Books for church leaders, educators, parents, many about children (and some great kid’s books.) ALL ON SALE at Hearts & Minds

Before we launch into this week’s BookNotes, please allow me to ask a favor. While we are always hoping that our friends and customers will invite their book-loving friends to subscribe to our Hearts & Minds newsletter and while we are ever grateful for those who re-tweet or share on Facebook our book-ish missives, the last one we did — about an extraordinary, thorough study of restoring a Michigan creek that runs through the city of Grand Rapids, describing a vision of creation-care called “reconciliation ecology” — is one that really needs to be known. It tells of a Christian group mobilizing citizens of all sorts to get involved in their particular watershed, but, yet, it is a great read for anyone who cares about creeks (or canoeing or kayaking or fishing) or, frankly, anybody who cares about clean water.

The best stories are rooted in specific particularities and Reconciliation in a Michigan Watershed by Gail Gunst Heffner & David Warners is no different. It is not abstract or theoretical. They get their hands dirty and their feet wet in this particular tributary of the great Grand River called Plaster Creek. Indigenous people (who, no surprise, lived with it in quite different ways than the settlers who arrived with a different worldview and approach to waterways) called it Ken-O-Sha.

As I explained with glee last time, the new book tells one story in one place but it is widely universal: we all live in watersheds and we all know, as the epistle to Romans puts it, that the whole creation is groaning. This book is important and will be entertaining and informative, stimulating and challenging, to all kinds of readers in all kinds of places. It is not only a story for those in Western Michigan. Would you consider passing my last BookNotes on to somebody who might care? Can you share it on Facebook or Twitter, or just cut and paste and forward the last BookNotes link to a friend or two? We are proud to get to tell about this marvelous, hopeful book and invite you to join us in spreading the word. Thanks.


Even as we continue to feel the good residue of being with so many book-loving literary types at the Calvin Festival of Faith & Writing two weeks ago, and having the great privilege of speaking at that great event, we are, truly, back down to Earth, boxing up books, using extra stuffing paper to make sure they are wrapped carefully as we jam-packed carton after carton into our big van. We drove nearly two hours to a yearly gig where we set up dozens of big tables full of books for Presbyterian church educators; how glad we are to be invited back, year after year, decade after decade, to the Eastern region of APCE (Association of Presbyterian Church Educators.) Long-time acquaintance (and former Pennsylvanian) John Franke was the main speaker, inviting the gathered educators and church workers to embrace a missional vision of the church that would offer a foundation for doing risky ministry.

The PC(USA) has a bit of a quiet campaign going, asking congregations to consider being Matthew 25 Churches. Not a bad thing to be known for, what with all that end-times sheets and goats language of Jesus, eh? If anything matters, surely, it is this, caring for “the least of these.” Anyway, it was a good event.

Here are some books I featured there at that central Pennsylvania event. This will not only give you a feel for a tiny portion of what we displayed but some of the titles I highlighted in my own hour-long workshop there. Thanks to those who showed interest in some of these books. Now you can order, too, at our BookNotes 20% off.

Of course, we had many, many categories of adult titles, from theology to prayer to congregational life to memoirs and devotionals to citizenship. On and on, from disability studies to Biblical studies, from books about the cultural ethos to books about trauma and recovery and body image. And tons of kids books of all kinds. Anyway, here are just a few of the titles we had, most designed for those who care about or work with children.


Improvising Church: Scripture as the Source of Harmony, Rhythm, and Soul Mark Glanville (IVP Academic / Missio Alliance) $28.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40

Of the good handful of books we had about church life — some rather academic like, say, the important series by Andrew Root (the most recent being The Church in an Age of Secular Mysticisms) or Joseph Small’s Flawed Church, Faithful God: A Reformed Ecclesiology for the Real World, and some more practical like the immensely helpful Pivot: The Priorities, Practices, and Powers That Can Transform Your Church Into a Tov Culture by Scot McKnight and Laura Barring — this recent one strikes a good balance. It is fairly academic and thorough; at just over 200 pages, it isn’t daunting, but it isn’t a simple breeze-through, either. Glanville is an amazing scholar (with a PhD from Bristol) and professor at Regent College in Vancouver. This book is informed by important thinkers (like Lesslie Newbigin, for instance, and the work of Brian Walsh & Steve Bouma-Prediger and many others.) He’s a jazz player and fan, too, and uses musical phrases and images and insights to frame this developing thesis about the Bible’s own story and our improvising our way into living it. This is, truly, as the back cover promises, not only a critique of our post-Christian malaise, but a look at twelve “notes” that give us a dynamic solution. It’s very impressive.

Ordinary Church: A Long and Loving Look Joseph S. Beach (Spello Press) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

I’ve highlighted this before and want to quickly say that Joe is a great, great guy, a good customer, a lover of books (and novels) and is what I might want to characterize as a fairly normal, small-church pastor. I trust he would take that as a compliment. Yes, he was mentored by Eugene Peterson, who pulled him just a bit out of maybe a stricter evangelical culture and into a deeply Biblical, deeply spiritual work of caring for his flock there in Denver. He’s not about flash or pizzaz (although he drops the Dylan quote from time to time.) He’s friends with Brian Zahnd (who offered a foreword and who raves about the book) and the thoughtful Brad Jersak (who wrote a lovely afterword.) It is, as Jersak says, a “nourishing meal.” Anybody who goes to church, is part of a church, and, especially, anyone leading this funky organization cum new family we call the Body of Christ, needs this calming, sober, hopeful guide.

