‘The Awkward Bunch’ – Small Group Dynamics in Youth Work

(Check out the videocast versions here: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.).

So small groups eh? The beating heart of youth ministry and my big passion! I started leading my first ‘koinos’ group at 14 in my parents house which turned out to be the busiest in the church – probably less to do with it’s ‘quality content’ and more to do with all the nonsense and chocolate I filled it with! That said, there’s not been a year since that I’ve not been involved in leading a small group of some sort.

A few days ago a I led a training session for North Wales youth workers on Small Group Dynamics. Below is the skeleton of my notes – minus the Acts 2:42-47 Bible Study we began with. These come from my own experience, some notes I took on a brilliant Mark Russel (CEO of Church Army) talk that I can’t find anywhere and this short simple document found here by Karl Leuthauser.

Below you will find:
– Small group personalities and characters
– How to respond to these in a group setting
– How to respond to these individually
– A one-liner on an effective group and an effective group leader – because we all love one-liners!

Small Group Personalities and Characters

Each small group is made up a various characters. Below is a list of the most likely characters you’ll run into in your small group. These don’t take into account age, experience, maturity, culture, context, personality type, or learning-style differences which will all also have an effect. And, truth be told, most people will be a mix of several rather than just one. People often change categories too for various reasons. However the principles remain the same when they appear, so have a read through and see if you recognize anyone…

Dominator
Always answers questions and wants the first and last word. Dominator often interrupts others, launches long monologues, and come across as needy or bossy. Dominator often tends to be right too (annoyingly!), and easily closes down conversations because of this. Dominator can be critical or dismissive of others, and as the name suggests, often ‘dominates’ the conversation by demanding attention.

Disappearer
The opposite of dominator – disappearer doesn’t answer questions voluntarily, and when called upon has the tendency to freeze, waiting awkwardly for you to pass them by. Disappearer often vanished into the background as if by magic. They can make a group feel uncomfortable and lead other characters to try to force them to interact.

Gladiator
Gladiator loves the arena! They want the debate, the argument, and to get it they tend to ‘take the other side’ – whether or not they actually hold that view. They are the devil’s advocate of the group. Gladiator can take you down unnecessary tangents and cause conflicts with your plan and with other members of the group. Groups often kick back at gladiator personally and hurtfully.

Placater
Gladiator’s opposite. Placater never wants the debate, is a master of sitting on the fence, and actively seeks to close down conflict and arguments. Placater shuts down helpful discussions and turns genuine, iron-sharpening-iron conversations into personal issues.

Lover
The answer is always ‘love’ in some form or another. ‘It’s because God loves us and we should love others’ is the stock response. They can come across annoyingly deep and hard to follow with less emotive sounding answers, thus lover too shuts down conversations. Lover also can be uninterested or even hostile to important and juicy topics like hell, punishment, judgement, sin, and wrath.

Downer
In some ways opposite to lover, downer seems to ‘bring things down.’ Downer has a tendency to give a negative spin on whatever answer they offer, and seem to be by nature glass-half-full. Downer is often hurtful, critical, biting, or sarcastic towards other members of the group and they noticeably blow off activity and discussions.

Missioner
Missioner has a ‘go out and do’ approach to every question. Missioner wants to be actively doing something rather than talking about something – so often appears disdainful of the small group idea. Missioner is often social-gospel focused and critical towards those who don’t appear to share their views.

Joker
Joker is there to be the class clown and often dissipates serious and deep moments of important discussions with jokes and humour. Joker always sees the funny side of everything however inappropriate and tends to be distracting when starved of attention for a while. Joker can independently see that your group never gets personal or deep about anything.

Educator
Tends to see every question as an opportunity to show off knowledge, and if they can’t they manipulate questions to fit what they do know. Educator likes attention for being ‘in the know’ and can take you on enormous detours from the subject or question.

Revealer
Doesn’t understand the socially acceptable and line between enough and too much information publicly. Revealer has a habit of pushing the ‘too much info’ button and sharing deeply personal and awkward stories that are too sensitive for the public nature of the group mid study. Revealer tends to be inward focused and moves attention onto themselves.

Solver
Solver is very analytical by nature and a big fan of the ‘rule of thumb.’ Solver often presents ‘easy’ and ‘obvious’ answers to complex, and broad questions and issues, and worse can give impersonal action points to another group member sharing a struggle. Solver can both override genuine experience and shut down needed conversations.

