The ministry is difficult. So much is asked of you, and expectations are high. It's hard to please everyone, and hurt can fester and grow, especially when matters stay unresolved. In The Learner, young pastor Christopher Ek confronts the challenges of leading his church, while trying to become a better golfer. Golf--when taken seriously--is hard. Some say it's a metaphor for life: just when players think they have discovered its secrets, the game turns on them. Nothing works. But a gorgeous shot on the last hole of a disappointing day will bring them back for more, and suggest that there is hope. And there is, for a while, but the Sisyphean cycle continues, no matter the skill of the player. Like life and church, golf is a game full of hope and frustration. Grappling with these matters, Pastor Ek confronts the forcefulness of the youth of his church, who are learning about homelessness in their midst. Before long, they develop big ideas and seem to be taking over the congregation. Out in the pews members are asking: ""What are our children up to? Are we a place of G-o-d or g-o-l-f?"" and ""who is this foxy new liturgist?"" ""Seriousness and humor, discord and kindness, vocational discernment--they are all here in full view. Tom Warren is a layperson who appreciates and understands the many challenges confronting clergy and churches, along with the games that people play."" --Arland J. Hultgren, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota ""Interesting and penetrating. As a retired pastor it raises questions I dealt with constantly during my active ministry such as . . . when is there too much 'honesty, ' and when does 'honesty' become a weapon of brutality? The Learner would be a useful tool for a church or clergy study group to explore these issues."" --Steven Howland, United Methodist minister ""The Learner is a cautionary tale for prospective ministers. . . . Warren expertly limns the subtleties of this story that ranges alternately from philosophical depth to warm humor. Some parts are so good they startle the reader."" --Jerry Gustafson, professor of economics and entrepreneurship ""Superbly written, The Learner is a thought-provoking treatise on homelessness, the ministry, and that metaphor for many issues of the day: golf."" --Captain Bill Stark, US Navy (ret). ""The Learner vividly demonstrates the struggles of a pastor to moderate the multitude of voices within a church at odds with itself. Warren adroitly portrays the inside politics of congregational life, illustrating how stagnation often wins out over an entrepreneurial mission of service."" --Stephen L. Hawkins, author of The Gaslighted Leader: Are Pastors More Susceptible to Systemic Manipulation? Thomas Franklin Warren is Professor Emeritus of Education and Youth Studies at Beloit College. Raised a Swedish-Lutheran, he later served as elder of a Presbyterian-United Church of Christ congregation. He is a life-long golfer and student of the game. Since retiring from higher education, Warren has written non-fiction books about golf and Lake Superior, and a novel about investigative journalism. He lives in Beloit, Wisconsin, with his wife, Mim.