Archives For Youth


The Finalists in the Running for 2016 National Book Awards, were announced last week…

(I was traveling, so only getting around to posting about these now)

How many of these have you read?

Who would you pick as the winner in each category?
(We’ve marked our guess with *** )

[ Fiction ] [ NonFiction ]  [ Poetry ] [ Young People ]




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Tackling the Sacred Cow
of Youth Sports

A Review of

Overplayed: A Parent’s Guide to the Sanity in the World of Youth Sports
Margot Starbuck and David King

Paperback: Herald Press, 2016
Buy now: [ Amazon ]   [ Kindle  ]
Reviewed by Adam Metz 
One of the most impressive and respected structures in my hometown of Columbus, OH is Ohio Stadium, nicknamed “The Horseshoe,” and it is where the Ohio State Buckeyes football team plays.  Originally built in 1922 (and now on the National Register of Historic Places) it has been expanded and renovated several times over the years to the point where the seating has nearly doubled its original capacity to over 102,000 seats.  As the largest venue in the entire state of Ohio, Ohio Stadium  illustrates just how powerful sports are in American culture.

What would our communities be without the social cohesion and identity partly forged by our allegiance to professional and collegiate sports teams?  Regional pride and identity are best on display through the distinctive college mascots and corresponding colors emblazoned throughout communities: Gators in Florida, Volunteers in Tennessee, Hoosiers in Indiana, Longhorns in Texas, Ducks in Oregon, and – of course – Buckeyes in Ohio.  These sports allegiances are further nuanced as attention focuses more locally.  At one level, high school athletic programs foster their local community pride, while Saturday morning recreation leagues within those same communities further divide allegiances.

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C. Christopher Smith - Letters to Me - ExcerptHere is an excerpt from the letter I wrote for this new volume…

Letters to Me: Conversations With a Younger Self.
Dan Schmidt, Editor.

Buy now: 
[ Amazon Paperback ] [ Kindle ]

Other Contributors include: Margot Starbuck, Tamára Lunardo, David Baer, Seth Barnes, Lore Ferguson, Lyla Lindquist, Anita Mathia, Brian McLaren, Penny Nash, Wade Owlett, Kristin Ritzau, Aletheia Schmidt, Therese Schwenkler, Charity Singleton, Shawn Smucker, J. B. Wood, and Eric Sheridan Wyatt.


[ Read more about the book on the Slow Church blog… ]



The Violence of Impatience

Opening Paragraphs of my Letter to my Younger Self

C. Christopher Smith

Dear Chris,


I praise God often for the passion for truth and justice that you have. You want to see the shalom of God’s kingdom fully embodied here on earth and have deeply devoted yourself to this work. I am concerned, however, that in your zeal for these true and excellent ends, you have become inattentive to the ways in which you pursue these ends.


Perhaps your urgency to see the reconciliation of all things in God’s creation is causing its own sorts of divisions that will eventually need to be reconciled? My hope is that you will not cause new problems in trying to solve old ones. After all, we live in an interconnected creation; the greater the force we exert upon others, even with the noble intent of moving us all forward toward God’s shalom, the greater the pain that the whole creation will have to bear.

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Thomas Bergler - Juvenilization of American ChristianityA Culture that is Unwilling to Mature?

A Feature Review of

The Juvenilization of American Christianity

Thomas Bergler

Paperback:Eerdmans, 2012.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Scott Elliott.

The Juvenilization of American Christianity is a wakeup call to serious thinking about how we choose to reach out to the younger generation, both within and outside the church.  Thomas E. Bergler points out, in his well-researched book, that how we choose to minister to youth will impact the church for years to come.  Bergler presents a vivid history of Christian culture over the last century, and shows how the decisions made 50, 60, and even 70 years ago are still influencing the church today.  He effectively argues that we need to contemplate our philosophy of youth ministry, and work towards educating our youth to become spiritually mature Christians.

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Youth and Age
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor ColeridgeVerse, a breeze mid blossoms straying,
Where Hope clung feeding, like a bee—
Both were mine! Life went a-maying
       With Nature, Hope, and Poesy,
         When I was young!

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Andrew Hedges - Creative Bible Lessons on the TrinityRightly Setting A High Bar for Teens

A Brief Review of

Creative Bible Lessons on The Trinity:

12 Sessions to Help Students Understand Their Place in God’s Story.

Andrew Hedges.