Four Views of the Church’s Mission edited by Jason Sexton (Zondervan Academic) $16.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

I love these books that give the best arguments for various theological views and then each of author’s responds to the primary chapter by the others. By the end, one gets four views and everybody’s critiques and rebuttals. Talk about clarification of thoughts! This is like sitting in on a long, drawn-out (civil) debate. In this case the four views of the nature of the church’s most succinct calling and task are explained differently by Christopher Wright, John R. Franke, Peter Leithart and Jonathan Lehman. John, who is a theologian in residence at a PC(USA) church in Indianapolis, offers what he calls a “contextualized mission.” He has taught all over the world and currently does a grad class each year at Fuller with his former student, Dr. Drew Hart so he is a particularly informed and good communicator. Nice.

Liberating Scripture: An Invitation to Missional Hermeneutics John R. Franke & Michael Barram (Cascade) $28.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40

It was good seeing John Franke there at our event leading this group of church leaders, inviting them to a missional sort of hermeneutics. Can the Holy Scriptures themselves be set free from the too-often less than helpful assumptions in the very read we read, work with, understand, and apply these texts as the Word of God? John has written widely on missional theology and seems to me to be a healthy both/and sort of thinker, rather than the either/or type, so this book is sure to be refreshing and healthy. I’ve not read it yet, but surely will. The co author wrote one I read year ago which was very good — Missional Economics: Biblical Justice and Christian Formation (Eerdmans; $27.50.) Happily, Franke’s former student, Dr. Drew Hart (of Messiah University), has a good forward and Lisa Bowens (a prof at Princeton, and author of African American Readings of Paul: Reception, Resistance, and Transformation) does the good work of an afterword. We’re excited about this recent book.

It is groundbreaking as the flagship book in a new series called “Studies in Missional Hermeneutics, Theology, and Praxis” and here is how they describe it:
Rooted in and advocating for a postmodern and postcolonial understanding of mission, Liberating Scripture is the first book-length study designed specifically to introduce readers to the emerging subfield of biblical interpretation known as missional hermeneutics. The authors provide a thoroughgoing overview of the background and development, rationale, terminology, and methodology of missional hermeneutics, doing for biblical interpretation what Missional Church (edited by Darrell Guder et al., 1998) did for reimagining the church in light of the missio Dei. As the initial volume in the new Studies in Missional Hermeneutics, Theology, and Praxis series, Liberating Scripture is a critical resource for study and practical application, and its accessibility will make it a go-to text for classrooms and congregations.

The Wise Leader Ali Chi (Eerdmans) $21.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $17.59

Chi is, according to friends that know him, a truly remarkable person and a wise and solid leader in church circles and the business world, having worked also in the nonprofit context and in the theological academy. This is his insight gleaned from a lifetime of leading and mentoring. I assure you it offers some new insights (even for those who have read a lot of leadership books) and it is loaded with stories, illustrations, and good, good sentences. My, my. This is highly recommended. My friend Steve Garber says offers a way of seeing “over his shoulder and through his heart.” Since most of our participants at the regional APCE event were not ordained clergy, I liked having this one there.

Katerine Leary Alsdorf explains it very well. Hear her:

The brand new The Wise Leader  calls us to a deep and rich journey into the source and nurture of wisdom. Uli Chi draws on his own life experience as a follower of Christ, mentee and mentor, student and professor. Those who are leaders, he says, share the vocation of being faithful ambassadors from the Creator to the created order. To help us distinguish between wisdom from God and the wisdom of this world, he guides us through practices that cultivate humility, a healthy vision of power, and the wisdom to see the world as it is and as it could be. I love Uli’s focus on imagination as ‘the incubator of God’s Spirit’ that enables us to envision that better world. I look forward to sharing this book with seasoned and aspiring leaders as they seek to serve God and the people he loves in some small way. — Katherine Leary Alsdorf, coauthor (with Tim Keller) of Every Good Endeavor

Jeff Van Duzer is the author of one of my favorite books on business. He writes:

At one point in this remarkable book, Uli Chi writes that ‘wisdom is about formation, not just information.’ For me this short phrase captures the essence of his work. This is a book that does not so much define ‘wisdom’ as allow it to unfold. As we read through the book we observe different fabrics — visual art, biblical teaching, fantasy literature, poetry, business books and articles, and more — knit together with examples from Uli’s own career until a truly multifaceted image of the wise leader emerges. I strongly second Mark Labberton’s encouragement in his foreword: ‘If you are seeking wisdom, don’t rush reading this book. Savor it.’ — Jeff Van Duzer, author of Why Business Matters to God (And What Still Needs to Be Fixed)

Attentive Church Leadership: Listening and Leading in a World We’ve Never Known Kevin G. Ford and Jim Singleton (IVP) $25.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $20.00

This is brand new and while I have hardly cracked the cover, I am sure it is one of the great books in this field of this year. Tod Bolsinger, the author of the very important modern classic on adaptive change, Canoeing the Mountains, has a very nice endorsing blurb on the back, noting that it has great insight and “exhorts church leaders to discern and truly pay attention to what matters most a deeply disrupted, often anxious, and rapidly changing world.”

