Great books for children’s ministry workers, Christian educators, and parents, too. ON SALE

A large part of many of my days is taken up making lists for people. We enjoy recommending reading options — hard books, easy books, theologically conventional works, edgy new stuff, this new one, that old one. Something for everyone, you know.  On all kinds of topics. From faith and the arts to Christian views of science to all manner of personal questions and individual needs. And this week, one about church work.

I thought you might like to see this book list about children’s ministry that I did yesterday and the book descriptions — added to and tweaked just a bit for a more general readership here — that I put together for a friend who has taken a new job in as the director of children’s ministry in a medium sized, thriving, evangelical church. 

She is thoughtful, open-minded, trained at a seminary that is known for solid, thoughtful orthodoxy and warm faith that yields energetic ministry and cultural engagement.  I knew she’d want a real variety of good titles from which to choose so I went to town.  I named stuff I liked or that has been useful to others or that I thought she should know about.

I’ve added in a few others, all of which we have in stock here, and you can order them from us by using our secure order form page, below. If you want us to bill you or your church, just let us know. We’re happy just to send the books off with a smile and an invoice. 

A little request: if this topic doesn’t interest you might you forward it to somebody who might find it useful? I’m sure you know somebody who cares for children, who works in a church, or who reads about congregation-based Christian education. Or who should.  Help us spread the word, please.


Thanks for inviting me to list some resources for your new job in children’s ministry… How exciting for you, and what a joy to get to describe just a few of our big CE section. We’re really interested in this whole field, and read a lot of titles in this area. We’ve got tons of “practical” curriculum type stuff and lesson books for any age, too, but wanted to start with some that are more foundational, vision casting, if you will. Thanks for caring about these kinds of books.

(By the way, do you know Godly Play stuff? Our  own children’s ministry at our church has truly been blessed by using it a bit; it is prayerful, imaginative, almost sacramental. The Episcopalian leader who development it, Jerome Berryman, was influenced by Montessori. We carry all the Godly Play books, if you want to explore that later…)

Anyway, here are some that we’d recommend for sure. Let us know if you have any further or specific needs or topics…

We show the regular prices. We’ll do the discount when you order.

children matter.jpgChildren Matter: Celebrating Their Place in the Church, Family, and Community Scotty May, Beth Posterski, Catherine Stonehouse, and Linda Cannell (Eerdmans) $28.00  Wow, this is a mature and thoughtful collection of about 15 chapters, around themes of a theology of children, the context and content of children’s ministry, and the practices and “how we do it” stuff.  The authors are thoughtful evangelicals, mostly, good scholars, offering important wisdom. Remarkable for a solid foundation. It’s meaty, thick, and so, so good.

The Spiritual Child- The New Science .jpgThe Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving Lisa Miller (Picador) $16.00  This was a New York Times bestseller, a very thoughtful book merging neuroscience and parenting and grit to help ordinary parents realize that spirituality nourishes our children’s well being. As one reviewer noted, it is, “perceptive, thought-provoking, and heavily researched, this is a valuable book for anyone interested in spiritual development in children adolescents, and families.” I have yet to read this (sorry!) but serious educators I respect have assured me it is a must read. Dr. Miller is a professor Psychology and Education and director of the Clinical Psychology Program at Teachers College, Columbia University in NY. She is the coeditor of the American Psychological Association’s journal Spirituality in Clinical Practices. Common grace for the common good, I’d say, right here.

marva dawn.jpgIs It a Lost Cause? Having the Heart of God for the Church’s Children Marva Dawn (Eerdmans) $18.00 I hope you’ve read some of Marva’s great books, and I think this is one of her best, not nearly known enough. Very inspiring, if a bit counter-cultural. It not only has such a high regard for children, and insists on their full role within the church, but it has a sturdy and serious ecclesiology, the church as true Christian community. I suppose you know that I’d read anything Marva Dawn writes; we are glad she wrote on this! A must-read.  Yes!

Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey.jpgListening to Children on the Spiritual Journey- Guidance for Those Who Teach and Nurture.jpgJoining Children on the Spiritual Journey: Nurturing a Life of Faith Catherine Stonehouse (Baker Academic) $24.00  I think this is really, really good, nearly a modern classic, wonderfully done. And I like her next one (co-written with Scottie May of Wheaton College), too Listening to Children on the Spiritual Journey: Guidance for Those Who Teach and Nurture (Baker Academic; $22.00) — maybe even more. Highly recommended. There’s rave reviews on the back, from the editor of Christian Education Journal, for instance, and the founder of Godly Play, Jerome Berryman. Dr. Stonehouse, by the way, teaches as Asbury Theological Seminary where she is highly respected. These are both must-reads!