So did you recognize anyone? What about yourself? I tend to be a bit of gladiator and solver in most situations – however at Bible College, or situations where I feel intimidated I tend to be a mix of disappearer and educator. It’s worth saying that not all of these traits are necessarily bad – they can simply be undeveloped gifting, as we will see in the individual responses section. Also – in a strange way, God himself embodies some or all of these personality types in various ways for various purposes. So with all this in mind – what do we do with this odd bunch of people?

Group Responses

There are a few things we can do with the format, group setup, and general dynamics of a small group to allow these members to interact in a healthy and up-building way – or at least we can set the context for group health. Here’s a bunch of ideas in no particular order:

1. Use names. Names are super important in small groups – they give a sense of belonging, ownership, and you can direct conversation away from characters who might steal from it, or towards those who wouldn’t otherwise engage.

2. Plan a mix of both open and closed questions. Open questions have a high degree of subjectivity and are pretty hard to ‘get wrong.’ These allow more interaction from those who might talk less, makes answers less rigid, undercuts arguments/placating, and boycotts over specific closing-down answers. Closed questions are often more objective and renders monologues, rants, and question-manipulation more difficult.and Closed questions often require more thought and searching/probing out.

3. The ‘Split & Feed’ Method. This is where you break the group into smaller groups (often pairs) and get them to discuss questions on their own and prepare to feedback to the overall group. This gives space for those who might normally not volunteer answers and guards against those who hijack discussions. You can do this to get different responses to the same question, give opportunities for creative retelling of stories, and generate talk where things have been quiet and unengaged. Be strategic with who you put with who! For example, disappearer and dominator would be a disastrous pair!

4. The ‘Circle/Opt-Out’ Method. Here you ask a question and go around the circle giving everyone a opportunity to answer. You should encourage everyone to have a go, however provide an easy way to opt-out or let the question pass them by.

5. Reflection Times. This is simply where you don’t ask for immediate answers, but get them to silently reflect for a while then feedback. You’re more likely to get genuine answers this way and give everyone a good opportunity to engage. This is also a great way of calming down an overly excited group.

6. Good Social Times & Ice Breakers. A good time before the group begins to simply ‘hang out’ is a great way to integrate those who might be quiet otherwise, and to let those who hijack time to vent social steam and get their fix before you begin. This is a good reason to have an extra, un-busy leader to hang out with them to encourage inclusivity. Ice breakers too should be simple, not embarrassing (unless volunteer-based) and begin conversational momentum. I will post some thoughts on effective ice-breakers at some point.

7. Ground Rules. These should be used to teach and re-enforce healthy group dynamics – they shouldn’t be used all the time as an Orwellian matter of course. Such rules could be, ‘only speak again when someone else has spoken,’ ‘1 minute or less answers,’ or using a ‘talking hat’ or ‘talking banana’ to hold or wear if they want to speak.

8. Get Them To Take Responsibility. Talk to your group often about group integrity and the responsibilities they have towards each other. They should not be allowed to ‘police’ each other – but encouraged using carefully placed prayer and discussion to be self aware, encouraging, and understanding towards each other as part of your group applications.

Individual Responses

Here’s a bunch of basic ways to respond to each of the 11 characters above.

Dominator
– Use directive body language, eye contact, and names to sometimes clearly avoid them
– Give gentle correction, such as “sorry matie, but I want to give someone else a chance to speak…’
– In a one-to-one setting encourage their enthusiasm and try and help them take responsibility for the group. A ‘secret sign’ like a wink could be a trigger on which you agree together to allow them room to speak when the group is going quiet – giving them a leadership purpose
– Get them to lead a session!

Disappearer
– Through gentle coaching and encouragement allow them space to answer questions. Give them plenty of positive reinforcement when they do, let them know how valuable their input is – but don’t push them
– Use split & feed, and mix it up often so they have opportunities to meet everyone personally

Gladiator
– Make space in your program for debate. One of the ways to do this is ‘role play’ where you break everyone into pairs and give each member a view to hold. This makes debates less personal
– When there’s disagreement, place the focus on the issues not the people
– When they add disagreement, get them to be specific and clearly articulate it
– Get them to moderate a debate (rather than engage in one)

Placater
– Step in and make the conflict apersonal – i.e. make it about the views held, not the people holding them
– If a disagreement arises, take the two views and take them to their extremes (eg. rather than ‘maybe there’s freewill // no there’s not’ to ‘God gives us absolute, autonomous freedom // we’re all God-programed robots’) and get the whole group to discuss the pros and cons of each position
– Enforce security and care over arguments; affirm the people and positions held – more on how to do this another time

Lover
– Same answer to any ‘closing down’ question: develop the answer with how, what, when, where, or why. So how is love the answer, what kind of love, when does that apply, where was that shown, or why is love like that? etc.