Ya think our churches exist in a disrupted time? Ya think it has produced some anxiety?

The global businessman turned urban pastor with a deeply contemplative tone, Ken Shigematsu (author of the terrific God in My Everything) calls it “brilliant, beautiful, nourishing.” Can God provide us with “living water” which can sustain us, as church leaders, in these perplexing times? Can we be leaders of discernment and attention?

I’m very excited about this brand new book and was proud to stack a few there for the regional APCE leaders to see. I hope BookNotes readers care about thriving pastors and leaders and maybe will recommend this book widely. Both authors have worked with the Leighton Ford Ministries; Ford has written other books on leadership, strategic planning, and the like; Singleton is a long-time ECO Presbyterian pastor in Texas.

The Spiritual & Educational Vision of Parker J. Palmer: The Birthright Gift of Self Elena Soto (Pickwick Publications) $26.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59

I figured most everyone in the educational world — church educators, Christian school teachers, Sunday school teachers, servants in public schooling, and of course those in higher ed — know of the work of Parker Palmer. The Harper book To Know as We Are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey is seminal and remains a must-read for those thinking seriously about education (or, I might say, disciple-making.) His The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life is a modern-day classic. After writing that and doing many workshops with professional teachers he realized how many teachers viewed their work as a holy vocation, a calling, which led to the lovely reflection Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. Many working for a more gentle, spirituality for organizations and churches know him too. (His Hidden Wholeness is a great book, influenced a bit by his Quaker contemplative style but not only that.)

Who can take all this — his early stuff on public theology and his latest on aging (On the Brink of Everything) and tie it all together with a robust philosophy of education? Who can write for the broader public square about the spirituality of education? I do not know Elena Soto (other than to realize she teaches in the Religious Studies Department at Fordham Preparatory School in New York.)  She moves as briskly and wisely as does Parker from the complexity of the classroom to the quiet of the soul, from questions about educational workshops and seminars to the big matter of the teacher’s truest self. It is a masterpiece of bringing together the educational philosophy and spiritual perspective of Palmer, set in the context of her own encounter with Palmer and how it impacted her own life and work. There is nothing like it in print.

I learned so much reading Elena Soto’s book about Parker J. Palmer, an extraordinary public intellectual, and his thinking on living an authentic ‘undivided life’ — a life directed toward grasping the fact that education itself is a religious activity, enriching and ennobling both students and teachers. — E. Doyle McCarthy, professor emerita of sociology and American studies, Fordham University

Thriving on a Riff: Jazz and the Spiritual Life William G. Carter (Broadleaf Books) $26.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59

This is not precisely on church leadership, but I sure can imagine a creative church staff reading it together for ministry inspiration and Kingdom insight, and it isn’t about children’s ministry except, well, if inspiring kids to take up the arts and understanding jazz and race and loss and joy and holding up the example of one young Presbyterian kid who didn’t choose between his love of music and his love of the Word, between jazz and Jesus, well, maybe this is a good book to celebrate at an APCE event.

And celebrate it we did, since Bill has been at our little, regional, Eastern APCE event. (He gigs in the finest concert halls and cathedrals, and, yes, small camp and conference centers and church basements.)  Several of the educators there know him well and some knew of him, certainly. He makes us Presbys bop and we’re glad for his witness. And, man, we’re glad for this book.

I hope you saw my energetic review previously at BookNotes noting how this very well written book combines a well-informed history of jazz with his own low-key stories of life in the jazz scene, combined with his earnest, mainline denominational sensibilities as pastor and preacher. We learn about minor keys and openness, we learn about the “wow factor” and we hear stories of injustice. From improvisation to cooperation, there are spiritual principles embedded in this music and it’s a blast to learn about it all from just a thoughtful author. As one reviewer, Diane Stephens Hogue (a spiritual director and former convener of the Liturgy & Spirituality Seminar Group) puts it: “This is prayer.”

The Kingdom of Children: A Liberation Theology R.L Stollar (Eerdmans) $24.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99

I suppose this may be a bit too academic for some in congregational leadership or children’s ministry, but it is provocative, stimulating, challenging, and a boat-load of fun for those who like reading theology and church studies. Stollar proposes a liberation theology of the child that “centers the children in our ecclesial life.” As the back cover puts it, “By lifting up children — truly valuing and learning from them — we can build up the kingdom of God here in our communities.”

