By: Mary E. Speedy

Faith Formation 4.0: Introducing an Ecology of Faith in a Digital AgeJulie Anne Lytle. Morehouse Publishing, 2013. Using an ecological approach to study how emerging technologies affect individual and communal formation, Faith Formation 4.0 looks at how our efforts to be story-keepers, story-sharers, and story-makers have evolved over four eras of human communication. Framed by the Great Commission imperative to “make disciples,” this book offers a road map to help leaders develop goals to form, inform, and transform new members, as well as long-time believers, within a faith community. The author successfully illustrates that church success depends not only on knowing the Christian message of God’s enduring love, but also how to use today’s tools appropriately for evangelization and faith formation.

In Search of Wisdom: Faith Formation in the Black Church, Anne Streaty WimberlyEvelyn L. Parker. Abingdon Press, 2003. This book unlocks the way toward wise thinking and the intergenerational transmission of wisdom not only for the Pan-African community but for all communities that seek to teach the ancient art of discernment. It integrates the understandings of mentoring, discipleship, and healing on both the personal and communal levels. At a time when Christian educators face the need for creating community for a postmodern generation, this book offers a wealth of wisdom to educators, pastors, church leaders, and all who seek wisdom from the rich heritage of the Black church.

Real Kids, Real Faith: Practices for Nurturing Children’s Spiritual Lives, Karen Marie Yust. John Wiley & Sons, 2004. In a culture that has lost touch with love, compassion, and meaning, how can parents be intentional about building a spiritual foundation for their children’s development? A pastor, teacher, and mother, Yust offers a refreshing array of resources and provisions to guide and sustain parents and children on their mutual journey. Drawn from a three-year study of children’s spirituality as well as the best in theological tradition and literature, the book provides insight and a variety of helpful tips for nurturing children’s spiritual and religious formation. In addition to its wealth of practical advice on how to engage children in authentic faith practice, Yust helps parents identify their own important role in a child’s deepening life of faith. This book forges a path for a child’s spiritual life and invites parents to share the journey.

Teaching and Christian Practices: Reshaping Faith and Learning, David I. Smith, James K. A. Smith, eds. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2011. “If you want to see great teaching in action, read this book. If you believe that college classes can be communities of learning where knowledge of self, others, and the world is sought in response to God’s call and the world’s need, read this book. If you yearn for pedagogical wisdom capable of sustaining resistance to consumerist and instrumentalist pressures on teaching and learning, read this book.” This quote from the Forward of the book tells exactly what this book is about: combining Christian religious practice with Christian pedagogy in order to ensure a better-rounded theologically and life-based education and formation for our students. Consisting of 11 essays, authors discuss, theorize, and debate the ways in which the task of melding practice and education together in the classroom can be accomplished. It contains essays from some of today’s leading pedagogical specialists, on such topics as spiritual formation through reading, sharing meals to encourage healthy eating, or thinking through the implications of biblical hermeneutics for use in analyzing economic data. A wonderful book that is as stimulating as it is helpful and informative for teachers, professors, and anyone interested in the Christian teaching task.

The Faith and Friendships of Teenage Boys, Allan Hugh Cole Jr., Robert C. Dykstra, Donald Capps. Westminster John Knox Press, 2012. Drawing on research and case studies, three pastoral care experts argue that one of the primary contexts in which the faith formation of teenage boys takes place is in their relationships with other adolescent males. Written by the authors of Losers, Loners, and Rebels: The Spiritual Struggles of Boys, this book is an important resource for anyone interested in helping adolescent males navigate years often marked by isolation and loneliness to develop a meaningful spiritual identity.

Losers, Loners, and Rebels: The Spiritual Struggles of Boys, Robert C. Dykstra, Allan Hugh Cole Jr., Donald Capps. Westminster John Knox Press, 2007. The early years of adolescence are a tumultuous time, full of challenges and opportunities that can shape one’s whole life. In recent years several books have analyzed this period of life for girls, but this is the first book that investigates the interior life of boys as they develop their sense of self and begin the spiritual journey that will carry them throughout their lives. The authors contend that adolescent boys often experience themselves at various times as losers, loners, and rebels. As self-defined losers, boys begin to realize self-awareness; as loners they begin to understand their own relatedness to the larger world; as rebels they gain a sense of self-sufficiency. Through these common experiences of life, boys gain self-awareness, self-transcendence, and self-sufficiency, concepts that take root in the spirituality that will last their lifetime.

