In a world where Christian practices have a tendency to become repetitive and redundant, Nora Gallagher writes The Sacred Meal.  In this work, she details her journey of practicing the Holy Meal and recounts her significant experiences at the Table.  She encourages the reader to look past the ordinariness of the bread and wine and past the doctrinal squabbles that have a tendency to overshadow the sacred.  She invites the reader to be fully present (with all our sins, with all our questions, with all our doubts, with all our victories) at the Eucharist of Christ so that we will be free to experience the glorious mysteries that surround it and use our experiences at the Altar to propel our work for the kingdom.

I found Gallagher’s work to be both insightful and challenging.  I appreciate that she does not dwell on the various doctrines that people hold for Communion and focused more on what it means to experience and remember Christ.  It is a simple read as it is mainly biographical and does not rely on big theological words to get her point across.  She simply presents her three-step approach to Communion (the waiting, the receiving and the afterward) and attempts to persuade the reader that communion is not something that can be mastered, but a place we should return to often so that we can exercise our Spiritual muscles and have experiences of the Holy in our world.

I would recommend to anyone who has ever come to the Table of Christ in a passive manner or who has interest in Christian practices that you take a look at Gallagher’s work as it is a practical and extremely readable guide to an event that we participate in often, but might not think deeply through often enough.

Thank you to Book Sneeze for giving me a chance to review this book.  These opinons are my own.


Where Student Ministry Fails

December 22, 2010

I just finished the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  It is filled with stories about why successful people become successful.

Every story of success in Gladwell’s work has one thing in common.  Each of them has, when an opportunity comes, at least 10,000 hours of work in whatever field they become successful in (for instance, Bill Gates, when the personal computer craze started and the Beatles, when rock n roll emerged).

The goal of student ministry has always been to give a student a firm foundation in the Word so that when he/she graduates from high school and faces the challenges of the real world, they will not stray from Christ.  Lets us impose Gladwell’s theory of 10,000 hours equaling success to the number of hours it takes for a student to have a “firm foundation” in Christ.  If a student, from birth until eighteen, is to spends four hours at church a week (a very generous number), the number of hours they accumulate is 3744 (dreadfully short of the 10,000 required).  This leads me to several conclusions . . .

  1. It is no wonder the statistics of students falling away after high school are so high. There are all kinds of numbers for this, but I have heard it as low as 4% and as high as 12% of students who graduate from high school actually hold onto the faith.  If a church’s only offering to them is a few Bible studies a week, the student has little chance.
  2. Parents are essential. If a student’s parents are not helping to shape, mold and bring their kids up in Christ at home, away from church programs, the odds against a student are stacked against them.  The Church should encourage and empower parents as youth ministers wherever possible.
  3. The Church must encourage and teach students in how to gain insight from the Bible on their own. Leaving out the fact that the Bible is powerful and life-transforming, if we only did this to encourage them to gain more hours of experience into what it looks like to be a Christ follower, it would be worth it.
  4. Relationships which endure when a student graduates from high school will trump any Bible studies they attended. An adult who has earned the role of mentor to a student who graduates and leaves has a Kingdom responsibility to stay in that role in whatever capacity is possible.