Downer
– Encourage them to try and reframe their answer using positive language while still affirming the point they made
– Use humour to deflect the issue, “yes we are doing that, and as a special treat you get to be my partner!”
– A one-to-one talk about why they’re approach is so critical and negative might be worthwhile

Missioner
– Teach on the importance of prep and reflection to effectively ‘go out and do’ also teach on calling and how God equips people differently for different ministry
– Run a group mission! Get missioner to help organize and run it

Joker
– When humour is not appropriate, don’t laugh and pointedly move on
– In a one-to-one, talk with them about the importance of going deep and how they could use humour constructively. Encourage them in it as a gift that is great in the right place
– Get them to lead an ice-breaker

Educator
– Specifically call them on staying on topic while affirming their answers. Sometimes ask them when they begin to talk to think whether or not they are on topic.
– Get them to prepare 5 minute intros to themes and sessions on given topics.

Revealer
– While affirming the person and giving broad sympathy to the issue shared, redirect them to a more appropriate time to talk. Be direct but gentle

Solver
– Give clear empathy towards the person who’s problem they are ‘solving’ allowing them the space to struggle in a more complex way – redirecting away from the solution given and giving permission for more exploration
– Have a one-to-one, talking about complexity and irrationality as important parts of the journey
– Get solver to plan the study questions with you, talk about potential answers with them

An Effective Group…

… is a clear discipleship and fellowship ground where every member is comfortable with who they are in the group – and have the ability to use their specific gifts and characteristics to add to the group.

An Effective Leader…

… sees themselves more as a facilitator of learning and maturity, who is clear, firm, gentle, empathetic and constructive.

Conclusion

So there’s a bunch of stuff on small group dynamics and personalities – hopefully some of it is helpful. For more posts on small groups click here.

Young People and the Church

Hi folks.

This is a recent talk I gave at Surehope Chuch, Old Colwyn on Young People and the Church. It’s here to address the expectations we have for young people, compared with how God can, does and will use them.

As in everything I say – someone else said it better, earlier – in this case it was Kempton Turner from Children’s Desiring God which you can find here.

p.s. The first 10 minutes or there abouts gives a relatively recent update on what I’m upto in North Wales at the mo.

How NOT to do Youth Ministry!

I’ve used this brilliant video at several youth work training nights and events now. It’s a great ice-breaking conversation starter and really paves the way to discuss issues of:

– rock star youthworkers
– the importance of the Bible, clear teaching, and honesty
– age and audience appropriate material
– thinking carefully about phraseology and slogans
– responsibility to the group you’re a part of
– singling out young people
– making responses flow from the message appropriately
– …. and lots of others…
I’d love to hear what you make of it and how you might use it.

Moody Teenagers – The Chemical ‘Romance’!

Image

After reading this article on ‘Moody Teenagers’ I thought I’d blog a few ‘control points’.

The gist is this: A £5 million research grant has been given to a bunch of Cambridge research scientists to study the chemical balances and patterns of 14-24 year old’s brains. The aim is to discover what make them overly ’emotional,’ ‘impulsive,’ and ‘moody’.

The hypothesis behind the article is that during teenage years the more primitive areas of the brain are switched on and develop faster than rational areas. The brain is therefore carrying a lot of ‘evolutionary baggage’ that isn’t necessarily distinctly human which is responsible for teenage behavior and emotions.

The evidence? Well, they possibly see it in some reptiles and some less complex mammals. They also hope this study will show it too.

By the wonders of science, they’re even hoping they can ‘accelerate’ the maturing process of the brain’s wiring so parents, teachers, and indeed us youth workers can catch a break!

With the study going ahead I thought I’d list off some ‘control’ areas that people might want to consider before dismissing teenage behavior as an evolutionary baggage or dodgy brain wiring. As much as we’d all love to find quantifiable reasons to write teenagers off, perhaps there’s more to their life than simply chemical imbalances.

