some impactful books from my library

collection of old hardcover books

This post is my contribution to our collective book list here at Sacred Margins. I am a few days tardy posting this list, but I am thrilled to be a part of this conversation. In addition to the books Allen and Trevor posted, I want to add these seven books. Some are what you would consider “spiritual” or “church books while the last couple challenged me from a simply human point of view. I don’t think a book has to be labeled “Christian” to speak the truth about what God is after.

Check out this list and let me know what you think.

To Own a Dragon (Father Fiction) – Donald Miller
– I read this book during my second year of full time youth ministry. At the time I had two young African American boys living with me in my oversized church parsonage. This book hits at the heart of what it means to grow up without a father and I was seeing the fallout in the unfolding stories of the guys living with me. Their dad had died young and their family had failed them. This book taught me about being a mentor and acting on the burden of loving those who either lost or were rejected by their father.

Hurt – Chap Clark
No other book has taught me more about working with students than this one. The idea of systemic abandonment has stuck with me ever since camping out with this book over a few months. Understanding that most systems run by adults on behalf of teens are less likely to be about the teenagers has driven me to listen more and program less for students. If you work with students, in ministry or not, this is a must read.

Downtime – Mark Yacolellii
While in youth ministry for 8 years I made a lot of mistakes and most of them revolved around over programming and feeling compelled to keep kids busy to not only keep them out of trouble, but to keep my job. Downtime punched that idea in its sorry face by presenting the idea that teenagers might want to have a deeper and more contemplative relationship with God that doesn’t require loud music, lock in’s, and barf games. Yaconellii has become a blt of a prophet to the three of us and speaks to a deeper place in our community. I really love this guy and his work with students. He gets it.

The New Conspirators – Tom Sine
I’m throwing this one in here because for many years I thought the only way to do church was the at tractional evangelical model. Sine explores the missional, monastic, emergent, and mosaic movements of church and their various iterations. This is a good place to begin if you want to know more about the many faces of the church and the creative ways some engage their communities as a part of their faith.

Generation to Generation – Edwin Friedman
During my graduate work this was an assigned reading. While a little heady in parts, this was the first book that helped me understand what family process really looks like, while also connecting this concept to community life. Using the family model, Friedman explains the roles of shepherds, pastors, and rabbis in the church context in leading the church like a family system. Simply brilliant.

Nonviolence – Mark Kurlansky
This is not at all a faith based book, but I was directed to it in one of my other readings (couldn’t tell you which one). Kurlansky explores the art of nonviolence as a third and better way to war or pacifism. He explores the actions of Jesus, Ghandi, and others who chose the way of standing up to the powers of the world without shooting a gun or throwing a punch. He outlines 25 lessons about war and violence that hit home really hard. In a world that is ruled by violence, this book is really challenging and in some places uncomfortably probing about the ways we view violence.

Undaunted Courage – Stephen Ambrose
This book caught me by surprise. It is a biography of Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark) and tells the sweeping story of how this expedition opened up the west. I have long been fond of adventurers and explorers and their courage to do things others will not do. I couldn’t help but be swept up in the narrative of seeing what no westerner had ever seen and being the first to lay eyes on some of the most beautiful territory in the world. I want to be like that.

2 thoughts on “some impactful books from my library

  1. I’ve never read Downtime – I’ve gone through contemplative youth ministry – but love Yaconelli. I remember reading an article he did in Youth Worker on using contemplative practices in YM when I was an undergrad. That guy had a profound influence on the practice of YM and also my own spirituality. Also, Hurt was one of the most meaningful. That book is my primary recommendation for others in YM. Its an important read and telling for what really counts as ministry to and with youth today. Good stuff Chris! Some day, some where we are going to find a way to get coffee and catch up! Peace to you! Robby

  2. Thanks for checking in Robby. Miss ya, dude.

    Downtime was huge for me because the main focus was teaching teenagers to pray. To me this is one of the great gifts you can impart on a teenager as they leave your ministry – the ability to communicate with God and build the relationship further.

    Yac’s books were awesome, but they made it increasingly harder to do the ministry I was asked to do. The general expectation of youth ministry is to keep them entertained. To slow down and focus on the “spiritual” stuff isn’t nearly as sexy or puts butts in the seats. Yea, I’m cynical on that stuff. But, I do know the impact the spiritual disciplines have on a teenager.

    Great to hear from ya, buddy.

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