A list of books that might help with the difficult transition from teen to adult in today’s confusing culture.
Let’s get one thing straight: A book is not a cure for whatever ails you, or a guarantee against falling away from the church, faith, or Christ himself. Head knowledge will not necessarily guard your heart. That was made plain enough last weekend.
But humans are creatures of both head and heart. Our intellect can instruct our emotions while emotions empower the intellect. If “my people perish for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6), knowledge must have a place in a young person’s development. Don’t leave home without it!
Whether your son or daughter is off to college, or apprenticed to a trade, or would rather take a gap year to think about the future, he or she needs knowledge to help with that decision. We’ve suggested several graduation gift books over the years, many of them aimed at shaping worldview or holding on to faith at a secular college. But what about just growing up and figuring out how to function as an adult?
Here are some suggestions for developing as a human being devoted to Christ in a secular and often hostile culture. Not all of them will be appropriate for everyone, but each addresses a specific angle of living consciously and responsibly for Christ in the world. We’ve reviewed most of them; follow the links for more information.
Adulting 101: #Wisdom4Life by Josh Burnette and Pete Hardesty. While Christian parents may be very conscientious about teaching their children to love God, it’s easy to overlook more practical matters, like budgeting and interviewing for a job. This easy-to-read guide helps plug some of those gaps.
What’s Your Worldview? by James N. Anderson. The subtitle is An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions, and that about sums it up. Rather than explaining, the book begins by asking questions. This helps the reader sort out her own ideas, and also to understand what her friends and acquaintances are thinking. The late teens and early twenties are the classic age for asking those big questions, and this book is an engaging way to start.
God at Work by Gene Edward Veith. “Vocation” is a neglected concept in today’s culture. We would rather talk about “careers” and “projected incomes” and “best jobs for the future.” Dr. Veith helps young people think about calling instead—what has God equipped them to do best, and what do they love doing? It may not earn them the most money, but the profit in contentment could be greater.
Finding Truth, by Nancy Pearcey. The author of the contemporary classic Total Truth addresses young people specifically in this deep dive into worldview and how to develop it. Less interactive, but more comprehensive, than What’s Your Worldview?
Culture-Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch. Though it’s not primarily directed at youth, and may be a challenging read for a late teen, Culture-Making balances Pearcey’s Finding Truth by tapping into every human’s creative side. How do we imitate our creative God and fulfill the cultural mandate to “subdue the earth”? This book fills in some gaps left by the purely propositional approach to worldview.
Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion by Rebecca McLaughlin takes aim at the most common objections to Christianity (see our review for specifics) and answers them in a succinct and heartfelt way. As one who has personally struggled with many of these “hard questions,” the author is both sympathetic and forceful.
Transformed by Truth: Why and How to Study the Bible for Yourself as a Teen by Katherine Forster. Every Christian knows he should study the Bible, but how to study isn’t so clear-cut. This book offers a close look at the inductive study method, with practical tips for developing good study techniques.
The Bible. Of course! But with so many options for kids and teens, which ones offer the best supplementary material? It depends on the reader. For teen devotional Bibles, I like the ESV God Girl and God Guy. For traditional, time-tested doctrine, the CSB Essential Teen is tops. For a growing relationship with Christ, check out the NLT Jesus-Centered Bible. For general study helps, it’s hard to beat the ESV Student Study Bible. (That last link includes many other Bible editions; scroll down and you might see another that appeals to you.)