It doesn’t sound that complicated or radical, but as Stollar teases out the implications and to ask if we truly care — truly care — about the children in our communities, it could inspire a radical reconsideration of the tone and structures and practices of our churches. Obviously, in this day and age, every faith community or organization that includes children has to be diligent to protect littles from abuse (and this must include guarding against what some might call religious abuse.) This means rethinking a lot, I’m afraid…

It has long been said, but not adequately grappled with, that the phrase “family values” has been co-opted by a far right political and theological agenda, and more moderate and non-extremists must take back the phrase, struggling to know what family values means through the Jesus lens. The Kingdom of Children will help.

The forward is by Cindy Wang Brandt. At the Eastern-APCE event we featured her 2019 book (I think the last one with a preface by Rachel Held Evans) Parenting Forward: How to Raise Children with Justice, Mercy, and Kindness. Want a better world, asks Brandt, one shaped by justice, mercy and kindness? Try raising our kids that way. Yes!

The Gifts They Bring: How Children in the Gospels Can Shape Inclusive Ministry Amy Lindeman Allen (WJK) $25.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $20.00

Amy Lindeman Allen is an ordained Lutheran (ELCA) minister and a professor of New Testament at Christian Theological Seminary (Indianapolis, Indiana.) I appreciate her emphasis that the church not only ministers to children but invites us to relate to the children as contributing participants. This child-centered theological approach helps her interpret Biblical passages with a fresh eye, gleaning new insights from old texts. This is inspiring.

The Gifts They Bring is part Biblical scholarship, part devotional reading, and part children’s ministry handbook. As a professor of religious education at Brite Divinity School puts it, “this is biblical scholarship and practical theology at its best. Allen helps us see and hear the children who were among Jesus’s first disciples as well as the children whom we must recognize as Jesus’s disciples in our churches today.” What a visionary, multigenerational approach.

Shepherds as children? Children as full participants in worship? Kids as central followers of Jesus? This book will radically transform how you read scripture, revealing children where you’ve never noticed them, and not as bystanders but as powerful actors. And once you begin to see children — suggests biblical expert, wise pastor, and caring parent Amy Lideman Allen — you cannot help but envision Christian community as far more inclusive than you’ve ever imagined before. — Bonnie Miller McLemore, author of Let the Children Come: Reimaging Childhood from a Christian Perspective and In the Midst of Chaos: Care of Children as Spiritual Practice

Raising Kids Who Care: Practical Conversations for Exploring Stuff That Matters, Together Susy Lee (598 Press) $19.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

I wrote quite positively about this a few years ago and when I heard that E-APCE was studying the initiative called becoming a Matthew 25 Church, I was sure I wanted to take a few of these. I know some of the participants saw it and we sold a few. Still, it deserves to be better known as it is a tremendous guidebook and resource. As one author put it, it is “brightly and clearly written, with real personality.” It evokes in us an understanding that, unlike the way we typically think, we don’t make kids happy by typical means, but, in fact, by helping them learn to make others happy. As kids become agents of change in the world themselves, they find a greater joy and gusto, a purpose beyond themselves. As another psychologist and social researcher noted,

Wise, warm, imaginative and intensely practical… Raising Kids Who Care is like a blueprint for building strong families and caring communities. Highly recommended for anyone who cares about the future of our children and our society.

You may not have heard much about this great title as the author is Australian. She has a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies; rousing blurbs come from her down-under pals Michael Frost and Tim Costello, the former CEO of World Vision Australia. Believe me, it’s a fabulous read, a big and witty resource, and, fun as it is, very, very important.

Spiritual Conversations with Children: Listening to God Together Lacy Finn Borgo (IVP) $20.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $16.00

We highlighted this book when it first came out here at BookNotes and, that year, in a book plug I do for Eastern-APCE each year. I am sure I went on and on, explaining how wonderful and interesting, and useful, and enriching this book is. Borgo provides spiritual direction with children (at a transitional housing facility for homeless kids, in fact) and knows well what it is like to talk about God with kids. Perhaps when they listen to God, they hear the divine voice as well and — whew! — maybe they have some leading and revelation themselves, eh? This is a beautiful book with step-by-step guidance about how we, too, can have not just theological or Bible-teaching sessions with children, but profound spiritual conversations, learning to, as she puts it, “listening to God together.” What a joy, a rare and beautiful guidebook.

Strong Girls, Strong World: A Practical Guide to Helping Them Soar — and Creating a Better Future for Us All Dale Hanson Bourke (Tyndale) $17.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

Bourke is the sort of writer and author who we really appreciate. She has been a thoughtful evangelical throughout her career and has written on a wide variety of topics, about which she just seems to know so very much. She is clear-headed and yet inspiring, a fine wordsmith and a caring soul. She has served groups like World Vision International (and has visited 62 countries) and has often written about the people she has met along the way. Her vision is wholistic and caring and now she has turned her talent and passion towards a topic that is quite personal: how we can make a global impact, one girl at a time.

This is a fascinating book, not only for parents (or grandparents) of girls, but for anyone who wants to understand the need and benefits of investing in the lives of girls. She names eight areas that create “high-impact” outcomes. She even reports on effective organizations and what they are doing to change the lives of girls. Not since From Risk to Resilience: How Empowering Young Women Can Change Everything by Jenny Rae Armstrong have I been so excited about a book that helps us help children soar.