Still: Notes on Mid-Faith Crisis, Lauren F. Winner. HarperOne, 2012. In the critically acclaimed memoir Girl Meets God, Lauren F. Winner chronicled her sojourn from Judaism to Christianity. Now, in Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, Winner describes how experiences of loss and failure unexpectedly slammed her into a wall of doubt and spiritual despair: “My belief has faltered, my sense of God’s closeness has grown strained, my efforts at living in accord with what I take to be the call of the gospel have come undone.” Witty, relatable, and fiercely honest, Winner lays bare her experience of what she calls the “middle” of the spiritual life. In elegant and spare prose, she explores why—in the midst of the overwhelming anxiety, loneliness, and boredom of her deepest questioning about where (or if) God is—the Christian story still explains who she is better than any other story she’s ever known. Still is an absorbing meditation combining literary grace with spiritual wisdom. It is sure to resonate with anyone looking to sustain a spiritual life in the midst of real life.

How Spirituality Develops through Our Lifetime: Maturing in the Christian Life of Body, Mind, and Spirit, Kathy L. Dawson., 2011. People grow and change over time. This is an obvious statement that can be confirmed with our own eyes. We watch children grow from infancy to adulthood. We’re conscious of our own bodies and minds changing as we age. When it comes to our spiritual lives, however, we are dealing with things that are not quite so easily observed. Yet our souls, bodies, and minds are all connected as they work together to form our faith. This study endeavors to gather the thoughts of many people about how our faith in God changes over time. In this study, participants will discuss the relationship of body, mind, and spirit in faith maturation, and will apply their learning to the way different ages might approach the Bible. Helpful text boxes that break out the characteristics of the spiritual development of different age groups appear throughout the study.

Older Adult Spirituality, Janet Ramsey., 2011. (2 sessions) Aging is, to some extent, a state of mind arising from personal and cultural attitudes. It is also a biological and social reality. For Christians, life can be joyful at any age if we recognize that each moment is a gift, have confidence that we are loved and forgiven, and trust in the promises of God. The first session is both informative (help participants replace some false ideas about aging) and encouraging (create a safe space in which they can examine their attitudes about growing older). At the end of the session, each person can also be thinking about how his or her faith can make a difference as he or she grows old.

The second session discusses that in later years we have an opportunity to be reflective and to integrate our life stories with the story of God’s love in Christ. This session will help participants make fresh connections between their spiritual lives and their aging-related concerns—either those they are currently facing or those they will someday experience.

99 Ways to Raise Spiritually Healthy Children, Kathleen Long Bostrom. Westminster John Knox Press, 2010. Bostrom, author of the popular books 99 Things to Do Between Here and Heaven and Making Space for the Spirit, offers fun, practical, and thought-provoking ideas for nurturing the spiritual lives of children, parents, and families. Each of the 99 entries includes a Scripture passage, a theoretical or practical suggestion for weaving together faith and daily life, and a provocative challenge that encourages readers to spend some time contemplating the lessons learned.

You’re Invited: A Week of Family Devotions on the Lord’s Supper, John Bouwers, Karen DeBoer, S. R. Larin, Leonard Vander Zee. Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2012. This one-week devotional helps parents or caretakers explain what the Lord’s Supper is all about, get children ready to participate, and encourage the whole family to respond in gratitude for this very special gift from God.

Home Grown Handbook for Christian Parenting: 111 Real-Life Questions and AnswersKaren DeBoer. Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2010. This handbook gives parents practical, real-world advice about how to help their children know and love God. For a Christian parent, some battles aren’t worth fighting—like whether your three-year-old can wear her plastic tiara to church. But other questions might keep you up at night: How can I help my children trust God when they’re worried or bad things happen? How do I explain tough things like death and divorce? Is it okay that we don’t have family devotions? How can I make our home a place where my children’s faith will grow? This handbook gives practical, real-world advice about how to help your children know and love God—and how to build a home where you can grow in faith together.

