Members of the Advocate Ministry Team continue our summer series sharing our five favorite ministry-related items in each article. These articles are meant to be interactive. Each time we post an article with our favorites, we invite you to add your own favorites in the comments. This will help all of us build our children’s libraries, ministry libraries, and resource libraries.

Tori Smit, D.Ed.Min., one of the highly respected Canadian members of the Advocate Ministry Team, shares her five “favourite” classic educational ministry books that should stay on your shelf and be revisited from time to time. She includes comments on her top five recommendations:

John H. Westerhoff, III, Will Our Children Have Faith. I read this over forty years ago while studying to become a Christian educator. It was transformative then, and when I reread it a few years ago, I was overwhelmed by how prophetic this book was for where we find ourselves today. This book has been transformative for me.





Scottie May, Beth Posterski, Catherine Stonehouse, and Linda Cannell, Children Matter: Celebrating Their Place in the Church, Family, and Community. A great go-to book with an endless overview of children’s ministry, both theory and practice. Their chapter on metaphors that shape how we ‘do’ children’s ministry is so helpful. These metaphors easily and vividly explain the variety of approaches we see playing out throughout our churches. Their chapter on families prompted me to reprioritize faith formation as soon as I read it.

Holly Catterton Allen and Catherine Lawton Ross, Intergenerational Christian Education: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship. This is a great book if you and your church seek to transition from an emphasis on age-and-stage ministry to becoming more intentionally intergenerational. The first half of the book provides an extensive overview of the biblical, theological, and theoretical arguments for this shift, while the second half offers very practical chapters to help you get started with everything from worship to service and missions and on to learning opportunities.


Maria Harris, Fashion Me a People: Curriculum in the Church.                                                                 Again, an oldie, but a goodie. This book takes us away from a ‘hit or miss’ approach to planning the individual pieces that become our congregation’s educational ministry programme and invites us to step back and consider first what is it that we desire as the long-term outcomes of our overall educational ministry approach. With the big picture in view, we are better able to consider all the bits and pieces that become the overall curriculum of our church.


Kendra Creasy Dean, (ed.), OMG: A Youth Ministry Handbook. These last couple of decades have seen a significant shift in our approach to youth ministry in light of the extensive research of Christian Smith (Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers). Dean’s book gives a great overview of what we’ve come to learn from this research and offers a broad collection of ways we can approach youth ministry in light of all we have learned.


Additional books Tori recommends include:

David Ng and Virginia Thomas, Children in the Worshiping Community

Elizabeth Caldwell, I Wonder: Engaging a Child’s Curiosity in the Bible

David M. Csinos and Ivy Beckwith, Children’s Ministry in the Way of Jesus

Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life and On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity & Getting Old

And, if you’re ever planning a special event, Priya Parker, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters

Add your “must have” educational ministry books in the comments.

Author Image

Tori Smit

is a Diaconal Minister in Toronto, Ontario. She serves the Presbyterian Church in Canada as the Regional Minister for Faith Formation with the Synod of Central, Northeastern Ontario and Bermuda. She also teaches Educational Ministry of the Church at Knox College, University of Toronto.