Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"Where Jesus Prayed" By Danielle Shroyer; A Book Review By Meg Calvin

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This scrumtrelescent read will fill you up like Thanksgiving Dinner (minus the Tums). It is a rich dish that covers many facets of the Christian faith. It is hearty in the sense that it is satisfying to those of all levels of Biblical literacy.   With each page, readers are led into a different time and culture by Pastor Danielle Shroyer’s authentically wise and witty voice. She is both a credentialed spiritual director and tour guide.

Upon traveling to the Holy Land with her fellow pilgrims, Shroyer had planned to take a break from her “word-crammed” life.  A desire to do more sensing and less talking filled her as she discovered that “Jesus was more human, more real, more divine and more beautiful” than she had ever imagined. Thankfully this break was short-lived, and this literary souvenir can now be shared with the masses. If one is on the fence about checking out this masterful two-hour-read, prepare to be persuaded.

  • Each chapter is based on a  word or line of the Lord’s Prayer that thematically intertwines with a specific destination on her tour. This makes this book a versatile resource for any small group or sermon series. 
  • Carter Rose’s photography is a life-giving spiritual discipline all on its own.
  • While some might be weary of a boring geography lesson, they can expect the exact opposite. Shroyer has a magical way of getting her readers emotionally attached to each timeline and map that her words depict. She writes, “ The air in Galilee feels...FULL. [...]It’s as if the air had more energy in it.[...]I wonder if that’s because Jesus’ imprint is still here, somehow, as he left behind a trace of his own  life-giving force that even two thousand years cannot erase.” She describes the sea of Galilee as Jesus’ routine commute (Galilee’s borders had been divided into quadrants), “Jesus spent much of his life traversing boundaries. Where others were labeled by place or tribe or religious affiliation, Jesus saw fractured hearts, dismembered dreams, the ache of alienation, hopes faint as a whisper.”
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  • Each chapter drips with mind-boggling facts of our Christian story. She writes of the Synagogue in Magdala that was discovered in 2009. It remained in nearly pristine condition for two-thousand years safe underground. To add to the surprise, it was hidden less than two feet below the earth. Amazing!  The new sanctuary in Magdala, Duc in Altum (“into the deep”) honors all women ( named and unnamed) who had walked with Jesus and led others on their walk as well. This part of the book is truly empowering. Tissues will be needed. 
  • Shroyer would not be doing her job as a Pastor if she did not close the book with a booming benediction, and that is exactly what she does. The final destination on the tour is the Chapel at Shepherd’s Field.  Here where the Shepherds heard angelic sounds, Shroyer sends her readers out with, “You remember that you were made for: praise, and joy, and a heart that delights in the glories of this world and its Maker, Savior, and Keeper. You were made to be loved and to discover that love with boundless overflowing joy. You were made to see stars, to witness miracles, to watch love be born into this world, to proclaim it ever new each morning.” 


Thursday, April 28, 2016

"What Great Teachers Do Differently" By: Todd Whitaker

A Book Review By: Meg Calvin


Fans blow hard as the kids enter the classroom. A candle is aflame on the center of the table, which is adorned with a red table cloth. The seating chart has been designed based on the personalities of the group. Each chair faces a Bible, pencil and an language scramble as they arrive. The downloaded wind sound-effect surrounds the space. It's Pentecost and you are beyond prepared. This is rare and you are stoked to teach.

The opening activity goes swimmingly, and then Rodney and Chad begin testing the fan blades out to see how quickly they could cut the pencils. This of course distracts the rest. What do you do?

Some of the best prepared, most passionately presented lesson-plans are sadly squelched by a teacher's lack of classroom management skills, self-awareness, and self-control.

This book is for moments like these. It is not about curriculum or instructional theory, but about who we are as teachers and how we view the children we serve.  While it would be ideal to send our entire KidMin team to Bethel Seminary to earn an MA in Children & Family Mnistry-this book is a close second.

Todd Whittaker has written dozens of books on similar subjects, consults with fifty-plus schools every year and has spent countless hours in research as a teacher and principle. While some of his thoughts  may echo Bruce Wilkenson's work, he offers something special to Children's Pastors. Similar to a school principle, we need to equip and encourage not only children, but our volunteer team and the parents with which we partner. We daily wear lots of hats, and Whittaker gets that.

Like you, I have read several books on the subject, and thirty-five percent of this one were concepts on classroom dynamics that I have grappled to articulate and address for years.

He challenges us to, "Base Every Decision on the Best People" While some of us might have been trained to "teach to the middle", where the majority of the students cluster', he proposes we set the bar high and hold all accountable to reaching it. This is truly helpful in the realm of CFM, because we want to welcome all children into the church. The "Wyatts" from unhealthy families who never behave and their parents "don't do church" and the "Cynthias" who had all sixty-six books memorized by the age of four, and their parents serve on every church committee.  Both deserve a safe and quality space to grow spiritually.

Cynthia's parents need to know that her CFM program is; safe, biblical sound, and filled with a well-trained team. Wyatt's parents need to know that we love him too much for him to misbehave, and they might need some extra hand-holding as they enter into the community of faith. Both kids should be held to the same standard, as to assure their growth as disciples.

Meeting the needs of all types of families, and holding proactive conversations with parents can be grueling, but Whittaker walks his readers through these times in extremely manageable ways.

Another sneak peak into this treasure of a text is the challenge to ask yourself before any decision "Who is the most comfortable?". He writes, "If Mr. Negativity dominates the meeting with carping criticism, the best teachers will be uncomfortable".  Do we want our best-most capable, driven, faithful volunteers (you can see their faces, can't you?) to be uncomfortable?

 Imagine with me, if you will, that a conflict arises among your teaching team. This is when Whittaker gets raw and real. As you work towards the resolution, remember that, "discomfort leads to change". If you don't wish for the "Great Teacher's" mentality or work ethic to change-you better be real careful to not make her feel uncomfortable with your chosen strategy. His personal stories on this issue are truly genius and respectful.

He writes of a team meeting where he moved his podium after everyone had chosen their seats to make the "Complainer's Club" which usually resided in the back of the room to the front row. Who do you think was uncomfortable in this situation? Obviously the persons that needed to be momentarily uncomfortable as to move towards their full potential. The scary part of this chapter is that if we unintentionally make the "Great Teachers" on our team uncomfortable in our attempts to reach the "Negative Nancys" things can go quite the opposite direction. Yikes. You have been warned. Read it to find out more!

I could go on and on -but then this blog would reach an unattractive length. Whittaker believes that ALL teachers can go from good to great;regardless of their gift-set or years of experience. This quick read will equip you as a Children's Pastor in nurturing your volunteers towards a higher standard of teaching the best news in the world-the Good News.

One more thing- this book comes with a super-cool study guide that you and your volunteer team can work through together. #teambonding

Want for more Whittaker? Join me in Mabank, Texas where Whittaker will be speaking at a "Know Your Impact : Take the Limits Off Of Learning" Conference on June 8-10. And get this-it's only $50. Your continuing ed. budget will like that now wont it! :)