Bethesda: Come to the Water: A Bible Study for Women, Bonnie Nicholas. Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2009. This Bible study is especially for women who have suffered abuse or who are hurting in other ways. The guidebook is a resource for group members, but it can also be used individually as a workbook. It provides plans for ten biblically-based sessions, selected to address a foundational Christian concept that is relevant to the experience of abuse and other forms of emotional pain. Each session includes a creative, experiential learning activity to engage group members at different levels and in different ways.

Becoming a Church of Lifelong Learners: The Generations of Faith Sourcebook, John Roberto. LifeLongFaith Associates, 2006. The key in the Generations approach is that it builds on the strengths of a parish’s current catechetical program. It also adds the critical component of lifelong learning that gathers all the generations to learn together and nurture faith through the life-cycle. The companion CD-ROM includes PowerPoint presentations for each chapter, along with articles by religious education theorists who have been instrumental in developing a new paradigm of lifelong faith formation. The book is ideal for parish, pastoral and catechetical leaders, as well as university courses in religious education and pastoral ministry.

Faith Formation 2020: Designing the Future of Faith Formation, John Roberto. LifelongFaith Associates, 2010. This is a book about hope. Hope in the future of faith formation. Hope in the next generation. Hope in churches that are resilient and adaptive in the face of great challenges and opportunities. Hope and trust in God who will do marvelous and wondrous things in our churches and world through us. Faith Formation 2020: Designing the Future of Faith Formation will guide your church in envisioning and developing dynamic, engaging, and inspiring faith formation in the second decade of the 21st century. The environment in which Christian faith formation operates today requires new thinking, models, practices, resources, and technologies to address the spiritual and religious needs of all ages, families, and generations. This book presents the knowledge and tools for envisioning the future in your church, for utilizing practices and strategies for bringing the future to life in your church, and for developing your capacities for leading faith formation into the future.

Also see Roberto’s websites: (a resource center to help leaders creation faith formation using 21st century approaches, methods, and digital technologies and tools) and (a website that contains trends and research, theory and practices, models and tools, and training for faith formation across the life span).

Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship, Holly Catterton Allen, Christine Lawton Ross. IVP Academic, 2012. The authors provide the theoretical, theological, pedagogical, and plain sense reasons for bringing the generations together to form faith for everyone. From their own experiences and their Ph.D. studies emerged this book.

Soul Tending: Life Forming Practices for Older Youth and Young Adults, Beverly Burton, Drew Dyson. Abingdon Press, 2002. Soul Tending expands on the ideas Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster put forth in The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry (published by Upper Room) and offers a practical way for senior high youth and young adults to study spiritual disciplines while strengthening relationships among participants. The study includes lessons on inward, outward, and corporate disciplines. The goal is that Christ would be formed in each participant. Youth and adults learn together as they examine classical and contemporary disciplines, support one another, and intentionally seek encounters with God.

Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, Kenda Creasy Dean. Oxford University Press, 2010. Based on the National Study of Youth and Religion, Kenda Creasy Dean’s compelling new book investigates why American teenagers are at once so positive about Christianity and at the same time so apathetic about genuine religious practice. In Soul Searching, Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton found that American teenagers have embraced a “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” a hodgepodge of banal, self-serving, feel-good beliefs that bears little resemblance to traditional Christianity. But far from faulting teens, Dean places the blame for this theological watering down squarely on the churches themselves. Instead of proclaiming a God who calls believers to lives of love, service and sacrifice, churches offer instead a bargain religion, easy to use, easy to forget, offering little and demanding less. But what is to be done? In order to produce ardent young Christians, Dean argues, churches must rediscover their sense of mission and model an understanding of being Christian as not something you do for yourself, but something that calls you to share God’s love, in word and deed, with others. Dean found that the most committed young Christians shared four important traits: they could tell a personal and powerful story about God; they belonged to a significant faith community; they exhibited a sense of vocation; and they possessed a profound sense of hope. Based on these findings, Dean proposes an approach to Christian education that places the idea of mission at its core and offers a wealth of concrete suggestions for inspiring teens to live more authentically engaged Christian lives.