In no particular order:

  • Teenagers today sit exponentially more exams than any other generation before.
  • Teenagers face unquenchable pressure to perform from parents, teachers, councilors, the media, the postman, the dog, themselves, their friends, and just about everyone else in the known universe.
  • Teenagers are constantly written off by the media as being hoodies and hooligans, while at the same time told their exams are getting easier and all their choices are soft options.
  • Teenagers move in about 15 distinct social circles whereas the rest of us move in about 5.
  • Teenagers are the target generation for cyber-bullying, sexting culture, online predators, serious fraping, and the isolated wonders of being internet-dependent.
  • Teenagers are also the target generation for the vast majority of popular culture marketing including gadgets, clothes, diets, sex, sportswear, music, TV, games, and everything else that will sub-culturally brand them by what they can afford.
  • Teenagers – who don’t have the luxury of independence – live in constant fear of judgement of their appearance and lifestyle which they have little or no control over. They need to live a certain way to avoid stigmas, but rely on others to provide it.
  • ‘Evolutionary baggage’ apart, teenagers go though the most bodily changes in their lives during all of the nonsense above.
  • Teenagers today are growing up in more broken homes than any other generation before.
  • Teenagers have very few places to discuss and manage their confusion and pain that they can trust and that are marketed to them clearly.
  • Teenagers today are far more likely to become pregnant, engage in self harm, commit suicide, take drugs, start smoking, view pornography, or drink underage than any other generation before.
  • Teenagers are taught to treat adults who act sympathetic and compassionate toward them as potential dangers.
  • Teenagers have less chance of getting a job after they leave uni today than any other generation before.
  • Teenagers today will work at least 15 jobs in their lives and will more likely spend a considerable portion of their working life unemployed.
  • Teenagers benefit from being at the short end of the cuts-stick. Libraries, museums, youth centers, youth programs, and sports centers are closing down around them whereas rest-homes and failing small businesses abound.
  • Teenagers living in poverty have a fraction of the amount spent on them that adults living in poverty do.
  • Teenagers are told to go to uni at a ridiculous price, with little or no hope of getting a job at the end. Uni for many now is simply unaffordable and impractical, but they are seen as second rate if they don’t go.
  • Teenagers at uni right now are reporting significant lack of value for money in their studies.
  • Teenagers have no vote, no place in the process, no say and no voice in the decisions the government is making that will affect their futures more than anyone else’s.
  • Teenagers are a convenient scape goat. The recent riots – which were most significantly participated in by over 18 year-olds – were blamed almost exclusively on teenagers.
  • Teenagers are rarely treated seriously for the issues and pressures that they face.
  • Teenagers have the freedom of social and artistic expression that many adults long for. Thus much of teenage expressionism is treated badly from – lets face it – sour grapes!

So do we think there could be other reasons for teenagers being emotional, impulsive,  moody and unable to express themselves? I can think of a few better ways to spend £5 million on teenagers.

Aim Lower in Christian Youth Work

Great video by Hope Animation! See more at http://hopeanimation.com

“Aim Lower in Christian Youth Work”

I’m A Youth Worker… Get Me Out Of Here!

Image

I’m A Youth Worker… Get Me Out Of Here!

The average time spent in full time youth ministry in the UK is 18 months. This scary and tragic statistic often conjures shock and disbelief. Many see the life of a youth worker as one great big water fight with moments of jelly & ice cream thrown in, all the while being surrounded by admiring teenage converts.

Don’t get me wrong now, I love being a Youth Minister. It’s an amazing privilege! I’ve also had my fair share of water fights and eaten copious amounts of jelly and ice cream… sometimes without hands. Not to mention that there’s nothing better in the world than leading a young person to Jesus.

But Youth Ministry is drastically misunderstood by all but the few who have done it full time. A Youth Minister has to be event planner, taxi driver, counselor, scholar, administrator, personal shopper, book keeper, marriage and parenting consultant, multi-tasker extraordinaire, legal expert, technology wizz, first aider, professional sports therapist and ultimate diplomat. All the while it’s never entirely clear to people to whom a Youth Minister reports. Put another way, everyone thinks they’re your boss: parents, ministers, elders, teenagers, schools – everyone! Finally, just like an FBI agent, it’s often true that a Youth Worker’s successes are private, and their failures are public.

It’s hard to get all these things right for all these people. And because Youth Ministers work with the most vulnerable of people who sit in a context of highly reactionary adults, in a whole world of strong opinions – they often sit right in the cross-hairs of many a nasty situation.

With all this in mind I thought I’d take a minute to share some of my journey and give a few examples from the nitty-gritty side of my youth ministry experience so far.

I’ve been involved seriously in youth & children’s work for about 10 years now and in that time I’ve racked up a few messy, grouchy, painful, and sometimes oddly funny experiences. So here’s a few in mico-blog format!

If you’ve got stories and experiences too that fit the bill – leave a comment, I’d love to hear about them!

