99 Ways to Raise Spiritually Healthy Children by Kathleen Long Bostrom. WJKP, 2010. Bostrom 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.
9 Ways to Bring Out the Best in You and Your Child with Activities for the Very Young by Maggie Reigh. Woodlake Books, 2004. This book is for every parent who recognizes parenting as an important job in their life. It is a book about raising children full of spirit and life, and teaching them to be caring human beings. But it is also about parents learning how to empower themselves and their children and how to turn their power struggles into powerful relationships.
Giving Together: A Stewardship Guide for Families by Carol A. Wehrheim. WJKP, 2004. In her follow-up to Getting It Together, Carol Wehrheim presents a concise, accessible resource to help families better understand the importance of stewardship: in the family, in the congregation, in the community, and in the world. Reminding us that stewardship is about much more than money, Wehrheim clearly illustrates a more holistic understanding of the concept to include careful consideration of the choices we make that show the role Christian discipleship plays in our lives. She skillfully analyzes biblical passages and identifies spiritual practices intrinsic to stewardship as a way of helping families respond to their call to be stewards in today’s world. Including both a participant’s section and a leader’s guide, Giving Together is ideal for group or family study.
Giving Good Gifts: The Spiritual Journey of Parenthood by George E. Conway. WJKP, 2002. Developing spiritual gifts in children is one of the most important principles of good parenting. George Conway uses scriptural insights and personal anecdotes to identify seven gifts that parents can give to their children to help them form healthy spiritual identities. Giving Good Gifts describes how providing our children with these gifts enable us to experience parenting as its own spiritual journey.
Tending the Flock: Congregations and Family Ministry by K. Brynolf Lyon and Archie Smith, Jr. WJKP, 1998. Many churches are unprepared to face the challenges inherent in family life today. Others, though, have developed innovative and exciting responses. In this book, case studies provide insights and strategies to help develop a practical theological perspective on family ministry. This new perspective represents a fresh and powerful witness to the place of families within contemporary communities of faith.
Part-Time Parent: Learning to Live Without Full-Time Kids by Carolyn Pogue Woodlake, 1998. A book for non-custodial parents, this resource follows the stories of twenty men and women as they go through the initial separation, first birthdays and holidays without the kids, roller-coaster emotions, reflections, regrets, letting go and getting on with their lives. In this sensitively written book, Carolyn Pogue speaks from personal experience to those who have had to adjust to unoccupied bedrooms and breakfasts alone.
The Switching Hour: Kids of Divorce Say Good-bye Again by Evon O. Flesberg. Abingdon, 2008. The Switching Hour is that time both hoped for and dreaded, when children go from one world to another as they shuttle between divorced parents. Written from the child’s point of view, this book will help parents simplify family life as children transition between parents. Filled with facts and practical advice, The Switching Hour stresses that even with the best intentions and parenting skills, children and parents must come to terms with living divided lives. Helpful reading for teachers, child care workers, ministers and children’s workers.
The Power of God at Home: Nurturing Our Children in Love and Grace by J. Bradley Wigger. Jossey-Bass, 2003. The Power of God at Home provides both a biblical model and practical suggestions for helping the entire family become aware of God’s presence in everyday life. He thoughtfully reveals the powerful formative influence of family life and shows that homes are the places where some of the deepest, most important learning takes place. Wigger–a husband, father, and professor of Christian education–uses honest examples from his own family life that open a window to grace and encourage parents to take a second look at their own homes, their own faith, and how home and faith connect in their lives. The Power of God at Home offers a refreshing perspective on family life, revealing families as potential bearers of God’s grace and blessing and telling us how we can play this role more intentionally and thoughtfully.
Welcoming Children: A Practical Theology of Childhood by Joyce Ann Mercer. Chalice Press, 2005. This book develops a theology of childhood both from a theoretical basis in biblical theology (especially the gospel of Mark) and practical experience in children and youth ministry. Mercer builds on classical theologians such as Augustine, Calvin, Barth, and Rahner as well as modern feminist theologians such as Brock and Russell. She gains insights from pastoral theologians such as Capps and Couture and from contemporary cultural criticism. Mercer challenges approaches to educational and liturgical practices with children in congregations that segregate children from the rest of the church and its key practices of service, mission, worship, care, and learning. She reframes ministries with children as processes through which the church as a “community of practice” forms children into an alternative identity that resists surrounding consumerist culture and walks in the ways of Jesus. This book offers strategies for educational practices with children in congregations as it seeks to address the question, “What might educational practices that welcome children and contribute to their flourishing look like in the context of a faith community where children’s learning happens in collaboration with experienced practitioners of faith?” Outlining a feminist practical theology of childhood, it explores five basic theological claims: (1) children as gifts and parenting as a religious practice of stewardship; (2) welcoming those who welcome and care for children; (3) children as already fully human; (4) children as part of the purposes of God; and (5) acknowledging and transforming the sufferings of children.
