so who did i tick off?
Tuesday September 05th 2006, 10:33 am
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, personal, books, youth work

i rarely look at my customer reviews on amazon (for the youth ministry books i’ve written). i don’t think i’ve looked at them in a year. but i went to one of my books listed there the other day to get some info, i noticed these two really harsh review with one star (out of five, one is the lowest the rating system allows):

Reviewer: Barth (Seattle, WA) - See all my reviews
This reminded me of most of the lightweight jr. high curricula out there. It lacked a spark of creativity and originality, and seemed more the work of someone who was just trying to generate books to supply his publishing company.

Reviewer: Janice Smith (St. Louis, MO) - See all my reviews
When I tested a few of these lessons with my Jr. Highers, they gave me a lot of blank stares. The games rarely rose above the level of tag, the activities were something like cutting pictures out of magazines, and there is zero content. I’d never buy an Oestreicher book again.

i was a bit stunned, a bit taken aback. i mean, i’m totally fine with someone not liking stuff i write. i’m not narcissistic enough to think that the stuff i write (especially the middle school curriculum in the wild truth series) would be everyone’s cup of tea. but these seemed oddly over-to-top to me. so i looked at my other books. here’s a sample:

from other wild truth books:

Reviewer: Janice Smith (St. Louis, MO) - See all my reviews
This is such a repetition of the first book, I’m not sure why they came out with a sequel. And the first one wasn’t that effective. After trying it, I decided not to use Oesteicher’s books.

Reviewer: Brad Steffens (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
This book belittle the intelligence of Jr. Highers. Our group was was too mature for most of the activities here. I wouldn’t use Oestreicher’s work again.

Reviewer: Brad Steffens (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
This is an unneccessary addition to the Wild Truth book. It’s just a way to make an extra profit off of a so-so book. I wouldn’t recommend buying this if you’re on a limited church budget.

Reviewer: Janice Smith (St. Louis, MO) - See all my reviews
I read through this book from cover to cover and decided it wasn’t going to work with my group. Since the book has little content, it tries to compensate with fun activities which aren’t really that fun. This book probably isn’t going to be an effective resource for anyone.

Reviewer: dan k “dan k” - See all my reviews
Mark’s work is pretty immature. I’d say junior highers are all pretty much beyond this stuff.

from the two ‘great talk outlines for youth ministry’ books:

Reviewer: Brad Steffens (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
This is a collection of very rough outlines from Youth Specialties celebrities. However, it seems like it means to give them one more book with their names on it rather than to produce worthwhile curriculum for youth. I didn’t find this helpful at all.

Reviewer: dan k “dan k” - See all my reviews
While it’s a good idea, the outlines are too sketchy to be worthwhile. I wouldn’t order this book.

on “help i’m a junior high youth worker”

Reviewer: Barth (Seattle, WA) - See all my reviews
I have no idea why this book got published. There are just a few words on any page and the advice is shallow and obvious. I bought copies for my youth group volunteers and every single one of them said they didn’t get anything out of it. Just use the one from Doug Fields, which is virtually the same thing.

Reviewer: dan k “dan k” - See all my reviews
This book is just riding on the coat tails of the one that came before it. It is again a bunch of shallow advice from someone who is trying to make money off of volunteers.

on “every picture tells a story”

Reviewer: Barth (Seattle, WA) - See all my reviews
This is really just a collection of pictures, less than 50 of them, and it sells for nearly $20. It’s a creative idea that doesn’t go anywhere. You could download 50 discussion pieces off the internet for free. I didn’t find it worthwhile.

Reviewer: dan k “dan k” - See all my reviews
This seems like a book written by someone who thinks he is more profound than he is. I picked it up but didn’t find it useful enough to buy.

so, here’s what i’m wondering: “barth”, “dan k”, “brad steffens” and “janice smith” (none of which had the amazon “real names” identifier, btw), are these the same person, or really four people? the reviews all have the same vibe, roughly the same length, are all one star, and are on multiple books.

and, whether this is one person or multiple people: what did i do to tick you off? this seems about much more than resources for middle school ministry. (seriously, if this is you, and i’ve hurt you somehow, i’d love you to contact me so we can talk). i don’t care about the reviews — i care about the fact that someone is clearly pissed at me.

16 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Maybe its one of your “friends” from Trails … Though Marko I might not like everything you write … I love your passion for God and for students. That my friend is worth it all. Don’t let the “Reviewer” bring you down but know whose you are and Who is in Control. Keep up the good work. BTW I like Every Picture Tells a Story .. one of my favourite YS items. (I left it @ my last ministry I might need to purchase that again)

Comment by Gman 09.05.06 @ 11:31 am

Just from reading those reviews quickly now I got the same vibe (that it could be the same person). My church uses your resources and many other YS resources regularly and the feedback we get from kids is that it’s both enlightening and engaging.