Paperback: Zondervan/Youth Specialties, 2012.
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith

The Trinity. What a difficult and yet essential concept of Christian theology! Think of all the heresies that have arisen over the span of the church’s history from misunderstanding the Trinity, and of course, our theological misgivings shape the ways in which our faith gets embodied in practice.  Andrew Hedges has offered in his new book Creative Bible Lessons on The Trinity: 12 Sessions to Help Students Understand Their Place in God’s Story a wonderful and meaty resource for providing youth with a solid theological framework.  What is extraordinary about this little book — the newest in a series of “Creative Bible Lessons” series —  is that Hedges combines substantial ideas with a presentation style that is appropriate for and sensitive to the learning styles of youth (the book begins, for instance, with particularly helpful chapter on the learning styles of teens).

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Mark Oestreicher - Understanding Your Young TeenA Review of

Understanding Your Young Teen:

Practical Wisdom for Parents.

Mark Oestreicher.

Paperback: Zondervan / Youth Specialties, 2012.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Eric Judge.

The teen years loom large in our popular imagination as a time of epic upheaval and potential disaster. None loom larger than the dreaded middle school years.  Ask almost anyone what they think of middle schoolers and you are likely to get a negative response and stories of about how awful their own middle school years were.  As for me, my middle school years were really pretty fine.  Aside from one depantsing incident in the halls, which taught me not to wear sweat pants to school, I don’t recall that middle school was very traumatic for me.  My mother may remember differently and if she does, the discrepancies between our memories may be explained by me having selective amnesia.

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A Review of

Bright Before Us: A Novel
Katie Arnold-Ratliff
Paperback:  Tin House, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Thomas Turner.

Spinning a tale of love lost in an age of detachment, individualism and postmodern angst, Katie Arnold-Ratliff has given us a stunning debut novel in Bright Before Us. From the first pages, when we are introduced to the cynical, wandering soul of the protagonist, Arnold-Ratliff begins to build a story that is haunting like a gothic novel but has the characteristics of a chic lit novel. Like Sufjan Stevens using auto-tune in an epic indie rock symphony or Quentin Tarantino using B-movie sensibilities in arthouse cinema, Arnold-Ratliff has used the now-clichéd Jane Austen approach to a love story and turned it on its head, breathing into it the raw humanity of love in a dark world, the moral ambiguity of Generation Y and the listlessness of a new generation of men.

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“Disconnection Notice

A review of
You Lost Me:
Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church
. . . and Rethinking Faith

By David Kinnaman.

Review by Josh Wallace.

YOU LOST ME - KinnamanYou Lost Me:
Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church
. . . and Rethinking Faith

David Kinnaman.
Hardback: Baker Books, 2011.
Buy now:
[ ] [ Amazon – Kindle ]

In an hour, I’ll be drinking coffee with a nineteen-year-old preacher’s kid who’s finding it hard to connect with his father’s church. Tomorrow I hope to call a good friend from my Christian college days to talk about his new teaching job. He’s drifted in and out of churches over the past five years, never quite finding a place that fits. This morning I read an email from a fellow recent seminary grad wondering whether he can stick with a church position in the midst of deep frustration and disappointment with the way his church embodies Jesus’s good news.

David Kinnaman’s You Lost Me has its roots in stories like these. Thousands of stories. Nearly five thousand interviews with and about eighteen-to-twenty-nine-year-olds in the United States. The project conducted by Kinnaman’s Barna Group stretched from 2007 to 2011, launched eight new social scientific studies, and reanalyzed Barna’s twenty-seven years of interviews and polls for data regarding the youngest generation of Americans and their relationship to the church. You Lost Me reads as a capstone report to this research, distilling it, analyzing, suggesting next steps.

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A Brief Review of

Teaching Through Storytelling:
Creating Fictional Stories
that Illuminate the Message of Jesus
Jon Huckins.
Paperback: Zondervan, 2011.
Buy now:
[ Buy a Signed Copy from the Author ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

In their new book, The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry, Andrew Root and Kenda Creasy Dean argue that the youth group in churches can be a place for significant theological reflection and engagement with God’s mission in the world (Watch for our review of this book in our next print issue). One of the key pieces of this task however, is introducing students to, and immersing them in, the biblical story.  In this vein, comes Jon Huckins’s new book Teaching Through the Art of Story Telling: Creating Fictional Stories that Illuminate the Message of Jesus.  For a number of years now, Huckins has been engaging the youth of his church by telling modern day parables that spur reflection and invite students into the way of Jesus.  In this new book, Huckins explains why he has been drawn to storytelling, as a compelling way of engaging the hearts and minds of the youth in his church, and he also explains how he creates and tells such stories.  In the final section of the book, he provides several sample stories that he has used.  Huckins’s work here is refreshing in that he shows a deep understanding that humankind lives by stories and forms his practice around the ways that he has seen stories work in the teaching of Jesus, as well as in contemporary culture.  He says: “There’s something about stories that engage not only the mind, but also the heart.  We become part of the story.  We picture ourselves living out this life that’s being revealed to us, and subconsciously we relate it to our own.” Continue Reading…