Courage: Lewis and Clark and the Opening of the American West – Stephen E. Ambrose
I just got on GoodReads.com this year and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Great way to track your reading progress and set goals for yourself. Would love to connect over there.

What about you? What are your favorite books you’ve read in 2017?

image via quotefancy