Comment by Brian 09.05.06 @ 12:02 pm

i had the same thought as gman, it’s the haters… either lhtrails or emerg-no - i doubt that it has anything to do with your writing chops (i have used most of your books and loved them - i’ll review them btw, it never crossed my mind that curricula was reviewable on amazon, duh!)

i think that this has more to do with ys-enemies and people who want to indoctrinate their children and youth instead of challenge their minds with big thoughts and interactive learning.

my guess is that they’re not post-modern enough themselves to teach that style with finesse. too much preperation and thinking on your feet needed instead of just lecturing (sermonizing) at their students. poor kids…

again - i think you’re take on it being a concerted effort by one or two ‘fake people’ to smear either you or the product. i would assume that amazon has IP addresses and records of the reviewers that could be examined to see if these false named reviewers are really the same person or not.

Comment by bobbie 09.05.06 @ 12:14 pm

I know you said you didn’t care… but my middle school students love when I teach using wild truths. I have even started to try and design my own teaching into 3 or 4 segments that change things up and encourage interaction and move quickly (avoiding my boring lectures).

Comment by Eric 09.05.06 @ 1:22 pm

I found it interesting that they clearly hated your books, yet want the reader to believe that they read each one and found it lacking. If you suck as a curriculum source, why did they keep coming back for more?

Comment by turff 09.05.06 @ 1:23 pm

I echo what Eric said, my students have always responded well with your resources, so much so, that I took your ideas and ran with my own creations. This Amazon crap is just some jack-legged haters, who should be at Mickey D’s with a student instead of hunting you down on Amazon.

Comment by Andy 09.05.06 @ 3:32 pm


First of all, I’ve had about 3-4 people say I could be your twin brother. Had to say it before I forgot. It’s the first thing Doug and Lilly’s said to me.

About Amazon reviews…seriously does anyone even pay attention to them? I love reading reviews on books, but there are so many to sift through and I find a lot more personal bashing then anything else. Most of the people who bash won’t even respond to e-mails. Just cowardice in my opinion.

I got tired of putting up reviews b/c of it. I applaud your effort to try and reconcile, but since you a such a high profile youth ministry and church guy, you have to expect it.

Every Picture That Tells a Story is one of my most used resources with ALL ages, not just students. Thanks for putting it out.



Comment by Mike Lamson 09.05.06 @ 4:05 pm

Just to jump on the bandwagon, our middle school teachers want MORE Wild Truth. Our students have grown and enjoyed them, and I’m looking for more YS MS resources.

See you in Austin!

Comment by Stac 09.05.06 @ 4:54 pm

I used wild truth for a couple years … kids loved it and I loved it - and it was before I ever met you or starting reading your blog, so I didn’t have any kind of personal bias, etc., at the time. I also had the thought that it was weird that these people who thought your resources were a waste of money seem to have kept getting them … it’s just someone trying to steer people away from you for some reason. Pretty pathetic, really.

Comment by Matthew McNutt 09.05.06 @ 10:48 pm

A lot of Jr. High (and Sr. High too) youth ministry is in the presenter. You could have the best resource in the world - and if it’s not presented well - it won’t fly.

Likewise, you can have crap for resources, and yet - if it strikes the right chord for an idea, a great presenter could make it work (with modifications.)

Indeed though - reviews like “this is just someone making money off volunteers…” - are uncalled for. I’m sorry someone wasn’t more sensitive and didn’t stop to think that the author could be reading it.

Comment by Jeff 09.05.06 @ 11:18 pm

thanks for all the nice comments about my stuff, all — i wasn’t looking for affirmations, but they’re always nice to hear!

Comment by marko 09.05.06 @ 11:42 pm


I think we really need to find out why Dan Kimball (Dan K) does not like your work. jk :)

Comment by Randy 09.05.06 @ 11:51 pm

i thought the same thing, randy!

Comment by marko 09.05.06 @ 11:53 pm

we should line em all up and let that guy with the big roll of string roll it down a hill and ten pin em!

all in love of course!

Comment by paul 09.06.06 @ 2:53 am

Marko, maybe if you sent me a copy of each one of the resources you have written, I could accurately speak to this topic. You can contact me at…

Comment by Knotter 09.06.06 @ 2:55 am

If they are real, people need to know that some resources work for some groups and other don’t. I have used your books. Some have worked, some have not. But I still think it is great that you do what you do because I would find it hard to put together a something like that while trying to make it work for many different groups.

I know this post is older by now but I missed a few and felt it necessary to add to this.

Comment by Kevin K 10.02.06 @ 6:47 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: