The Eric Trap (A DAD IN THE MIDDLE REVIEW)
Keep reading to the bottom for your chance to win a free copy of the book!!!
Collaborative books are all the rage in children’s ministry today, and that’s not a bad thing. It started several years back with Michael Chanley and the Group of 35 when they produced the book, aptly named Collaborate. That was followed by the free e-book What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry. Greg Baird spearheaded another effort which resulted in The Future of Children’s Ministry. Jim Wideman’s 1st Infuse group put together Kidmin Leadership, and the folks at WMNCM produced a follow up to their first offering called What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry – Early Childhood Edition and most recently have produced Nexus: Central Themes in Children’s Ministry.
So, when I found out that Jim Wideman’s Infuse 2.2 group was also putting together a collaborative book, I had mixed emotions. I have the utmost respect for Jim Wideman. Outside of my immediate family, Jim has had a greater impact on my ministry and parenting than any one person I could name. That has come primarily through his books and some limited interactions. I’ve yet to read or hear or see anything that Jim has been involved in that I have not learned from. Over the last few years, I’ve also gotten to know some of the people who have gone (or are going) through Jim’s Infuse program…people like Jenny Funderburke, Sam Luce, Kenny Conley, Spencer Click and others, and I’ve gained a good deal of respect for them as well. In dealing with, and learning from, them I understand Jim’s great pride in them. On the other hand, was this just going to be another collaborative effort….a series of articles by various people loosely based around some theme. Now, don’t get me wrong, the books I mentioned above are awesome. I’ve read them all and learned a lot, and I recommend to them to people frequently. Any hesitation about this book was not based on the quality of those books, but more on an apprehension of getting “more of the same.”
Any hesitation I had was quickly erased. I received an e-copy of The Eric Trap last Tuesday by e-mail. I opened it up just to have a look (at least that was my plan), and I hadn’t put it down before finishing the first three chapters. I finished the rest of the book that evening at my daughter’s softball practice. This book is as captivating as is it informational. The book is based on a week in the life of Eric Newman – a fictional children’s pastor whose life will no doubt make you think, “I’ve been there.” The day-by-day narrative unfolding of Eric’s week is as captivating and entertaining as is it illuminating. Eric faces in one week many of the trials and tribulations that children’s pastors face. From a verbal altercation with a volunteer in a crowded hallway on a Sunday morning, to a glowing lunch with a set of parents, to a humbling encounter with an older mentor to the near collapse of his marriage, Eric faces many of the uphill battles faced by all children’s pastors who fail to focus on the most important things. I understand that the narrative part of the book was written by Kenny Conley and Sam Luce, and they did an extremely good job with it. Good children’s pastors tend to be good storytellers, and Sam and Kenny are definitely that. The story of Eric will pull you in as you relate to his trials, shutter at his mistakes and find yourself hoping the best for him in his journey. More than anything else, this narrative story weaved throughout the book keeps The Eric Trap from being “just another collaborative book” that feels more like a collection of individual blog articles than a cohesive book.
The there is what I will call the “application” part of the book. Each of the narrative of a day in the life of Eric Newman is followed by a chapter from one of Jim Wideman’s Infuse participants. Contributors include Jim Wideman, Craig Gyergo, Kristin Englund, Deanna Hayes, Matt McDaniels and Sherri Epperson. With the exception of Jim, I was not familiar with any of these authors prior to reading the book. Now that I am, I will be following all of them on Twitter. There contributions are clear, clearly heart felt and edifying. While I found myself anxious to get back to seeing what old Eric was up to, the insights and wisdom of these six kept me fully engaged.
I am glad that Jim has begun to have his infuse groups publish these books, and I hope he continues. Jim influence on these guys is readily obvious throughout the book. At times, I forgot who had written which portion of the book as Jim’s wisdom and years seems to shine throughout no matter who was wielding the pen. I think that is a testament both to Jim and these gifted writers. I think this book has the potential to change the landscape of how effective children’s ministry is done, and for that I am grateful. I would be remiss if I did not address one other issue. Who is this book for? It seems clear that the book is intended primarily for those who work vocationally in children’s ministry. That said, I do not fit that description, and I learned a ton from this book. I found the principles not only applicable to volunteer work in children’s ministry but also to life in general. Eric Newman may be a children’s minister, but I think no matter what our vocation, many of us find ourselves falling into the same traps.
That is why I want to put a copy of this book in your hands. Jim and his crew were kind enough to send me three copies of the book. I was planning on keeping one for myself and giving away the other two, but I am so excited to get this book in your hands that I will be giving away three copies. Use the form below to enter our drawing as many times as you wish. There are tons of ways to enter (and some you can do more than once). I hope you will take this opportunity to enter the contest. I don’t think it is too cliché to say that reading this book may change your life – at the very least it will change the way you do ministry.
Oh, in case you missed it, I was provided with a free copy of this book to do this review. As always, that did not influence the contents of this review in any way (now if it had been signed, that would be another story….. )