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How to Build a Life-Changing Men’s Ministry

How to Build a Life-Changing Men's Ministry by Steve Sonderman

How to Build a Life-Changing Men’s Ministry
by Steve Sonderman

The most neglected ministry in the Church is Men’s ministry.  I know this from experience.  I have sat in a meeting with a senior pastor who told me that “for the amount of effort it takes to do men’s ministry well, it wasn’t worth the time to do it.”  I have been part of Churches where women bible studies out number the mens 4:1.  I have been to churches that women not only ran the ministry, but served in the ministry 10 times more than men.  I have been in churches where men’s ministry was relegated to setting up chairs and tables.  I have been on church websites that contain curly letters and every shade of red, in sanctuaries that have more floral arrangements than flower shops, and worship services that try to help us dance with Jesus (complete with ballet slipper background on powerpoint) or fall in love with Jesus.  Each of these scream that churches are after women, designed by women, and full of women.  Men are the outsiders or at least the minorities.  It makes sense at times, because some of the most successful ministries to men, in recent months have seen their leaders (Mark Driscoll and Ignite) come under scrutiny.  It poses the question that David Murrow answered in his book, Why Men Hate Going to Church! (not the book I’m writing about but a great read none-the-less!)

Steve Sonderman has written his book, How to Build a Life-Changing Men’s Ministry, as a both a testament to the ministry that he started 20 years ago at Elmbrook Church and a pattern for others to follow in starting their own men’s ministry at their Church.  First off, this book is chalked full of practical ideas for events and leadership in men’s ministry.  Sonderman hits the nail on the head with his advice about staying on vision.  Men, above all other groups in the church, are vision oriented.  When it comes to doing ministry, men want to the know the purpose first and foremost.  There are busier groups in the church, but none more careful with how they spend their time.  When men get together, they want to accomplish something.  Vision is vital to doing men’s ministry.

The second major point that Sonderman emphasizes in this book, is the involvement of others in leading the ministry.  There is no doubt that he was the point man, however, his teams, from outreach to small groups to retreats, are full of men who share his vision and his purpose.  They are well trained, highly committed, and extremely responsible.

This book is really about how to create a ministry, not necessarily a mens ministry.  It covers vision, teams, small groups, and purpose.  It was very well written, extremely practical, and very well researched.  His bibliography is well rounded and his text is well sourced.  Sonderman has written a great book that is a valuable tool for anyone wanting to start a ministry.





Exponential by Dave Ferguson

by Dave Ferguson

Napkins are rarely important unless you are the Amazon founder who mapped out his company on a summer drive on one or Dave Ferguson who began a movement of Church’s on his.  It was on a napkin, with a map of Chicago drawn on it with circles indicating where churches could be placed, that was the beginning of Community Church. It is one of the largest church networks in America, with campus’ all over Chicago and the midwest.  Dave Ferguson, in his book Exponential, casts the vision for multisite churches and provides the methodology in which Community took to cause that vision to become a reality.

As noted above, the vision for Community as a multi-site Church began on a napkin, but the physical reproduction of Churches began with their reproduction of leaders.  Solid leadership has led Community to where it is now.  The first section of this book focuses on the leadership path that Community takes all of its leaders on.  The Exponential team uses the term “apprentice” for all the people they train to lead ministries and campuses.  Dave breaks this process down into 5 stages to show how easy it is to equip someone for leadership.  They are:

  1. I do.  You watch.  We talk.
  2. I do.  You help.  We talk.
  3. You do.  I help.  We talk.
  4. You do. I watch. We talk.
  5. You do. Someone else watches.

Ferguson points out that creating reproducing churches is bigger than just finding leadership from the pulpit but also in the arts.  He devotes one full chapter to training, leading, and empowering artists…a facet largely neglected by churches today.  He says that this is is the second most important thing to do (after reproducing leaders) in creating a missional movement.

The next section of the book is largely concerned with reproducing small groups.  Small groups is where Ferguson sees people become 3C followers of Jesus (meaning those who Celebrate, Connect, and Contribute).  Within their small group paradigm each facet of the sold-out follower of Christ (the 3C’s) is exercised.  Like their Churches, each group is begun with the expressed purpose of reproducing itself.  This comes forward in the apprenticing of Small group leaders that Community has turned into an art.

The final section of the book focuses on the reproduction of sites.  When Community began, it started with the vision and purpose of reproducing.  This idea was at the forefront of their decision and planning.  This, in itself, is part of what makes their schema work.  They are committed to reproducing.  Though it happened quicker than they thought (137), they have now reproduced enough to provide their process to starting another site.  In this section, Ferguson points out the advantages of a multi-site church over planting a new church, and in doing so really helped me to understand how a multi-site church could answer a lot of questions in my own area.

