Book Review: Faith Forward

9781770645745 Faith Forward: A Dialogue on Children, Youth, and A New Kind of Christianity is a compilation of 21 articles written by some of the presenters at the 2012 Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity conference (CYNKC). The purpose of the conference was to “help practitioners, parents, professors, and all sorts of other folks spend time together in conversation and contemplation about nurturing faith in young people; faith that is generous, innovative, contextual, and even controversial.” Out of this conference Faith Forward was born, an ecumenical organization “dedicated to seeking ideas and practices for sharing new kinds of Christian faith with children and youth.”

What is this book about?

The authors in this book come from a variety of backgrounds- evangelical, mainline, Catholic, Protestant, etc. They present information and ideas about all sorts of topics: sexuality, environmental stewardship, sparking children’s imaginations, race, peace, girls, children with autism, missional ministry, compassion, grace, etc. I can guarantee that something in this book will be stretching to every reader, no matter your faith background. Some of the topics will be a bit uncomfortable for some (no matter if you are more conservative or liberal in your theology). This book contains some conversations that you may not know much about, but it’s a safe way to peek inside and learn something new.

  • How do we minister to those with autism (an ever-growing trend)?
  • How do we talk about sexuality in a way that helps teens to have a theological framework to work from as they make decisions about their sexual activity?
  • How do we minister to girls and the sometimes crazy world that they live in? How do we allow them to understand who they are and what it means to live in a sometimes overwhelming world?
  • How do we teach our kids about grace, compassion, and service….starting first in our families and communities?
  • What does ministry look like in a multicultural America?
  • How do we engage the hearts and minds and imaginations of our children and youth with the Scriptures?

Why did I choose to review this?

I want to do be fully equipped to disciple my children and I want to share good resources with other parents who want to do the same. Much of the “same old, same old” is certainly not cutting it. Huge percentages of kids are just not getting it. Read anything by Christian Smith, and you’ll come away with a realization that something needs to change. Also, as I’m now 6.5 years into parenthood, I realize that my way of living and thinking about my faith hasn’t always translated well to nurturing my kids’ faith journey. Jake and I are question-askers and sometimes like to hang out with ideas on the margins. While I’m comfortable doing that myself, I’m not always comfortable offering that to my children. However, I’m also not comfortable handing them a jonah coloring page and having them color it while I read the story out of a children’s Bible. I want Scripture to come alive to them. I want them to be compassionate, risk-takers in loving others, generous, authentic followers who can recognize the Spirit guiding and ministering to them, as well as see that another world is possible. Or, as Shane Claiborne puts it in the book’s introduction:

We need to cultivate holy habits in children and youth, the disciplines of love and grace. We need to talk with young people about what it looks like to live as God’s holy counterculture in the world. We need to talk about what it means not to conform to the pattern of this world, but to imagine new ways to live.

How do you teach that? I don’t know, but I thought this book would give me some ideas that are not found in typical church or family ministry books.

My Takeaway:

Many of the articles were really inspiring and sparked my imagination. I’ve been encouraged to not only tell the stories of Scripture, but to think about how I tell them. The articles have given me a few new ways of engaging my children’s imagination and senses in the story, and teaching them how to ask good questions of the text. The articles have also encouraged me to think about the other stories I tell my kids- stories of grace, of hope, of peace, of Kingdom-coming-stuff. The authors have given me real tools to refashion Bible stories so that kids are able to hear them again, with fresh ears, and open hearts. I’ve observed kids (and adults…and myself!) with an “I already know that story” mentality in Sunday school, and they are then unable to encounter God through that story because their prior knowledge doesn’t allow their hearts to be open to something new that God might want to say. This is a fantastic resource that I’m recommending to those who have children of any age, as well as those who work regularly with children and youth in the church.

Thanks to the publisher, Wood Lake Publishing, for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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