Formational Children's Ministry.jpgFormational Children’s Ministry: Shaping Children Using Story, Ritual, and Relationship Ivy Beckwith (Baker Books) $15.99  Oh my,  oh my, I so loved this!  A very strong book and truly interesting! There’s a very nice endorsement from Dan Allender, who says it is “genius” written by “an enormously gifted child educator…” Highly recommended for some new energy and new ideas!  

Children's Ministry in the Way of Jesus.jpgChildren’s Ministry in the Way of Jesus David Csinos & Ivy Beckwith (IVP) $18.00 I’m very impressed by this and enjoyed it a lot. It may seem a bit radical, emergent, almost, but done by IVP so it is still  orthodox and reliable for evangelical churches. The author is a good writer, and really thoughtful about so much. Highly recommended. An endorsement by Scottie May of Wheaton is quite positive, by the way. I like its language of “practice” its frame of being “on the way” and its focus on Christ-like discipleship. You really should consider this.

Faith Forward- A Dialogue on Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity.jpgFaith Forward Reimagining  .jpgFaith Forward: A Dialogue on Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity and Faith Forward Volume 2: Re-Imagining Children and Youth Ministry edited by David Csinos and Melvin Bray (Copperhouse) $19.95  Well.  I’ve mentioned these before. I wish I could promote these more widely as there is nothing quite like them, even if they have some chapters that will unsettle some with their progressive and curious theological vision. They were both put together out of two lively conferences with Brian McLaren on children, youth and family ministry for emergent/progressive/justice-seeking Christians. (Hence the “new kind of Christian” subtitle of the first one, since that was the title of his new book at the time.) They called these popular, energizing events “Faith Forward” conferences and these books are essentially the papers presented there. Some chapters are general, if passionate and creative, about children, children’s faith development, how to nurture kids into a broad and redemptive and gracious view of God’s love. It is helpfully multi-ethnic and trans-denominational. A few of the contributors are famous, many are not. Most are really good.  Other chapters are quite specific, often about inclusion, exploring white privilege, racial justice, ministering well to gay students and non-traditional families thinking through new ways to do children’s and youth ministry that is wholistic and intentionally just. For those seeking innovation and fresh expressions of faith that bears good fruit in cultivating the life of kids, this could be a provocative and useful resource. As we often say, agree or not with every detail, it’s good to grapple with big ideas. Check these out.

Perspectives on Children's Spiritual Formation- 4 Views.jpgPerspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation: 4 Views edited by Michael Anthony (B&H) $24.99 Here is how the promo material explains it: Perspectives On… “presents in counterpoint four views of children’s spiritual formation and four related methods of Christian Education. Each chapter is written by a prominent person representing his or her view. Contributors also respond to the other viewpoints. Views include the contemplative-reflective model (cultivating a quiet, worshipful spirit), instructional-analytic model (involving child evangelism and Bible memorization), pragmatic participatory model (focusing on high-energy activities, often seen in mega-churches), and the media-driven active-engagement model (using a video-based curriculum with limited teacher training).” Whew. This has a lot to make you think, a lot to ponder, maybe even causing you to re-consider assumptions and goals and strategies… Some of us just plough forward, without asking these kinds of foundational questions and assessing our models.

Habits of a Child's Heart- Raising Your Kids with the Spiritual Disciplines .jpgHabits of a Child’s Heart: Raising Your Kids with the Spiritual Disciplines Valerie Hess (NavPress) $14.99  I’ve mentioned this from time to time over the years and it is still one of the few good books that explore spiritual formation and practices of nurturing contemplative spirituality with kids. Can kids learn to meditation, can families engage the Scriptures together with a prayerful gentleness? Can we simplify our lives and change our priorities so new habits of service and community emerge? What a great guide to some great , good matters. This is a book for parents, but I could see educators and children’s ministry makers using it to equip parents, or using the ideas in traditional Sunday school settings.