By the way, almost every other page has a sidebar and pull-out section either called “Did you know?” or “What you can do.” What a resource to have handy — we are in debt to Dal Bourke for this solid title, a great gift to the world. Cheers!

Grace for the Children: Finding Hope in the Midst of Child and Adolescent Mental Illness Matthew S. Stanford (IVP) $20.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $16.00

It would seem to me that nearly anyone working with children would be blessed by this lovely, helpful, wise, good book. Stanford has a PhD from Baylor University and is CEO of the Hope & Healing Center & Institute in Houston (and he teaches in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine and the Department of Psychology at the University of Houston. That’s a lot, eh? He’s a pro, for sure.)

This explores everything from disruptive behavior disorders to depression, post traumatic stress disorder to anxiety, from eating disorders to various aspects of being on the autism spectrum. Based on the DSM-5 diagnoses, this invites the church to her uniquely positioned role to offer things that, frankly, our mental health system often lacks. Grace for the Children is a fabulous resource, a good tool to have on hand, and what has been called (by Siang-Yang Tan at Fuller) “an excellent and comprehensive clinical guide.” The author has compassion and theological chops, care and insight. Unless you already have something like this on hand, we highly recommend it.

The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness Jonathan Haidt (Penguin Press) $30.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $24.00

Naturally, this question is always on the minds of anyone who works with children — parents, school teachers, educational professionals, Sunday school volunteers, youth pastors, those doing children’s ministry, and (yep — say it loud!): grandparents. Anyone who cares for kids obviously is asking this million dollar question.

I am not sure of Haidt’s full position as I have not read this yet. It is brand new, but has immediately become a best-seller and will surely be on everybody’s lists of books about all this. The statistics are clear: the kids are not okay. Susan Cain, the wonderful writer of Quiet (on being introverted) and the moving, richly-construed Bittersweet (on the mysterious relation of sorrow and longing and wholeness) says that Haidt is a “modern-day prophet, disguised as a psychologist.”

You may know his vital work on polarization from more than a decade ago, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion and his important 2018 book (which I found a tad cranky) The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. With this brand new one he is being called “the most important psychologist in the world today.” Johann Hari (author of Stolen Focus) says, “Every single parent needs to stop what they are doing and read this book immediately.” Okay then.

It is, admittedly, an urgent and provocative book, an alarm. As some quip, it isn’t alarmism if it is true; it isn’t paranoia if they are after you.

As Adam Grant writes,

Jonathan Haidt makes a powerful case that the shift from play-based to phone-based childhoods is wreaking havoc on mental health and social development. Even if you’re not ready to ban smartphones until high school, this book will challenge you to rethink how we nurture the potential in our kids and prepare them for the world.

Perhaps Russell Moore describes it best:

This book poses a challenge that will determine the shape of the rest of the century. Jonathan Haidt shows us how we’ve arrived at this point of crisis with technology and the next generation. This book does not merely stand athwart the iPhone yelling ‘Stop!’ Haidt provides research-tested yet practical counsel for parents, communities, houses of worship, and governments about how things could be different. I plan to give this book to as many people as I can, while praying that we all have the wisdom to ponder and then to act. — Russell Moore, Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America


The Apostles’ Creed For All God’s Children Ben Myers; illustrated by Natasha Kennedy (Lexham) $17.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

The Lord’s Prayer: For All God’s Children Harold L. Senkbeil; illustrated by Natasha Kennedy (Lexham) $17.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

The Ten Commandments: For All God’s Children Harold L. Senkbeil; illustrated by Natasha Kennedy (Lexham) $17.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

We have told you about these “Fat Cat” books before and we are big fans. As I told these Presbyterians, those who are astute will recall that these three topics — the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commands, and the Apostles’ Creed — form the basis of Luther’s catechism of new believers, and has long served as a foundation for teaching youth the foundations of Christian thinking and living. With these playful but exceptionally sound books, you’ve got a great start of what kids need to know most. We adore

Seeing Jesus: Social Justice Activities for Today Based on Matthew 25 Phyllis Vos Wezeman (The Pastoral Center) $33.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $26.40

I mentioned that the Eastern-region APCE conference was, in part, floating the idea of being a Matthew 25 Church. Well, for that agenda (which should be taken up by every congregation naming Jesus as their Lord) there is simply nothing like this. Wezeman is a long-time leader and experienced curriculum writer for children and here she offers six chapters (each with ten learning activities which explore one aspect of the chapter’s theme.)

Each lesson plan is organized into three parts: Learn, Locate, and Lead. It has tons of practical guidance and lays out the design of each activity and its lesson. While each lesson is related to the passage Matthew 25:31-46, it is also organized around another story or verse from the Bible which further illustrates the specific topic.

As they promise on the back, Seeing Jesus provides creative, concrete methods for responding to Jesus’ commission. It once again challenges each and every learning with the question, “What will you do?”

Over 215 pages — some of this was found in an earlier form in the now out of print Ave Maria volume, When Did We See You? This is ideal for fourth through eighth graders and comes with a permission and authorization to make limited copies for use in your class or group.