Nurturing Faith in Families: 425 Creative Ideas for Family Ministry by Jolene Roehlkepartain. Abingdon, 2002. A family faith crisis is occurring in church-going families. Often church leaders are perplexed about the best way for their congregation to care for the families within their midst and community. Nurturing Faith in Families offers 425 creative ideas that pastors, teachers, and other leaders can use to help families grow spiritually and feel more connected to the church.
Growing Compassionate Kids: Helping Kids See Beyond Their Backyard by Jan Johnson, Upper Room, 2001. Open a new world of possibilities for your kids, where making a difference for others becomes a way of life! Growing Compassionate Kids illustrates practical everyday ways for parents to help children develop empathy and seek justice in the world. As one reviewer says, “This book is a wonderful antidote to both ‘compassion fatigue’ and the frustrations of Christian parenting in a selfish society.” Jan Johnson, a well-known author who deals with Christian spirituality, helps moms and dads and grandparents learn to incorporate social outreach and mission into the often-hectic everyday realities of family life. When children see these living examples, they’ll grow to be disciples of Christ and learn to consider others above self. “Teaching kids to care for people is one more way to teach our children to love God,” writes the author. “A child growing in empathy is moving from isolation to connection, from self-centeredness to others-awareness, from hostility to hospitality.” Couldn’t the world use more people like that? There’s no greater legacy we could leave to our kids and to humankind. Questions for reflection plus personal and family devotions are included in each chapter.
The Art of Family: Rituals, Imagination, and Everyday Spirituality by Gina Bria. Dell, 2011. It is not the lack of time that crushes our family lives; it is the lack of presence, overwhelmed as we are with the tasks, anxieties, and guilt of being in a family. Between working, housecleaning, and parenting, how do we carve out a minute for ourselves? How can we give ourselves to our spouses and children in the conditions we find ourselves in? Gina Bria writes, “This is how: by being present–not in every moment [we’re tired enough!]–but in key daily activities such as play, spiritual discussions, tender physical attention, and little daily rituals that can see us through the pace of life today to a strong, coherent, lived family life.” With a warm, compassionate tone, anthropologist, nutritionist, and public speaker Gina Bria provides ideas for creating families that withstand the pressures of modern society. The key is creating a personal family culture around the domestic rituals associated with family, such as making your home your true haven from the outside world, really understanding how to play with your children and in your marriage, caring for each other’s’ bodies (young and old!) and finding a spiritual path to travel together. In essence, Gina Bria shows us how to assign meaning to everyday tasks, which builds a family that withstands conformity, rejection and conflict.
Real Kids, Real Faith: Practices for Nurturing Children’s Spiritual Lives by Karen-Marie Yust. Jossey–Bass, 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? In looking to their own upbringing for guidance, parents often feel even more at a loss—they don’t want to make the same mistakes their parents did, so they either become too strict, or they take a completely hands-off approach. A pastor, a teacher, and a mother, Yust offers a refreshing array of resources and provisions to guide and sustain parents and children on their mutual journey
Interchurch Families: Resources for Ecumenical Hope: Catholic/Reformed Dialogue in the United States by John C. Bush and Patrick R. Cooney. WJKP, 2002. Marriage and families are becoming increasingly complex. No longer can any of us speak with simplicity about what a “typical” family is like. Interfaith Families is a brief, usable book designed for ministers and priests to use with congregants who are entering into, or are already in, an interchurch (Reformed-Catholic) marriage. It can also be useful for laity involved in interchurch families.
Spiritual Practices for Families by Michael H. Brewer. thethoughtfulchristian.com, 2006. In this two-session study, the first session recognizes the importance of family spirituality in the Bible and our busy lives. It contains practical suggestions for incorporating spiritual disciplines in families consisting of adults and children. The second session focuses on families made up of adults and ways they can incorporate spiritual practices to deepen relationships with one another and with God.
Family Ministry Desk Reference: Holistic Responses to Contemporary Challenges by Patricia D. Fosarelli. WJKP, 2003. In groundbreaking fashion, physician and lay minister Pat Fosarelli provides this quick reference and how-to manual for pastors and church groups charged with the care of families facing difficult situations. Each chapter in this one-of-a-kind resource opens with a vignette illustrating a complex and prevalent problem facing families today and continues with a presentation of facts and figures about the problem and an outline of the physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges that are posed for family members. Immediate, suitable responses to these problems are proposed for pastors, church boards, and individuals committed to the care of families. In addition to its user-friendly format, this book includes a listing of resources to obtain even more information and an area for readers to write the names of resources in their own communities.
