Good Reads

This list of books is excellent reading for anyone connecting with young people. There are tons of books out there about youth ministry, many can be very helpful. This list was compiled by members of Youth Ministry Council, an annual gathering of MCUSA Conference Youth Ministers or representatives, Agency representatives, college professors and denominational staff.

If you would like to suggest a book for this list, please send the book name, author, and a brief statement/summary and reasons why it would be a good choice to: Rachel S. Gerber, Denominational Minister for Youth and Young Adults: rachelg@mennoniteusa.org


Children of Divorce: The Loss of Family as the Loss of Being by Andy Root

Why does divorce cause so much strain and long-term distress for children of all ages? Andrew Root, a recognized authority on youth ministry and a child of divorce himself, explains that divorce causes children to question their core identity. Since a child is the product of the union of a mother and father, when that union ends, he or she experiences a baffling sense of loss of self–a loss of his or her very sense of being. Root redirects efforts for assisting children of divorce to first address this fundamental experience.

This unique book examines the impact of divorce not only from a theological and spiritual perspective but also from a young person’s perspective. It will benefit those who have experienced divorce and those who minister to children of divorce.


“The End of Religion”
by Bruxy Cavey

Cavey shares that relationship has no room for religion. Believers and seekers alike will discover anew the wondrous promise found in our savior. And Christ’s eternal call to walk in love and freedom will resonate with readers of all ages and denominations.


“Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry”
by Andrew Root

Relational youth ministry, also known as incarnational ministry, can feel like a vicious cycle of guilt: “I should be spending time with kids, but I just don’t want to.” The burden becomes heavy to bear because it is never over; adolescents always seem to need more relational bonds, and once one group graduates there is a new group of adolescents who need relational contact. It may be that the reason these relationships have become burdensome is that they have become something youth workers do, rather than something that youth workers enter into.

Root explores the origins of a dominant ministry model for evangelicals, showing how American culture has influenced our understanding of the incarnation. Drawing from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose work with German youth in troubled times shaped his own understanding of how Jesus intersects our relationships, Root recasts relational ministry as an opportunity not to influence the influencers but to stand with and for those in need. True relational youth ministry shaped by the incarnation is a commitment to enter into the suffering of all, to offer all those in high school or junior high the solidarity of the church.


“Sustainable Youth Ministry”
by Mark DeVries

You’re looking for a youth pastor… again. What goes wrong? Why do youth ministries crumble? And what is the cost to students, parents, volunteers and church staff? Is a sustainable youth ministry possible, even after a youth pastor leaves?

Youth ministry expert Mark DeVries knows the answer is yes, because he helps build sustainable youth ministries through his coaching service called Youth Ministry Architects. So take heart: No matter what state the youth ministry at your church is in–in need of a leader and volunteers, full of battles and stress, large or small in number–it can be built to survive and to last for the long haul.


“Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership”
by Ruth Haley Barton

“I just want to enjoy God for myself.” With this painful admission, Ruth Haley Barton invites us to an honest exploration of what happens when spiritual leaders lose track of their souls. Each chapter includes a spiritual practice to ensure your soul gets the nourishment it needs. Forging and maintaining a life-giving connection with God is the best choice you can make for yourself for those you lead.


“Teaching that Transforms”
by John D. Roth

Why send your child to a Christian school? Isn’t any school good enough? John D. Roth says no; in a readable fashion, he frames key questions regarding the future of Christian education and makes the case for Christian schools, offering clear directions while inviting dialogue and alternative perspectives. Along the way, Roth provides a theological foundation for education from a distinctly Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective, offering a useful framework for on-going conversations about the appropriate nurture of children and young adults, educational practices and goals, and future directions of Mennonite education from pre-kindergarten to seminary.


“Almost Christian”
by Kenda Creasy Dean

Based on the National Study of Youth and Religion–the same invaluable data as its predecessor, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers–Kenda Creasy Dean’s compelling book, investigates why American teenagers are at once so positive about Christianity and at the same time so apathetic about genuine religious practice.

In Soul Searching, Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton found that American teenagers have embraced a “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”–a hodgepodge of banal, self-serving, feel-good beliefs that bears little resemblance to traditional Christianity. But far from faulting teens, Dean places the blame for this theological watering down squarely on the churches themselves. Instead of proclaiming a God who calls believers to lives of love, service and sacrifice, churches offer instead a bargain religion, easy to use, easy to forget, offering little and demanding less. But what is to be done? In order to produce ardent young Christians, Dean argues, churches must rediscover their sense of mission and model an understanding of being Christian as not something you do for yourself, but something that calls you to share God’s love, in word and deed, with others. Dean found that the most committed young Christians shared four important traits: they could tell a personal and powerful story about God; they belonged to a significant faith community; they exhibited a sense of vocation; and they possessed a profound sense of hope. Based on these findings, Dean proposes an approach to Christian education that places the idea of mission at its core and offers a wealth of concrete suggestions for inspiring teens to live more authentically engaged Christian lives.

Persuasively and accessibly written, Almost Christian is a wake up call no one concerned about the future of Christianity in America can afford to ignore.


“Desiring the Kingdom”
by James K.A. Smith

Malls, stadiums, and universities are actually liturgical structures that influence and shape our thoughts and affections. Humans–as Augustine noted–are “desiring agents,” full of longings and passions; in brief, we are what we love.

James K. A. Smith focuses on the themes of liturgy and desire in Desiring the Kingdom, the first book in what will be a three-volume set on the theology of culture. He redirects our yearnings to focus on the greatest good: God. Ultimately, Smith seeks to re-vision education through the process and practice of worship. Students of philosophy, theology, worldview, and culture will welcome Desiring the Kingdom, as will those involved in ministry and other interested readers.