Why am I doing this? Catharsis maybe? I’m just hoping that it may give some background to those who sit outside the youth work world looking in, and I hope even more that this may serve as an encouragement to someone to keep going despite. For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross scorning it’s shame – so we can endure a few niggling splinters along the way!

These are all random things that came to the top of my head:

– Getting slapped in the face by a drunk mum before she tried to put another leader in a headlock because I wouldn’t let her in to a youth meeting.

– Being threatened by a member of the ‘Welsh Mafia’ outside our youth cafe… after locking all the kids inside for safety.

– Fishing the locking mechanism of the toilet door handle out of the toilet itself from amidst… other things.

– Breaking up a fight between an adult leader and a young person. And all the hoohar that followed.

– Having a three page email of my faults sent to me by a leader very soon after starting a job (obviously copied into about 15 people). Subsequently having several meetings with other leaders about it as the original sender didn’t think we we’re taking it seriously enough. This lasted six months and was never fully resolved.

– Working with two people & having to provide legal testimony after they we’re denied CRBs due to safeguarding issues.

– Discovering a damming, heavily biased report about me had been sent to an entire mission team of about 40 people (including several teenage leaders) after a fantastically successful event. It was sent to everyone but me. Bless.

– Being dunked in a baptismal pool. Then driving home. Cold. Very cold!

– Being pied in the face, with multiple, simultaneous cream pies. Waking up in my office with no idea how I got there.

– Having team members (including teenage leaders) interviewed about my suitability as a leader, two months after starting a job.

– Getting my hair professional dyed pink to raise money for a building project which took 6 months to return to ‘normal’ – only to find out they didn’t name the new pink room after my hair!

– Being in three serious near misses in the car while traveling to events. Also – Putting my car down a ditch on the way back from a leader retreat three days after starting a new job.

– Having my wife’s mental health questioned secretly by members of a church leadership.

– Being seriously and hurtfully advised to seek professional relationship counseling before I had married by wife by a person who had known us a week and seen us together for about twenty minutes.

– Having a supervisor call me on a day off to abandon a shopping trip with my wife to pick him up and give him a lift 30 minutes walk from his house.

– Having three concussions to date.

– Living in a church house for two years without a working boiler.

– Having an awesome outreach event canceled after meticulous planning the day before the event for very stupid reasons. Having to turn 30 kids away from hearing the gospel because a PCC member was trying to be ‘above reproach.’

– Having gap year students I supervised being interrogated by a mum asking why I was so sexist.

*

I remember a brilliant story about a man who was tired of carrying his cross and so he went to ask Jesus for a new one. “Certainly” replied Jesus. “Pop yours in the corner and pick out one you like.” After looking at all the incredibly huge, heavy, impossible looking crosses, the man spotted a small, manageable looking on in the corner, “I’ll take that one!” he said. “Of course” said Jesus with a knowing smile. “That’s the one you came in with.”

I know my experiences pale in comparison to so many others. However difficult sometimes, youth ministry remains a blessing everyday, and I won’t change it for the world. I’ll question my suitability for it many times, but as long as Jesus says “go,” I’ll happily keep going! I wonder what’s next?

Open letter to Mike Jeffries, CEO at Abercrombie and Fitch


Mike Jeffries
CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch
6301 Fitch Path
New Albany
Ohio 43054
USA

11th May 2013

Dear Mr Jeffries

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your helpful and up-building words to young men and women in the west.

As a youth worker, I spend a lot of time listening to the trivial  and disparaging woes of teenagers, and if they just understood that they will never belong with the “cool, good-looking people” then maybe I could catch a break.

If I could just explain to Tony as simply as you did that some people just “don’t belong” because they don’t have the “Washboard stomach” or look as if they’re “about to jump onto a surfboard” then maybe he will stop cutting himself. If I told Dory that she simply isn’t one of the “hot” or “cool kids … with a lot of friends” and simply isn’t supposed to fit into your “cute underwear for little girls” she will stop starving herself to death. Perhaps with that clarifying approach to social standards and self-esteem they will get on with life and succeed at whatever it is the sub-attractive people do. Working in an Cambodian A&F sweat shop perhaps?

If the young people that I work with every day just got that there’s an in and an out – and that they are out – then perhaps they would just stop trying, and get out of the beautiful people’s faces. As you so delicately put, they are not the people you want!

