I mentioned the CCO and my work with them last week—-a pretty awesome gang of mostly younger folk working with college age students. Of course they are pretty normal, and they read widely, but, often, fairly traditionally evangelical. We sell J.I. Packer and John Piper as much as McLaren or Grenz. Even in their fairly mature social ethics, they would, for instance, be as interested in Ron Sider or John Perkins as Jim Wallis or Walter Wink. We sell some Marva Dawn and Eugene Peterson and Tom Wright—who know the best of the tradition, and hold it seriously, and less Borg or Spong. Interestingly, that kind of liberal tradition seems only to sell in places where there are old people. Interestingly, despite their serious reading of, for instance, Walsh & Middleton on postmodernity (Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be, which is still the must-read on that topic) there isn’t as much interest in the emergent stuff as one might expect. It is a good, good, group.
They do long for books of spiritual formation, they want testimonies of authentic faith, they want substance coupled with great joy. I push the worldview stuff, Os Guinness, thebooks on faith as it is folded into the collegiate experience, and Steve Garber, of course. But, after all, they are working with young adults, and even that wholistic stuff about developing the “mind of Christ” is not as urgent as books on body image, sexual healing, deeply spiritual reminders of God’s great love (Abbas Child by Brennan Manning, for instance) and stuff that is, well, just a bit quirky.
During a recent on-line conversation with a customer who read of our awareness of these young adult ministries—maybe I mentioned Sharon Parks, even—we had some discussion about the lack of twentysomethings in most churches. And so, here are just a few book covers to look at that show some of the recent kinds of stuff that seems aimed at that age group. Call it the influence of the twenty-something version of Anne Lamott, Donald Miller. He’s the man, of course. (If you don’t know who he is, and your at a church with any sizable batch of twenty-something readers, ask them. If they aren’t readers, order Blue Like Jazz or Searching for Gods Knows What immediately.) Younger readers want stuff that speakers their language, books that are somehow a bit ironic and aware of the sad goofiness of most churchy experience. They want the real deal.
In these last few years, the think line has been especially good at finding authors and marketing them well to the hipper side of the tracks for the younger crowd. For instance, Turner is a hoot of an author, and this new one (above, with the fishies) is the first of a series. Each will start with that “What You Didn’t Learn From Your Parents About…”
Tony Jones is well known, and this is his brand new, not your old-school lectio devina book. Ancient-future, as they say. And check out the sub-title of the Plastic Jesus title: Exposing the Hollowness of Shallow Christianity. Eric Sandras’ earlier book, a buck-naked honest portray of his faith journey, some of which made my hair stand on end, was called Buck Naked Faith. This, I think, is indicative of what is interesting for many of our younger customers.