“Family-Based Youth Ministry”
by Mark DeVries

Have you tried all the new youth programs? Have you planned one too many wacky activities? Are you frustrated about the size of the youth group? Here’s an approach to ministry that takes youth work seriously.

Family-based youth ministry is about adults discipling teens one-on-one and in groups. It is about involving not just the nuclear family but the whole church family–from singles to older adults. More important, it’s about incorporating youth into the life of your church.

So stop worrying about the size of your youth group or your budget. Mark DeVries’s refreshing approach to youth ministry will show you how your church can reach today’s teens and how you can keep them involved in the life of the church. Whether you are a parent, a youth pastor or a church member who cares about teens, you will find in this book an entirely different approach to youth ministry that will build mature Christian believers.


“Youth Ministry at a Crossroads”
by Andy Brubacher-Kaethler & Bob Yoder

Youth work isn’t for the faint-hearted–it’s tender and tough, requiring savvy to withstand the assault of erotic, self-centered, consume-at-any-cost allurements facing youth today. What you will find here is wisdom and encouragement from those who have dedicated themselves to Jesus-centered youth faith formation that encompasses biblical and Anabaptist-Mennonite ways of knowing, being, and doing, all while following the One who offers abundant life. The writers explore the context in which such formation happens best–the congregation that worships, serves, witnesses, and fellowships together.


“Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses”
by Bruce Feiler

“The process of gathering these images reminded me of the Bible’s effortless ability to reinvent itself for each generation and each new way of searching.” —Bruce Feiler

Its stories may be the best known in the world, but its locations have long been a mystery. Where did Noah’s ark land? Where did Moses receive the Ten Commandments? Where are the lost cities of Sodom and Gomorrah? Now, in Walking the Bible: A Photographic Journey, New York Timesbestselling author Bruce Feiler offers an unprecedented heart-stirring adventure through the landscape of some of history’s most storied events.

Featuring Bruce Feiler’s own photography as well as his selections from professional collections, Walking the Bible: A Photographic Journey brings together breathtaking vistas, intimate portraits, and fascinating panoramas, providing firsthand access to the inscrutable land where three of the world’s great religions were born—and finally puts a face on the stories that have long inspired the human spirit.

Over several years, Feiler traveled nearly ten thousand miles through the deserts of the Middle East, which led first to his runaway national bestseller Walking the Bible. This new illustrated book follows his route, offering a thrilling photographic voyage through the actual places of some of the Bible’s most memorable events—from the heights of Mount Ararat, where Noah’s ark landed, to the desert outpost in Turkey, where Abraham first heard the words of God, to the summit where Moses overlooked the Promised Land.


“Jesus Matters: Good News for the 21st Century”
by James R. Krabill and David W. Shenk

Jesus Christ is popular with many North Americans, but do they honor the Jesus of Scripture? Each author in this collection teams with one or more young adults to consider the various ways we encounter and experience Jesus. Topics include Jesus and creation, Jesus and the cross, Jesus and salvation, Jesus and mission, and Jesus and the future. Authors include Stanley Green, Michele Hershberger, Mark Thiessen Nation, Willard Swartley, Jack Suderman and April Yamasaki.


“Yearning for Home in Troubled Times”
by Kenwyn K. Smith

Yearning for Home in Troubled Times is a book that addresses the issues that prevent us from feeling “at home” in our world. It examines this “homelessness” and shows us how to develop and build a sense of home.


“How to Speak to Youth… and keep them awake at the same time”
by Ken Davis

Speaking to youth is challenging. How to Speak to Youthis packed with tons of tips to make you a better speaker to any size group – large or small.


“Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers”
by Chap Clark

What do teenagers really think about adults? If you think you know the answer, you may be in for a surprise. According to Chap Clark, today’s adolescents have largely been abandoned by adults and left to fend for themselves in an uncertain world. As a result, teens have created their own world to serve as a shield against uncaring adults.

Based on six months of participant-observer research at a California public school, this book offers a somewhat troubling but insightful snapshot of adolescent life. It will surprise and enlighten parents, youth workers, counselors, pastors, and all who want to better understand the hearts and minds of America’s adolescents.


“Hurt 2.0″
by Chap Clark

Hurt provided a vivid and insightful view into the world of today’s teenagers. Now leading youth ministry expert Chap Clark substantially updates and revises his groundbreaking bestseller. Hurt 2.0 features a new chapter on youth at society’s margins and new material on social networking and gaming. Each chapter has been thoroughly revised with new research, statistics, quotations, and documentation.


“Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids”
by Kara E. Powell and Chap Clark

Nearly every Christian parent in America would give anything to find a viable resource for developing within their kids a deep, dynamic faith that ‘sticks’ long term. Sticky Faith delivers. Research shows that almost half of graduating high school seniors struggle deeply with their faith. Recognizing the ramifications of that statistic, the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) conducted the ‘College Transition Project’ in an effort to identify the relationships and best practices that can set young people on a trajectory of lifelong faith and service. Based on FYI findings, this easy-to-read guide presents both a compelling rationale and a powerful strategy to show parents how to actively encourage their children’s spiritual growth so that it will stick to them into adulthood and empower them to develop a living, lasting faith. Written by authors known for the integrity of their research and the intensity of their passion for young people, Sticky Faith is geared to spark a movement that empowers adults to develop robust and long-term faith in kids of all ages.