I loved every page of this book.  It was sparsly sourced and at times a little too “trendy” for what I would like, but there was challenge after challenge and bits of wisdom after wisdom that helped put much of my career and frustrations in ministry in prospective.  I want to work for a guy like Dave who has a passion and purspose, vision and drive.  I hope to utalize much of his apprenticing advice and method in my own line of work.

I give it an 9/10!


Outliers: The Story of Success

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

by Malcolm Gladwell

Perhaps the greatest compliment received in our individualistic culture is the label of a “self-made-man.” The notion that one can grab hold of his or her bootstraps, pull themselves, through individual determination and willpower, into a spot of fame, power, and success, is a belief that our culture is founded upon. The myth that talent is an illusion and giftedness irrelevant, are platitudes that we feed our children, pin on walls of businesses, and remind students of constantly. What if working hard wasn’t enough? What if diligence and perseverance were only part of the equation? Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success, argue’s “that there is something profoundly wrong with the way we make sense of success.” (18)

“People don’t rise from nothing. We do owe something to parentage and patronage. The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot…It is only by asking where successful people are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t.” (19)

Gladwell’s premise that there are hidden advantages and opportunities, that they successful capitalized on, is the backbone of this book. He starts with Canadian Hockey stars. All kids born Jan 1-Dec 31 are put together on the same teams. If a kid is born Jan 1 is playing a kid born Dec 31, the first kid will be nearly a year older. Obviously with nearly a year head start he will be much bigger, stronger, and faster. So he is picked for a better team, with better coaching, more practice, and more games. Their first year playing the gap is noticeable but not huge…after year 2,3,4, the gap keeps getting larger and larger in skill, because of more and better practice, long after the size difference is gone. That is why a majority of Pro Hockey players are born Jan-March. Success isn’t tied only to their desire and will, but to their birth month as well.

Success, according to Gladwell, is also tied to the 10,000 hour rule (chap 2). If it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master, why then does some kids make it an others not. 10,000 hours is a lot and people like Bill Gates, Tiger Woods, or Michael Phelps reached fortune and success early because they started putting in hours well before everyone else. They started accumulating hours at early ages.

Not only is opportunity and practice involved but our upbringing in part determines how we respond to these things (chap 3-4). In a heartbreaking story about the smartest man in America, Gladwell points out that his upbringing was part of the lack of success that he found. His upbringing, how his family life was a mess as he was growing up, didn’t give him a social IQ, which is needed for interacting with people.

In the final chapter of this section, the author tells the story of a takeover lawyer. The problem was, he was an expert at takeovers during the 50’s and 60’s, when they were rare and frowned upon. When takeover’s became norm, Joe Flom was prepared and practiced. He had been doing it for years, scrapping by. When the economy and market turned, Flom was ready and made his success. He was born at the perfect time to excel at that market.

In the second part of the book, Gladwell focuses on the legacy that we are given. Success in part is due to our ancestry, our genetics and our family values. He begins this section by studying the why’s behind the Kentucky feuds like the Hatfield-McCoy battles. Gladwell tied it too their herdsman legacy that can be traced back to the Highlands of Great Britain. Herdsmen must protect their flocks and they protected their families to the end.

Gladwell then discuss the legacy of pilots and the plane crashes that resulted. Pilots from non-confrontational countries refused to get aggressive with the flight controllers even to the point of crashing their plane when it ran out of fuel. Had they been from a more “aggressive with authority” culture the plane crashes would have been avoided.

Gladwell also uncovers why Asian children are better in math than our American students and why schools struggle at challenging our American students. He traces it to the kind of agriculture that is done in SE Asia vs. the agriculture done here in America. Pretty fascinating.

This book was entertaining and very well written. Gladwell is a sociologist that communicates very well. It was a great book that challenges the preconceived notions that we in America have towards success and it provides a lot of provocative thoughts about how to help those around us (especially our students) be more successful. It was very well documented and sourced. Based a lot on stories, the book goes by very quick.

Generation iY


I work with computers, it is my job. All day I type on them, look at them, think about them. Its how I make my living. When I’m at home, computers and other electronics are everywhere. I can’t escape them. When someone in my family has trouble with their device they often come to me and say, “my iThingy” isn’t working, can you fix it?” The truth of the matter is that my job revolves around enterprise databases and UNIX operating systems. So, I”m really not too good with iThis and iThat electronics.

I believe Tim Elmore correctly asserts that the so-called Millennials or Generation Y is best understood by those born pre-1990 and those post 1990. The line of demarcation is based on the explosion of the Internet into the daily lives of humans throughout the globe. This generation of young people are not merely influenced by technology they are “defined” (p. 13) by it. Elmore does a wonderful job introducing his readers to the life of an iYer as he calls them.

As anticipated, Elmore explores the positive and negative impacts of social media and the like. I felt he gave a pretty balanced analysis of the pros and cons of the connected iYer.