You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…and Rethinking Faith, David Kinnaman. Baker Books, 2011. Close to 60 percent of young people who went to church as teens drop out after high school. Now the bestselling author trains his researcher’s eye on these young believers. Kinnaman’s first book unchristian focused on what ages 16–29 think of Christianity; this book focuses on why younger Christians aged 16–29 are leaving the church and rethinking their faith. Based on new research, You Lost Me shows how we have failed to equip young people to live “in, but not of” the world and how this has serious long-term consequences. More importantly, Kinnaman offers ideas on how to help young people develop and maintain a vibrant faith that they can embrace over a lifetime.

Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults: Life-Giving Rhythms for Spiritual Transformation, Richard R. Dunn, Jana L. Sundene. Intervarsity Press, 2012. Between adolescence and adulthood is a new stage of life. Those in their twenties and early thirties find themselves in transition. This “provisional adulthood” is a time of identity exploration and instability in which one’s vocation, purpose, relationships and spirituality are all being renegotiated. Many emerging adults lose sight of God and experience significant confusion and brokenness. Others unexpectedly reconnect with the Christian faith and seek deeper discipleship, yet lack helpful mentoring and direction. Dunn and Sundene emphasize relational rhythms of discernment, intentionality and reflection to meet emerging adults where they are and then to walk with them.

Shaped by God: Twelve Essentials for Nurturing Faith in Children, Youth, and Adults, Robert J. Keeley, ed. Faith Alive, 2010. Faith formation doesn’t just happen; it’s a spirit-led lifelong process of shaping and reshaping. In this accessible anthology, twelve experts write about their perspectives on faith formation at home, in worship, in education, in intergenerational contexts, with people with developmental disabilities, and more. Chapters include: Biblical Foundations of Faith Formation; Faith Formation through Faith Practices; The Importance of Story in Faith Formation; Faith Formation at Home; Faith Formation through Worship, Sacraments and Education; Fostering Intergenerational Christian Community; Faith Formation and People with Developmental Disabilities; Recent Research; and Faith Formation in the Postmodern Matrix.

A Vision for the Aging Church: Renewing Ministry for and by Seniors, James M. Houston, Michael Parker. IVP Academic, 2011. Are we ready for the opportunities and challenges facing the aging church? Now is the time for the church to offer ministry to its increasing numbers of seniors and to benefit from the ministry they can offer. The authors issue an urgent call to reconceive the place and part of the elderly and seniors in the local church. Confronting the idea that an aging population is mostly a burden on the church, they boldly address the moral issues related to caring for them, provide examples of successful care-giving programs and challenge the church to restore broken connections across the generations. Written by a theologian and an expert in the fields of social work and gerontology, this interdisciplinary book assesses our current cultural context and the challenges and opportunities we face. The authors show us that seniors aren’t the problem. They are the solution.

Baby Boomers and Beyond, Amy Hanson. Jossey-Bass, 2010. Baby Boomers are entering their retirement years at an unprecedented rate. With more discretionary time and increased longevity, this group is searching for ways to make a meaningful impact with their lives. Hansen explores the opportunities and challenges that the older adult population presents for the Christian community, daring church leaders to let go of stereotypes about aging and embrace a new paradigm, that older adults are for the most part active, healthy, and capable of making significant contributions for the Kingdom of God. Hanson offers a realistic view of the Boomers and reveals what matters most to this age group: staying young, juggling multiple relationships, and redefining retirement. How do we let go of “one-size-fits-all” ministry? What spiritual growth can we encourage? How do we meld multiple generations? And, most importantly, how do we harness the potential of this new generation? These are important considerations for those who want to be serious about ministering with aging boomers.

Growing Older, Thinking Younger, Keith Haemmelmann. Pilgrim Press, 2012. Baby Boomers are maturing, more Boomer than baby, and redefining what it means to age gracefully. Readers will learn how the church can reach out to this large segment and adapt to their needs as they move into retirement. Haemmelmann reveals what Boomers look like, what is important to them and how church fits into their everyday lives. Discover examples of proven ministry programs designed for seniors; ideas for embracing older adults through needs-specific ministry; and how to prepare Boomers for retirement.
Mary E. Speedy is a retired certified church educator living in Mechanicsburg, PA.