Zion Learns to See Terence Lester & Zion Lester (IVP Kids) $18.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40

I so, so appreciate all the IVP Kids line, and this one is a stand out. It is written with such joy and warmth, but yet, quietly at times, shouts “every person matters to God — and that means every person should matter to us.” But, of course, that means we have to see — really see — each person in their need and glory, their hurts and their dignity.

Zion is a young black girl who wants to understand and do something with this important message and her father reminds her of this lesson when he takes her to a community shelter at which he works and introduces her to house-less and other hurting folks, his friends from the streets. She decides to help raise awareness and funds through a project at school and it becomes, well…. You’ll see. It’s a great story.

Zion Learns to See is a lovely book for little ones inspired by the adult book by Terence Lester called I See You: How Love Opens Our Eyes to Invisible People. There’s a bit of the follow up on in this kid’s book, too, the one called When We Stand: The Power of Seeking Justice Together, which comes with a great foreword by Father Gregory Boyle. Both are by IVP.) Terence is a great author of adult books and now he has partnered with his daughter to do this lovely, inspiring kid’s book. Kudos to them both.

Any Time, Any Place, Any Prayer: A True Story of How You Can Talk to God Laura Wifler, illustrated by Catalina Echeverri (The Good Book Company) $16.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

As you most likely know (and may tire of hearing, here) we are quite taken with the Biblical insight of these “Tales That Tell the Truth” books that highlight a historical-redemptive sort of wisdom about how to connect various random stories in the Bible with a gospel-centered vision. Plus, we adore the whimsically serious art by the great Catalina Echeverri. In any case, we had ‘em all, and this one was propped up and shown nicely along with the workbook, which gives kids a way to interact with this material and end up with a big view of God and a resource that Kristie Anyabwile says is “chock-full of gospel.” 

We’ve got the small, companion, full-color 15-day workbook/devotional study too; it’s wonderful.  Any Time, Any Place, Any Prayer  Family Bible Devotional (The Good Book Company) $5.99; OUR SALE PRICE = $4.79.

The Anytime.. Family Bible Devotional is really nice, a great price, and includes some optional extra sections for older children and bonus puzzles and art activities for younger children. If I were a Sunday school teacher, by the way, I’d have one of these at the ready when you need a quick lesson plan.

God’s Beloved Community Michelle T. Sanchez; illustrated by Camila Carrossine (Waterbrook) $12.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $10.39

The message is clear: when we love others the way God dreamed, we help build God’s beloved community! This content-rich, fun storybook reminds us that God created a world filled with vibrant variety (and called it good!) Now God calls us, it says on the back, “to move from being color-blind to color brave and to proclaim with him how precious all people really are.”

I love how it roots ethnic diversity in the created order and invites us to honor and include all; this is pushing towards anti-racism in a lovely, evangelical way, affirming creation, fall, and redemption. Plus, it rhymes.

God’s Beloved Community takes young readers on a biblical and historical journey to learn more about the notion of “beloved community.” Naturally, it draws a bit on the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King and explores how we can create communities filled with God’s love “as we delight in our differences, stand up to bullying and unfair rules, and declare with our lives and our love that everyone matters to God.” I so appreciate this writer and storyteller, author of Color-Courageous Discipleship, both the adult version and the teenaged, youth edition. And now this one for children maybe from 3 – 8.

Celebrating My Baptism: The Day I Joined God’s Family illustrated by Estelle Corke (Paraclete Press) $14.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $11.99

I love this small sized book with lovely, upbeat illustrations including all kinds of and ages of people celebrating a child’s baptism. It is truly a “delightful collection filled with biblical promises, prayers, and poems. It has good content — a lot more than some kid’s books — and yet is playful and colorful. I’m a fan. I like that it has pictures of children at a fairly conventional font (in a mainline or liturgical church, it seems) and another in an outdoor setting, getting dunked in a lake, making it useful for all sorts of congregations. There is an emphasis on the new family of God’s community that surrounds and enfolds the child and the joy of learning about church, the Trinity, including the Holy Spirit’s guidance. There’s a nice little ribbon marker, too, and a presentation page to fill out. Hooray!

God’s Holy Darkness Share Green & Beckah Selnick; illustrated by Nikki Faison (Beaming Books) $17.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

We featured this and talked about it in my workshop last year, so I wasn’t surprised that it didn’t sell too well this year. Still, for those that didn’t see this — we featured it during Advent and during Lent — it is a year-round wonder. This book celebrates the beauty of darkness and with beautifully, creative, modern art, accomplishes at least two things: it celebrates that (as Barbara Brown Taylor books it) we can walk with God in the dark and it “deconstructs anti-Blackness in Christian theology.” By exploring instances when darkness, blackness, and night are beautiful, good and holy, it opens up a new layer of imagination for your smart kids. There is nothing like this and we recommend it.