Relational Children's Ministry- Turning Kid-Influencers into Lifelong Disciple-makers.jpgRelational Children’s Ministry: Turning Kid-Influencers into Lifelong Disciple-makers Dan Lovaglia (Zondervan) $16.99 The big question on the back of this new book is “Are you building lasting relationships or just running a program?” It shows how children’s ministry leaders can “disrupt status quo approach to discipleship with children, realigning their ministries for greater long term impact.”  Looks great — inspirational and full of good ideas. It’s not to revolutionary, though (like, say, the Faith Forward ones above) as Lovaglia is a conventional evangelical leader. He is the director of new ministries and parent engagement at Awana. It looks great, not too complex, nothing to provocative, but a good read.

 I Wonder- Engaging a Child's Curiosity About the Bible.jpgI Wonder: Engaging a Child’s Curiosity About the Bible Elizabeth Caldwell (Abingdon) $19.99 Libby Caldwell is a very well loved CE leader in many circles, including within APCE (the Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators) which is the PCUSA professional organization for CE staff and Children’s Ministry leaders. We are pretty involved with the Eastern APCE, and we heard her more than once in that setting.  She’s written some helpful books for mainline Protestants, published by Pilgrim Press.

This recent book is remarkable, just really, really interesting and valuable. It would have a bit more of a liberal theological bias than some conservative congregations might want, but it is fascinating to read and ponder. Who among us doesn’t want to teach the Bible well, and have kids really learn to love the Scriptures, and the God who is revealed in them?  We all need all the help we can get, and this is a book unlike any on the market.

Mostly, Calwell is surveying various children’s Bibles to see how they tell the story, what they leave in, what they leave out, wondering why that is, and how that fits our hopes of helping kids learn for themselves to love the Scriptures. She thinks we close down “wonder” and therefore authentic and lasting spiritual desire by teaching in ways that are too “black and white” and don’t open up curiosity. She is critical of some parts of some favorite children’s Bible storybooks and this could generate all kinds of interesting conversation in your church. We do want to open the Bible up, don’t we, not close it down? We need good writing, good artwork, and a fearless fidelity in getting the Word right. (Funny how some evangelistic type kids Bibles on evangelical publishing houses say stuff — making it chatty and intending to be helpful, I’m sure — that simply isn’t in the Biblical text. And she has issues with all of that. God bless her.

We think I Wonder is a strong book, even though I disagree with some of her opinions. I’ve talked with her about some of this, in fact… There is a lot of info about different children’s Bible storybooks, their quality and art and biases, making it a really good book to have on hand…

text image and otherness.jpg

By the way, if you are really interested in this, there is a very academic book from SBL’s “Semeia Studies” series which we carry that is fascinating. It is called Text, Image & Otherness in Children’s BIbles: What’s in the Picture? edited by Caroline Vander Stichele & Hugh Pyper (Society of Biblical Literature; $36.95.) Yep, it is informed by critical and feminist theory, asking about “the other” and exploring how representations of otherness appears in all kinds of Bible stories, from Veggie Tales to global religious education courses. Whew. I appreciate it because there just isn’t that much deep scholarship on children’s religious imagination and our teaching of the Bible to them, so, peculiar as these pieces may be, it’s fascinating and we commend it. But get I Wonder, for sure.

dwell jessie schut.jpgDwelling: Helping Kids Find a Place in God’s Story  Jessie Schut (Faith Alive) $5.99  I’m always fond of the stuff that comes out of the CRC, and I love this small, accessible guide to helping children see themselves as part of God’s redemptive work. If I were a Christian ed director (or children’s ministry staff person) I’d try to get this into the hands of every volunteer.  Almost 45 short chapters on all manner of subjects, covering wisely all kinds of situations and topics. Nice.

Leading KidMin- How to Drive Real Change in Children's Ministry.jpgLeading KidMin: How to Drive Real Change in Children’s Ministry Pat Cimo & Matt Markins (Moody Press) $14.99  This new book looks fantastic, full of energy and passion and ideas and principles… not simplistic and not shallow.  Pat Cimo has led in children’s ministry for decades and is now the director of marriage and family life at Willow Creek.  Matt Markins serves on the global leadership team at Awana. Both of these are strong, well read, significantly experienced leaders. In many ways it is about transforming our approach to leadership, allowing our ministry to be transformed by what is going on within us and our own sense of identity, our own leadership voice and what we ourselves are learning. 

Attract Families to Your Church -- And Keep Them Coming Back .jpgAttract Families to Your Church — And Keep Them Coming Back Linda Ranson Jacobs (Abingdon) $18.99 There are several books like this, and I think something around family ministry would be important to have. This one is insightful and practical. We think it is accessible and inspiring. 

