I am currently in a Master’s Degree program at Bethel Seminary, St. Paul, MN, in Children’s and Family Ministries.  This December’s graduation will be an exciting time, and its coming up so fast (we walk the line next May).  Our cohort has been privileged to read so many amazing books along this journey, some of which are now favorites of mine. As an author myself, what books do I most enjoy reading? To make this list, I have to want to reread these books and recommend this to others. Some are older and some are new- but I believe the really great book stand the test of time 🙂 So here are my top 10 favorites, NOT counting Scripture (which is always #1), in no certain order:

10. The Book of God, by Walter Wagerin Jr. This is definitely not a book for kids. But Wagarin’s version of the “Bible as novel” is painted with such vivid word pictures, it makes the story real in a whole new way. Also, you can see the common thread of God’s story woven throughout Scripture instead of random stories pulled out to stand alone. I was and am deeply touched by the telling of the salvation story in the Book of God. I usually reread it every year around Easter.

9. Well Intentioned Dragons, by Marshall Shelley. I read this book for my undergrad. I think all ministry leaders should read it. Church conflict is a main reason why pastors quit. This book does a good job and trying to prepare leaders for the pain, loss and infighting that sometimes (always) comes with working in a church.

8. The Fabulous Reinvention of Sunday School, by Aaron Reynolds,  I loved this book! Reinvention is packed with creative ideas and inspiration for kid’s church as well as a lot of encouragement for those of us every weekend in the trenches for Jesus and His kids. I especially love the layout of the book- it is so fun and creative! Many of us kid’s pastors are quite visually oriented and easily distracted (ADHD), so I loved the illustrations and just plain fun on each page.

7. An Hour on Sunday, Creating Moments of Transformation and Wonder, by Nancy Beach- This is one the best books I have ever read. It is not a “kid’s ministry book” per se. But it IS an amazing, creative book from Willow Creek’s own Nancy Beach, who spent many years as the creative director for their weekend services. What she tells us about excellence, teamwork and innovation are definitely applicable in kid’s and family ministry. She makes a great case for giving it our best in every one of those precious 60 minutes each Sunday. I also love the artistic layout of this book.

6. Me, Myself and Bob, by Phil Vischer- I cried all the way through the last 4 chapters of this book. If you can make it through the first few chapters (all the details of the launch of Big Idea and Veggietales), Phil Vischer gets VERY personal on his painful journey at the end of the Big Idea company.  What do you do when God does not “save you” from falling down.  What can God show you at the bottom of it all, about His love and His plan? Oh, now I’m gonna get all choked up again….

5. Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer- Great book about listening to God’s Spirit, life experiences and others in your life to discern “the voice of vocation.” What were you really created to do with your life? How has God spoken to you through your failures as to what you are NOT called to do? (Way closing). How do we hear the voice of God, guiding us to our calling? What about when Christians are depressed, trying to find themselves?

4.  He Walks Among Us, by Richard Stearns. I cried through quite a few of these stories too. These are powerful stories from all over the world about what God is doing in kids and family’s lives- from Africa to Palestine to Equador etc. How is God “showing up” walking alongside these kids and families, some of them in horrific situations/conditions? What can we do to be a part of what God is doing globally? This book is great for a family or church devotional, with daily chapters that are small enough for a short story time.

3. Too Small to Ignore, Why the Least of These Matters Most, by Wess Stafford.  Yup, this one was a tear fest as well. I LOVED this book. What a heart rending story of loss, redemption, forgiveness, restoration. Wess, the founder of Compassion International, is a great storyteller. You will be fired up for missions, for Jesus and for child protection after experiencing this book.

2. Dreaming of more for the Next Generation, Dr. Michelle Anthony. Wanting more ideas for family ministry? This is your book. This was an easy, quick read, full of humor and creative ideas. I found myself nodding my head a lot in agreement. Dr. Anthony elevates the importance of what we do as kid’s leaders, and what God is doing in young lives.

1. I Blew It and Talk Now and Later- Brian Dollar- I love both of these books, for these raw honesty and humor.  Children’s leaders can be encouraged that God can use them even when they make mistakes, even though they are human. I laughed, I cried, I was inspired to try and try again.

So did any of these books make YOUR list? What books would you pick if you could only pick 10 ministry books? And these books are, of course, in addition to your daily Bible reading/study. What books would you reread, recommend, can’t do without? Love and Happy Reading!

Trisha Peach, Author of “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch” and “Your Children’s Ministry Beyond Basics”.

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