Perhaps it was the dim lights, the lack of air conditioning, the supermodel staff, the soft-pornography walls, or the purple haze of the latest scent – but when I was last in A&F I swear I had an out-of-body experience. Floating in a corner above the plus sizes (6 I believe?), and the ‘eye-candy’ labeled thongs in the kids section, I looked down at my self in horror! Not being one of the cool kids with my shock of ginger hair and lanky frame I realised I was trespassing on some exclusive nirvana, and I was dragging down the image of the store and the unsuspecting beautiful people within. Needless to say I left as quickly as I could without buying anything – as I’m sure you’ll appreciate.

So again, thank you. Thank you for being such an understanding, knowledgeable, experienced sage. Thank you for giving young boys and girls the crushing dose of reality that my counselling just doesn’t achieve. Thank you for dashing dreams, breaking hearts, locking doors and seeing that yet another generation grows up with fingers down their throats and photo-shopped pinups on their walls. Thank you for saying what needs to be said from your lofty position of popular culture. Thank you for continuing to make money the easiest way possible – by making teenagers afraid to be who they are and exploiting their fear. Thank you. perhaps now I will be able to get some much needed beauty sleep.

Yours sincerely

Tim Gough

——–

Other open letters online:

Andrea Neusner – Huffington Post

Sheila Moeschen – Huff Post Comedy

Great Youth Work Books Not Intended For Youth Work!

Some random books that have helped and influenced my youth ministry – but haven’t been written about youth ministry! Enjoy.

(in no particular order)

>No Perfect People Allowed, John Burke.   Epic journey of a church aimed at being open to all people from all walks of life. Great principles for showing grace to teenagers.

>Love Does, Bob Goff.   Fun collection of feel good stories aimed at teaching the reader how to love people with extraordinary Christlike love.

>The Passion of Jesus Christ, John Piper.   50 two page studies on why Jesus died and what the cross achieved. I’ve given two series of youth talks on this book.

>Desiring God, John Piper.   One of my favorite books of all time – passionate defense of finding unsurpassable joy in following Jesus. Follows practical, teachable principles of worship, managing money, family, missions, and a whole lot more.

>Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell.   A really helpful look at the difference between theology in the mind and theology in life. A great exploration of practical theology and philosophy. And it only takes an hour or two to read!

>The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Peterson.   Most helpful book I’ve ever read on how to survive and thrive spiritually in a world of pastoral ministry. Great spiritual formation guide for pastors.

>Chapters 1&2 of Calvin’s Institutes.   Really the whole thing, but the first two books focus on the depths and the dance on our relationship of God, partially how we can know him in dialogue with knowing ourselves. WELL WORTH the slog!

>Emerging Worship, Dan Kimball.   A bunch of innovative and helpful ideas, principles and ideas for leading a postmodern generation into worship.

>They Like Jesus, But Not The Church, Dan Kimball.   Great book for helping cliquey and inward looking youth groups think outside their own contexts. The DVD series is really helpful for this – although I only use the first half of each video.

>Dig Deeper, Andrew Sach & Nigel Baynon.   Andy is a guy I went to Bible College with and he write this at the time. It’s an amazing toolbox of easy to apply interpretation skills for going deepier in the Bible. Great for workshops.

>The Warrior of Light, Paulo Coelho.   Not Christian but a deep and easy set of memorable thoughts which are easy to apply to a spiritual formation journey. I used to keep it next to the loo!

>Alternative Worship, Jonny Baker, Doug Gay, & Jenny Brown.   Similar to emerging worship, but included Lots of prayers, liturgies, ideas, and service orders to help young people connect spiritually with God.

>Holiness & Sexuality, David Peterson (ed.)   An Oak Hill (my college) Conference a while back which talks about all sorts of sexual and cultural issues in the context of a Biblical Theology of creation and sin. Massively helpful and well thought-through! Also has great testimony from a faithful Christian celibate homosexual, Martin Hallett.

>Engaging With God, David Peterson.   The principle from Oak Hill wrote this fabulous Biblical Overview of worship. It looks though the whole Bible and focuses on worship as personal sacrifice. Hard slog, but brilliant – particularly as reference.

> Death By Love, Mark Driscoll.   A collection of fictional letters written by a Pastor to a variety of people with different messy pastoral issues. These all have a strong Gospel flavour, are bold and direct, and they are all both deeply personal and practical.

> The Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards.   Ok, so this is written the the 17th Century, and it says very similar things to John Piper in Desiring God which a much easier read, but this is still a deeply applicable, passionate, and helpful guide to understanding worship, the spiritual realm, and how God stirs our hearts and minds. My favorite book in he world.

> Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling.   It resets your brain – so well worth it!