For the deeper debate about models and approaches on family ministry, see, for instance, Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Perspectives on Family Ministry- 3 Views.jpgViews edited by Timothy Paul Jones (B&H; $19.99.) The three views are “Family-integrated Ministry” where the emphasis is on intergenerational discipleship and “Family-Based Ministry” which advocates for organizing programs according to ages and interests but also developing intentional activities and training events to bring families together and “Family-Equipping Ministry — maintaining age-organized ministry while reorganizing the congregation to call parents to be active partners…) I suspect most churches don’t have any strategy or model, nor have they thought about what vision is most theologically acceptable and appropriate.  So, here’s to starting that conversation!

A-Place-at-the-Table.jpgA Place at the Table: Welcoming Children to the Lord’s Supper — A Guide for Congregations DVD and Study Book Thea Nyhoff Leunk (Faith Alive)  $19.99 for DVD; $7.00 for the book  Although this was published by the Christian Reformed Church to help congregations learn about and embrace their 2011 denominational recommendation to open the communion table to children, it really is useful for anyone wanting to have this conversation and move in that direction. Very nicely done.  I suppose many of us might first need to talk about the role of children in worship, eh?  Send us an email if you want a small list on that whole topic, being inclusive of kids of all ages in conventional worship. The kids can’t receive communion if they aren’t there…

Feasting-on-the-Word-Childrens-Sermons-for-Year-A.jpgFeasting on the Word: Children’s Sermons for Year A Carol A. Wehrheim (WJK) $20.00 I suppose you know the now the very popular, almost legendarily so, Feasting on the Word preaching commentaries (and the ancillary product, the worship companions, the Advent and Lenten worship guides, the guide to doing children’s sermons, and the daily devotional.)  Last year — speaking of legendary — the wonderfully wise children’s educator Carol Wehrheim did a book of children’s sermons connected to  Feasting on the Word Year C. It was very, very nice.  The new one for liturgical year A – starting this Advent – just arrived here at the shop. There is a short message and prayer for each Sunday of the year, and a few additional ones, for special occasions. 

100 Things Every Child Should Know Before Confirmation- A Guide.jpg100 Things Every Child Should Know Before Confirmation: A Guide for parents and Youth Leaders Rebecca Kirkpatrick (WJK) $17.00  Again, this is a PCUSA resource, the author on staff at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian. Still, these succinct and clear summaries of different topics are very useful — maybe you could supplement or edit.  This emerged from the author’s frustration of what kids did or didn’t know in their junior high years as they were going through confirmation. A good argument for serious educational work with children!

I Belong to God- A Catechism for Covenant Children Rich Lusk.jpgI Belong to God: A Catechism for Covenant Children Rich Lusk (Athanasius Press) $5.99  I really liked the preface to this, a heartfelt essay by a Christian father wanting to help others nurture their children in ways that they can grow up and into their baptism as covenant children. The author used the 1998 PCUSA children’s catechism and revised it extensively. He had seven features, particularly, that guided him in his creative revision and it is good stuff. Lusk is the pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church (CREC) in Birmingham Alabama. He has previously served at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian in Monroe, LA and Redeemer Presbyterian in Austin TX. 

best-practices-for-children-ministry-leading-from-the-heart-by-ervin-andrew-0834131609.jpgBest Practices for Children’s Ministry: Leading from the Heart Andrew Ervin (Beacon Hill Press) $14.99  Beacon Hill is a publishing house of the Church of the Nazarene and they do some very good stuff. This is pretty simple, exciting, a great compendium of best practices and positive examples. Lots of stories from pretty conservative evangelical churches, each with a strong and effective program or activity. Lots to learn, lots to emulate. 

Leading Kids to Jesus- How to Have One-on-One Conversations About Faith.jpgLeading Kids to Jesus: How to Have One-on-One Conversations About Faith David Staal (Zondervan) $14.99  This came out of Willow Creek, with a great forward by Bill Hybels. It is an “essential resource for children’s ministry workers” and helps us learn to communicate God’s love in ways that kids will understand. Really has a lot of good stuff. I suspect almost anyone who works with kids, from any sort of church, will find useful insights here, will be touched by the stories and examples, and will be reminded of really basic, good stuff. 

Show Them Jesus- Teaching the Gospel to Kids.jpgShow Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids Jack Klumperhower (New Growth Press) $17.99  This was created by Serge (formerly World Harvest Mission), the ministry that gave us the intense gospel-centered life curriculum, the SonShip materials, etc. Strong on grace, insisting that the Christ-centered gospel is transformational. This is meaty, serious, and exceptionally clear about the core things of the faith and how to help kids understand and embrace Christ.