The Story of Water: God at Work in the Bible’s Watery Tales Caroline Saunders; illustrated by Jade Van Der Balm  (B+H) $14.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $11.99

The Story of Home: God at Work in the Bible’s Tales of Home Caroline Saunders; illustrated by Jade Van Der Balm  (B+H) $14.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $11.99

These two lovely books have the look of creative but fairly normal children’s picture books; the artful illustrations are clever and multi-ethnic and full of interesting stuff going on. In each story there is an upbeat and solid Biblical teaching about water and about homes, about new life and a safe home. From thirst to homesickness, this author realizes something deep about the human condition and uses some imagination to realize that the Scriptures address these universal longings and needs. Jesus brings living water and welcomes all who are homesick. Years ago there were two somewhat similar books, maybe more liturgically connected and more evocative. I really like these two books which are clear and evocative even as they share the gospel in creative ways with little ones, ages 4 to 8.

A Very Big Problem Amy-Jill Levine & Sandy Eisenberg Sasso (Flyaway books) $18.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40

You may know Amy-Jill Levine, a Jewish prof of New Testament and popular author of books about Jesus in his first century context. Sandy Sasso is a retired Rabbi , a beloved and popular children’s picture book author, and an instructor of an arts and religion program at Indiana University and Purdue University. Together they’ve given us a real midrash, a reflection on what I might call the original sin, or something like that.

The story begins cheerfully enough in a retelling of the creation story. Then, to cut to the chase, each creature – animal and human – starts saying that they are the most important (and, of course, that, therefore, God loves them most.) On and on they go, hilariously (even if a bit sensibly, at times) saying why they are the cream of the crop and most beloved by their Creator. You can just imagine what God thinks of all this one-upmanship. No, the features of each special creature do not make them better or more worthy of God’s love, it is just an example of why God loves them and how wonder-full it all is. Even humans are put a bit in their place — a wise move, I think — assuring us that the whole of creation is good and loved. Is God’s love big enough for everyone? One could hardly ask a more urgent question and one could hardly find a more enjoyable way into the conversation. Highly recommended.

What Is God Like? Rachel Held Evans & Matthew Paul Turner; illustrated by King Hui Tan (Convergent) $17.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

Some forget that the late Rachel Held Evans, author, agitator, memoirist, speaker, conference organizer, was also a mother. As she reconstructed her own previously too-strict faith (her first book was called Evolving in Monkey Town which was about growing up fundamentalist in the town famous for the Scopes trial) she also raised some children and, obviously, taught the Bible to them. Here she answers a child’s first big question about God in what some have called a “gorgeous picture book.” It is a real favorite, full of metaphors and similes, lovely illustrations and a book to encourage young hearts. And their parents. It will make you feel brave and make you feel loved.

Given that Rachel had just died (so suddenly) when this book was in the works, it is fitting that her husband, Daniel Jance Evans wrote a little foreword, telling of their son Henry and their daughter Harper, who was still a baby.

My Heart Sings a Sad Song Gary Alan Shockley (The Pilgrim Press) $18.95  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.16

Shockley is both an author and artist and he knows grief intimately from his work as a hospice chaplain (and certified grief counselor.) He has done adult books (one I liked on leadership comes with a foreword by Graham Standish) and several children’s books, generally on themes of empathy and social awareness.

This brand new one is said to be “caring and honest” as it helps children process their grief after the death of a loved one. It is “lovely, comforting, uncomplicated” as a story and “a valuable tool for grieving children and adults.”

You may have had reason to talk with a little one about their emotions and their memories after they lost a loved one. If you haven’t, you will. We have a lot of books on this topic and this new one is gracious and done with obvious love.

When God Makes Scribbles Beautiful Kate Rietema, illustrated by Jennie Poh (B+H) $14.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $11.99

This is a simple, sparse picture book, just a bit bigger than some, and a real sinner. It imagines that the hard things in a child’s life is like a scribble following him everywhere. The child can’t get rid of the scribble, no matter how hard he tries.

As they say on the back, “His story offers reassurance to all readers, young and old, that God will take care of their own hard things and turn them into something beautiful.”

Rietema has mothered bunches of kids as an adoptive and foster care parent and knows a thing or two about the hard stuff in the lives of children. And, even though sometimes hard things happen to children, she is confident God can make a way, bring redemptive care and renewal through all things. This book is artful and evocative, a real glory. Artist Jennie Poh is obviously very talented in a cool, creative way; she lives in Surrey, England. If you’ve got a church library, you should have this book. There is extra content online too.

Bible History ABCs: God’s Story from A to Z Stephen Nichols;  illustrated by Ned Bustard (Crossway) $16.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

This is not as large as the majestic, big picture book these two friends did previously (The Church History ABCs: Augustine and 25 Other Heroes of the Faith) and , as such, is designed for little hands. Don’t be fooled, though, this has some great content, giving kids not only the fun of the classic ABC book, but solid information and witty details about everybody from Adam to Zion and lots in between. This is fine for children up to about 6 or 7, easily, and might be interesting for even old ones. In any case, it’s a substantive, playful, interesting book and we are delighted to show it off. Naturally, we had the fascinating companion volume Reformation ABCs: The People, Places, and Things of the Reformation–From A to Z, also by Mssrs Nichols & Bustard. What a blast!                                                                                           