Elmore provides many two column charts showing contrasting ideas. For instance, on page 35 he has such a chart highlighting the pros and cons of the typical iYer. Here is a sample:

They’re adept at multitasking. They have difficulty focusing.
They hunger to change the world. They anticipate doing it quickly and easily.
They own the word of technology. The expect easy and instant results.

Elmore uses many stories and analogies to drive home his points. Most were helpful and effective. One in particular stood out. He tells the story of some young African elephants that had strayed from their heard. Upon being found some time later they were found to be extremely aggressive, even killing other animals for “fun” which is unlike a typical elephant. Elmore then relates his point, “Like the young elephants, young people who spend most of their time with peers may drift into a lifestyle that won’t work in the real world. Many are truly lost and need to find their way back to a path that lead to maturity” (p. 110).

A criticism of this book is its repetitive nature. Elmore spent three-fourths of the book describing the iYer and the remaining one-forth of the book showing how we as mentors and teachers can best reach them. I felt he could have condensed the descriptive narrative.

Some of the most helpful content was in the final three chapters that dealt with how mentors, teachers, and parents can best shape and move the iYer into maturity. Specifically helpful was Elmore’s seven stages of learning an iYer moves through has they incorporate truth and information into their world view. He then gives an example of how these worked out in the life of a young “cocky” iYer named Justin (p. 181-183).

Although not an overtly Christian book, Generation iY is certainly helpful to anyone who is trying to lead and mentor young people in the context of a Christian relationship. Elmore has a passion for developing these young people into leaders and I found his enthusiasm contagious. For more tools and information about growing iY leaders you can find them at Elmore’s organization. I would recommend this book anyone who is trying to get inside the mind of an iYer.


ImageWhat if your life was more awesome? Before you break out the neon colors, your Zach Morris mobile phone, and your cassette tapes, you must be ““brutally realistic about present and wildly unrealistic about the future.” (35) Jon Acuff, in his book Start, wants you to know that your life can be filled with awesome, if you are willing to leave behind good! The thing for you to know is that “the starting line is the only line you control.” (28)

I am the type of guy that lives with: 1) regret for not starting a lot of things earlier; 2) paralysis from not knowing what to do now that I was fired from what I thought I was supposed to do; 3) fear that it might be too late to do anything else. This book is a challenge to all of those ideas.

Acuff blends his humor that he perfected on his blog “Stuff Christians Like” with a devotional bent, creating a book about discovering and implementing your passions and joy, in effort to change this world. His purpose in writing was to help his readers find their awesome. In doing so, he gives an overview of the cycle that we go through in life. He notices that everybody goes through these stages during their time on this earth:

In our 20’s we are learning. This stage is all about finding out what you like and don’t like, what brings you joy and what wears you out. Trying, experiencing and learning as many skills as possible. Asking the question, “If I died today, what wouldn’t I get to do?”…At this stage, Acuff suggests, finding 30 minutes a day to devote to a task that drives you and gives you the most joy. Only by experimenting do we really learn.

In our 30’s we edit. Taking what we learned in our 20’s, we begin to pare down our options. We define priorities by asking the question: “What gives you the most joy?” Discover what brings you joy and how you can spend the most productive time on that. Acuff reminds us that: “time really is the only indicator of what matters.”

In our 40’s we master. This stage is where we become the experts. Dr. K. Anders Ericsson has found that it takes 10000 hours of practice to make an expert.   During this section Acuff explains how to deal with criticism, how to leverage your abilities and gifts, and how to get more experience. When it comes to criticism, Acuff points out exactly what we all deal with: 1 criticism + 10000 praises = 1 criticism. I think that rings true for most of us, but he points out that criticism needs to looked at from the source, asking “who said it and why?”

In our 50’s we harvest. After years of practicing, editing, and mastering, we finally come to the point that where our passion, joy, abilities, and experience meet. Acuff reminds us that we will work harder at this stage than any other. But there are some ways that we can shorten this stage up: like being a jerk, letting fame get the better of us, or becoming lazy.

The final stage is guiding. This is Acuff’s mentoring challenge to all those who have mastered something. He is passionate about seeing people guide and influence others. Though we don’t have to be in this stage to lead another person (we just have to be a step ahead of them), this is where we get to utilize our gained experience in order to help others. The key, Acuff says, is to not try to do to much. Be selective on who and when.

This book was a fantastic read. Acuff writes very clearly about the cycle that we go through in mastering any task. The most important thing he would have you do is “START”. I ate this book up as he told his story. If you get the chance to read one book this summer, this one needs to be it. It helps to put everything in perspective.