Give Them Truth- Teaching Eternal Truths to Young Minds.jpgGive Them Truth: Teaching Eternal Truths to Young Minds Starr Meade (Presbyterian & Reformed) $14.99  Starr Meade is a very bright woman — she’s taught Latin, for crying out loud — and has much experience as director of children’s ministry at a local church. You may know her many books such as Training Hearts, Teaching Minds or a series of Bible studies.  Here she insists (our of a fairly conservative, evangelical context) that children are born theologians, that we have a great opportunity to go after the biggest questions and the deepest things rather than being shallow or superficial. Truth, she reminds us here, isn’t just intellectual, it is personal. Only being well rooted in the deep gospel will allow kids to endure the contemporary challenges of our modern culture. How do we begin, as parents or educators? Starr Meade can help. Give Them Truth.

Give Your Child the World- Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time .jpgGive Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time Jamie C. Martin (Zondervan) $16.99 Okay, friends, this is it: one of the books I am most excited about this new season. This is why we sell books for a living, this is why you read BookNotes, this is why you care about the power of story and the beauty of the printed page.  This is what LaVar Burton — you remember him from Reading Rainbow, surely — says is “an invaluable resource!”  Tsh Oxenreider wrote a lovely forward setting the table for what is a feast, tons of ideas about tons of books that we can use to help our kids grow to love the world God so loves.

Who doesn’t want to raise insightful, compassionate kids who are inspired to change the world?  What parent or teacher does want his or her students to have a love of books and a care for the world. This should be in every church library, passed out to parents and teachers meetings, offered at missions conference or justice meetings. We will be writing about this more, I am sure.

Read-Your-Way-Across-the-Globe-with-Give-Your-Child-the-World-by-Jamie-C.-Martin.jpgYou can introduce your kids to the world from your own home and church, watching them grow into deeper awareness and empathy and insight. This book helps solve  your problem of how to do that, with guidance, insight, and book lists galore (annotated well, so you know just what to check out at the library or order from us.) I’m almost choked up thinking about the possibilities. Help us get this book purchased, talked about, passed around. Order one today! Kudos to Zondervan and to Jamie Martin, who obviously knows kids books well and is my new hero! She, by the way, has a couple of children adopted from different countries, and sips tea with her British husband in Connecticut. She’s well equipped for helping us all through this project. Cheerio.

Make It Zero- The Movement to Safeguard Every Child .jpgMake It Zero: The Movement to Safeguard Every Child Mary Frances Bowley (Moody) $13.99  This is passionately written by two young evangelical women who invite us to be advocates for children against any sort of abuse — poverty, hunger, neglect — and certainly that we must safeguard our church facilities and programs against putting children at risk. It’s a passionate, thoughtful, energetic book that will re-inspire you to justice for kids. Nicely done.


I wasn’t going to list any actual kids books, children’s storybooks, Bibles and the like, but this new resource is so great, so usable, so special, I have to give it mention now. Right now.

The Biggest Story- How the Snake Crusher.gifPerhaps you recall that we raved about the remarkably colorful, very creatively created and truly thoughtful overview of the Bible story, The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung, illustrated by Don Clark (Crossway; $17.99.) I reviewed it a bit at a previous BookNotes (last December) where we highlighted some great gifts for children. It is so handsome and colorful that although it is for young children, it has an appeal to older kids, too.

Now — drum roll, please — they’ve done this as a feature film, or at least a short doc DVD video. You’ve got to see this!

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden —  The Animated Short Film narrated by Kevin DeYoung illustrated by Don Clark (Crossway) regularly $14.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $13.49

biggest-story-dvd-cd.jpg The Biggest Story: The Animated Short Film offers in 26 beautiful minutes remarkable animations adapted from The Biggest Story book. It will, as it says in their promo, “captivate children and parents alike as they are led on an exciting journey through the Bible — connecting the dots from the garden of Eden to Christ’s death on the cross to the new heaven and earth.”  It is ideal for teaching children the core message of the Bible at home, at church, or any kind of a classroom. Maybe you should get it for your adult Bible study group!

This DVD features 10 chapters, each 2-3 minutes long, narrated by Kevin DeYoung. It has original music composed by John Poor and features the vibrant, very creative illustrations by award winning contemporary designer Don Clark.

Get it on sale from us now.



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