The World of the Old Testament: A Curious Kid’s Guide to the Bible’s Most Ancient Stories Marc Olson, illustrated by Jemima Maybank (Beaming Books) $19.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

The World of the First Christians: A Curious Kid’s Guide to the Early Church Marc Olson, illustrated by Jemima Maybank (Beaming Books) $19.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

I suspect I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: I would have loved these books when I was in elementary school, or what they now call Middle School even. I was inquisitive and curious, I think, but didn’t read much fiction. I loved encyclopedias and clever books with lots of information. This series does the trick with lots of content and just enough quirkiness to keep reader’s studying the pages. There are fun infographics, maps, charts, diagrams and besides the visual appeal, it teaches real stuff about the life and times of the Biblical eras. This does not offer fundamentalistic proof-texting but solid history, culture, complexity, and truth. Great for ages up to maybe 14 or so.   

God’s Big Picture Bible Storybook – 140 Connecting Bible Stories of God’s Faithful Promises N. T. Wright, illustrated by Helena Perez Garcia (Tommy Nelson) $24.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99

I talked about this in my E-APCE workshop last seek and for you, here, I’ll just reprint what we wrote a month ago:

If this isn’t the coolest thing for kids and families — heck, for anyone! — this season, I don’t know what is. We had heard Tom was doing a children’s Bible story book and, of course, we were thrilled. It is fantastic, just fabulous. I respect his Biblical insight and his theological worldview that shapes his deep understanding of the interconnectedness of Scriptural episodes, so this book which will amplify the unfolding nature of the drama is sure to be a fabulous resource for any family wanting to not only get the stories right, but the Story.

Often, after the telling of a story, you will see the phrase “What else in God’s big story links up with this?” When that nicely appears there are one or two little colorful circles with a word and a page number to show how those themes show up in other stories. I’m not saying it is like the old Thompson Chain Study Bible, but it sure is a very nice (and useful) feature.

There are other children’s Bibles these days that show the interconnectedness of the overall biblical plot, and we are grateful. There are some that may have a more edgy sort of artistic appeal to young parents, or a higher quality of illustration, but this has fairly typical art for kids. More could be said about what might have been done better and while it may not be my choice for the best looking design, it is still quite engaging and very, very good. The fabulous text is on the left of the spread and the vivid picture is on the right (with a hint of color or symbol or a bit of the picture spilling over just a bit onto the page of text, which is a nice, integrated touch.) For ages 6 to 10 or 11, I’d say, this is a fabulous new resource. Certainly it would be good for children growing out of the popular Jesus Storybook Bible. Every church library should have one. Hallelujah.




It is helpful if you tell us how you want us to ship your orders. And if you are doing a pre-order, tell us if you want us to hold other books until the pre-order comes, or send some now, and others later… we’re eager to serve you in a way that you prefer. Let us know your hopes.

The weight and destination of your package varies but you can use this as a quick, general guide:

There are generally two kinds of US Mail options and, of course, UPS.  If necessary, we can do overnight and other expedited methods, too. Just ask.

  • United States Postal Service has the option called “Media Mail” which is cheapest but can be a little slower. For one typical book, usually, it’s $4.33; 2 lbs would be $5.07. This is the cheapest method available and seems not to be too delayed.
  • United States Postal Service has another, quicker option called “Priority Mail” which is $8.70, if it fits in a flat-rate envelope. Many children’s books and some Bibles are oversized so that might take the next size up which is $9.50. “Priority Mail” gets much more attention than does “Media Mail” and is often just a few days to anywhere in the US.
  • UPS Ground is reliable but varies by weight and distance and may take longer than USPS. Sometimes they are cheaper than Priority. We’re happy to figure out your options for you once we know what you want.

If you just want to say “cheapest” that is fine. If you are eager and don’t want the slowest method, do say so. It really helps us serve you well so let us know. Keep in mind the possibility of holiday supply chain issues and slower delivery… still, we’re excited to serve you.


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Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown  PA  17313

Sadly, as of May 2024 we are still closed for in-store browsing. COVID is not fully over. Since few are reporting their illnesses anymore, it is tricky to know the reality but the best measurement is to check the waste water tables to see the amount of virus in the eco-system. It isn’t good. It is important to be aware of how risks we take might effect the public good — those at risk, while not dying from the virus, are experiencing long-term health consequences. (Just check the latest reports of the rise of heart attacks and diabetes among younger adults, caused by long Covid.) It is complicated, but we are still closed for in-store browsing. Our store is a bit cramped without top-notch ventilation, so we are trying to be wise. Thanks very much for understanding.

We will keep you posted about our future plans… we are eager to reopen. Pray for us.

We are doing our curb-side and back yard customer service and can show any number of items to you if you call us from our back parking lot. It’s sort of fun, actually. We are eager to serve and grateful for your patience as we all work to mitigate the pandemic. We are very happy to help, so if you are in the area, do stop by. We love to see friends and customers.

We are happy to ship books anywhere. 

We are here 10:00 – 6:00 EST /  Monday – Saturday. Closed on Sunday.