Innovation the NASA Way: Harnessing the Power of Your Organization for Breakthrough Success

Innovation the NASA Way by Rod Pyle

Innovation the NASA Way by Rod Pyle

When faced with a problem, what are the steps that you or your organization takes to solve them?  Do you cower at the problem, ignore the issue, overcome the challenge, or simply hope it will go away?  In his 2014 book, Innovation the NASA WayRod Pyle studies the great challenges and issues that NASA has faced in its 56 years of existence and the way that they as a team overcame and creatively solved the issues at hand.  This book was a fascinating behind the scenes look at the men who lead America to the forefront of the Space Race and then have kept us there ever since.

Each chapter  discusses a different success story in the history of the organization.  Every accomplishment is framed in a challenge-solution format.  For example, how does one perform an EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) in a weightless environment without dying of a heart attack and being able to actually accomplish something?  Alexye Leonev, a Russian Cosmonaut, nearly died performing the first EVA.  Outside the capsule, his pressurized suit blew up so large and became so stiff that he was unable to re-enter the capsule.  It was fortunate that he was able to depressurize his suit by opening up a valve and releasing some of the oxygen in order to shrink his suit down.  He re-entered the capsule moments before he would have become unconscious and probably died.  Ed White, the first American space walker, wasn’t in as perilous of a situation, but he was unable to do any work outside of the capsule because of the lack of training in a weightless environment.  His co-pilot on the mission, in a secret meeting just before liftoff, was given a pair of scissors and told to cut the tetther to Ed White’s suit and return to earth alone should the unthinkable happen…NASA covering its bases.  Every other American Space walk had the same issue, until Buzz Aldrine (of future Moon landing fame) undertook the problem.  He devised a scheme to train for his Gemini EVA mission by submerging himself in a swimming pool and practicing the mission objectives.  His unorthodox training methods caught major flack from the NASA brass as well as the astronauts, but Aldrins EVA would prove that man could work outside the space craft.  It was his innovation that changed the way NASA would train forever.

Pyle walked through the history of NASA from its inception in 1958 all the way to the present day by explaining the challenges that they faced and how they overcame them.  From figuring out how to communicate with space probe passing by Neptune, to bouncing a rover on the Mars surface, the funding crisis of the Space Shuttle, or recovering from the Apollo 1 diasaster, Pyle gives an in depth look at how NASA solved the issues at hand by clearly definning them and then challenging its people for solutions.

This book was advertised as a leadership book for companies and businesses…it isn’t.  In reality it was a fascinating book for anyone who is  interested in the NASA Space Program.  His advice for companies was light and left alot to be desired.  His advice was simply: Be Bold, Be Daring, Be Passionate.  One chapter covered the application of this book.  But it contained great stories about the men that made Mercury, Gemeni, Apollo, and all the other missions of NASA work.  It was this behind the scense look that made this book worth reading.  This is a must read for anyone wanting to know more about NASA.

What I learned from the book.  1) He needs to fix three typos! 2) Be clear with the challenges that you face.  And be specific with your solutions.  Most churches (and I speak of churches here because that is really all I know) don’t have a clue as to what challenges they need to overcome.  For example, I used to work at a church in a low-economic community.  People in poverty have different needs that need to be met.  We were a congregation of middle class families that had no clue how to interact with those in poverty.  And to top it all off, no one in the leadership wanted to read about it either.  So we tried to overcome challenges that were specific to middle class families and ignored many of the issues of poverty.  Churches need to be specific to the challenges that need to be met and be even clearer with their solutions.   This book taught me the importance of clearly defining the challenge you are facing, then coming up with a specific solution to counter it.


The Land Between

The Land Between by Jeff Manion

The Land Between by Jeff Manion

Life and sin happen.  The question of suffering and why, is irrelevant in the current discussion because it doesn’t make the desert more or less real. It surrounds everyone of us at one time or another. Jeff Manion, in his book The Land Between, writes about the reality of the desert and attempts to put perspective on our time spent there. In tracing the interaction between Moses and God in Numbers 11 (the primary text) and the life of Abraham (secondary), minion makes a case for our desert tour as a time of learning who God really is.

Manion’s book is an extended study of Moses and Israel’s complaint to God in Numbers 11. The people are stuck in the desert and have been dining on manna for quite sometime. They are tired and hungry! They want meat, a complaint made clear to God! Deserts are fertile ground for very few things, but complaining, bitterness, and worry are a few of them. When we find ourselves in transition, in the desert, minion reminds us to fight against there things with all our will. God answers their complaints by giving them meat, but it doesn’t go the way they want. A plague comes upon the people. Minion observes that the things we want in the desert arn’t always the best things for us. The life in transition is life lived learning to walk in step with The Lord!

The Land Between was a series of sermons originally. It reads just like that. There are many illustrations and a lot of application woven throughout the book. The book doesn’t cover the entirety of the wilderness wandering but attempts to exegete this passage and use it as a pattern for the rest of Israel’s time in the desert. This was a solid book that brings wisdom to those who find themselves in the midst of the desert.