Back Porch Book Chat: Tim Challies (Blogger, Author, Book Reviewer)

Back Porch Book Chat: A casual, virtual conversation about books. Join us as we chat with book lovers like ourselves about a topic we all love! Our guest today is Tim Challies from Canada. He chats with us about how reading together as a family changes with older kids, his ministry via his website, his reading challenge, and more! Check out his bio after the interview for more about Tim. Interview conducted by Betsy.

Getting to Know Tim

Before we begin, Tim, tell us what beverage you’d like as we sit in our rocking chairs on this winter day: Coffee? Hot chocolate? Chai? Hot tea? (or, is it too cold to sit outside?) 

I drink three, and precisely three, cups of coffee per day — one with devotions right when I wake up, one with the beginning of the work day, and one at 2 PM when I start to get that mid-afternoon slump. It’s the only hot beverage I drink. So if I haven’t yet had that third cup, I’ll have it now. Black, of course.

I love your precision. I would do well to follow your example and, um, limit my intake.

Tell us a bit about you: your family, your favorite ways to spend time together when everyone’s home, and your children’s current school pursuits.

I have been married to Aileen for 22 years and we have three children. Michaela is 13 and finishing up eighth grade; Abby is 17 and finishing up twelfth grade; Nick is 19 and is in his second year of college (at Boyce College and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky). So this is a year when we’ve got one kid in primary school, one in high school, and one in college. With life the way it is right now–school, jobs, etc–we don’t get to spend a ton of time together, especially in the evenings. The exceptions are when we try to escape for vacations together. So probably our favorite thing to do as a family right now is to go and explore. We had the privilege of a European vacation last summer and enjoyed it immensely. This coming summer we plan to go simple with a week in a little holiday home in the countryside.

That European vacation is something the Farquhar family has been dreaming about (we want to go to Scotland, in particular). And, one of our RR team members (Hayley) has attended Boyce. Sounds like a great school!

Reading in the Midst of Real Life

Tell us what books your family has particularly enjoyed this past year

Our family is no longer in the habit of reading books together. I very much miss those days when we read so many wonderful books together on cold, winter evenings. But, again, the kids are older now, they have jobs, they are off at college, and on and on. We do, however, read on our own. We have three who voraciously read fiction (the ladies of the family) and two who voraciously read non-fiction (the men of the family). 

I see that scattered time just ahead for my family (my oldest is 14 and my boys will turn 13 this spring). It’s good to hear that reading habits are still in play, even if on an individual basis.

We obviously enjoy reading at Redeemed Reader, and we love passing along good tips for making reading happen in the midst of a busy season. Do you have any favorite tips or routines that work for your family when it comes to finding and reading good books? Do you prioritize spiritual reading (such as a devotional or a book about church history), or does all reading get essentially the same treatment?

When our kids were young, we just wanted them to learn to read, and weren’t too concerned with what they read. Obviously we kept them from reading books that were “bad,” but we didn’t force them to read only books that would be especially beneficial. We figured that if we could help them be readers, we could later direct them to especially good books. So far that hasn’t worked quite as well as I had hoped, but there is still time. I suppose the main tip for creating readers is to be a reader yourself; read good books and show your children the joy of it.

Yes! Parents must be readers if they want to encourage their children to be readers.

Tim’s Ministry and

Tim, you have a thriving blog/ministry to Reformed Christians. Our readers may not know that part of that blog is book recommendations! Tell us a little bit about the types of books you review/mention and what sorts of resources you offer.

I read and review books that span all kinds of categories. I suppose I mostly review books that are written for a Christian audience, and especially for a Reformed Christian audience. I also tend to review the books that work their way to the top of the Christian reading charts. Sadly, most of the books that make it big are some of the worst books. 

Tim, you were our original inspiration for the Redeemed Reader Reading Challenge (try saying that three times fast). You graciously let us base our challenge on your own, and the rest is history! Tell us how your own reading challenge came about and what readers can look forward to in 2020. Why should Christians consider taking part in a reading challenge?

My reading challenge came about when someone sent through a request. I believe she had found a similar kind of challenge on a site which was recommending the kind of books she would never recommend to anyone else! So she asked if I’d make up a similar challenge for Christian readers. I put together a list as per her request and the challenge really grew out from there. I think there are lots of benefits in a challenge, especially for people who, like myself, are goal-oriented. There is something about crossing another item off a list that can be extremely satisfying. It’s also beneficial for people who struggle knowing how to read widely; a good challenge will push you to read books you otherwise might have overlooked, and you may be surprised how much you can gain from a book that isn’t your “usual” kind.

Several of our reading challenge categories relate to the Bible or devotional materials, but most of your challenge does. What advice would you give our readers when they’re trying to decide where to start studying the Bible with their kids? Do you have some favorite resources you recommend to parents and teachers for helping kids (and teens) grow in their discernment? 

I think the most important thing for parents to do when it comes to Bible study is to begin and maintain family devotions. These family devotions do not need to be long or complicated. In fact, I’d say they generally shouldn’t be either! Just get in the habit of opening the Bible and praying together for a little while every day. We’ve found that we’ve had to adjust according to the stage of life. It used to be that we could count on all being home together in the evenings, but as the kids have gotten older, we can now only count on all being home together first thing in the morning–so that is now when we do family devotions. It’s a precious part of our life together. Beyond family devotions, it’s wise to try to help your kids begin their own devotional habit, usually as part of their bedtime routine. For this, I highly recommend David Murray’s book Exploring the Bible.

{Readers, we have reviewed some great family devotional resources; browse our “Good Book” category for reviews of children’s (and teens’) Bibles, family devotionals, and related resources.}

My family, too, does better with morning family devotions, and we keep it pretty short and sweet. That’s a great reminder to prioritize time in the Word together, but to be flexible with what works best for your family in your current season.

Final Exhortation

Any last words of encouragement or exhortation for your fellow parents as we seek to disciple the next generation?

There is a great battle for our kids’ attention, and this is mostly a battle with their digital devices. Enjoy the time when your kids are young and the battle is relatively easy, and prepare for when they are older, when they have phones and social media accounts, and it gets a whole lot more difficult. Teach them good habits when they are young, and they should last when they are older!

Great reminders, Tim! Thanks for taking the time to “chat” with us via email.

Related Reading from Redeemed Reader

Readers, Tim is no stranger to Redeemed Reader. Here is a sampling:

As Tim writes on his blog: “I am a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband to Aileen and a father to three children. I worship and serve as a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, and am a co-founder of Cruciform Press.” Read more about Tim and check out his website Image credits for Tim’s picture and his 2020 Reading Challenge image to Tim/

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Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Northwest.

1 Comment

  1. […] Back Porch Book Chat: Tim ChalliesTim Challies is one of my favorite bloggers and authors that I know of. “When our kids were young, we just wanted them to learn to read, and weren’t too concerned with what they read. Obviously we kept them from reading books that were “bad,” but we didn’t force them to read only books that would be especially beneficial. We figured that if we could help them be readers, we could later direct them to especially good books.” […]

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