Family, the Forming Center: A Vision of the Role of Family in Spiritual Formation by Marjorie Thompson. Upper Room Books, 1998. This revised and expanded version of an earlier edition includes models, rituals, and celebrations to enhance the spiritual formation of children and parents. Based on the premise that parents are the most significant faith models for their children, Marjorie Thompson urges parents to nurture their own relationship with God as they help their children know God’s love and trust.
Becoming Family: How to Build a Stepfamily that Really Works by Robert H. Lauer and Jeanette C. Lauer, Augsburg, 1999. Drawing on their own experiences and that of the stepfamilies with which they have worked, Robert and Jeanette Lauer give practical advice on how to deal with the top ten challenges in stepfamily life: loss, adjustment, personal identity, family identity, loyalty, conflicts, former spouses, resources, step-parenting, and marital intimacy.
Amazing Gifts: Stories of Faith, Disability and Inclusion by Mark I. Pinsky. Alban, 2012. Pinsky has gathered stories from churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples across the country, “stories of people with disabilities and the congregations where they have found welcome.” He has taken special care to include the widest range of disabilities, including non-apparent disabilities like lupus, chronic pain, traumatic brain injury, depression, and mental illness. There were 54 million American with disabilities as of 2000, and that number is now being swelled by wounded warriors from the Afghan and Iraq wars and an aging population. The author emphasizes that his purpose is not to write a resource manual on accessibility and inclusion. Rather, Pinsky seeks to share stories of how people with disabilities have experienced their faith in the context of their disability, and how congregations have gained when they value the gifts that people with disabilities bring along. “This book,” notes the author, “is for congregational leaders and others who may have no expertise or personal experience with disability, but who make the congregational decisions about accessibility and inclusion.”
Embracing Diversity: Leadership in Multicultural Congregations by Charles R. Foster. Alban, 1997. Explore a variety of approaches congregations have taken to embrace differences; identify leadership issues diversity creates in congregations; and discover programmatic suggestions drawn from the experience of multicultural congregations to address these issues. This book helps readers to understand their own experience with racial and cultural differences and is a guide for gathering diverse people into the life and mission of the congregation.
Celebrating At Home: Prayers and Liturgies for Families by Deborah Payden and Laura Loving. United Church Press, 1998. This unique resource fully embraces the home as an extension of the worship community. Filled with prayers, blessings, and other liturgical celebrations throughout the church year, this collection is great for families that enjoy a devotional time at home. Includes celebrations and prayers for birth, graduation, Easter, New Year’s Eve, and many other occasions.
Ways to be a Better Teacher: A Manual for Korean-American Christian Educators by Grace Kim. PCUSA, 1999. A very detailed training manual for those working with or in Christian Korean-American congregations. Also perfect for mission work with Korean speakers. Chapters include: 1. Worship and Christian Education; 2. Approaches to Christian Education; 3. Church History; 4. Christian Education in a Bi-Cultural Situation , Exploring Cultural Difference; 5. Choosing a Curriculum; 6. Bible Overview and Bible Study Methods 7. Effective Class Planning; 8. Roles and Responsibilities of a Teacher; 9. Creative Teaching Methods; 10. Understanding the Developmental Stages of Children and Adolescents in the Korean-American Church Context; 11. Basic Knowledge and Skills of Christian Counseling
The Invisible Girls: A Memoir by Sarah Thebarge. Jericho Books, 2013. Twenty-seven-year-old Sarah Thebarge had it all: a Yale graduate working on her second Ivy League degree and browsing engagement rings with her boyfriend. Her future seemed assured. Then the unthinkable happened: Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer. Eighteen months of grueling treatments destroyed her body, her relationship, and her faith, leaving her feeling unrecognizable to herself, and invisible to others.
Starting over in Portland, Oregon, a chance encounter on the train with an exhausted African mother and her daughters changed everything. As Sarah helped Hadhi, a Somali refugee, and the girls navigate American life, her outreach to the family became a source of courage and a lifeline for herself. Poignant, at times shattering, Sarah Thebarge’s riveting memoir ultimately challenges each one of us to step out of our comfort zone and see even the most marginalized “invisible” people for who they really are.
God’s Big Table: Nurturing Children in a Diverse World by Elizabeth F. Caldwell. Pilgrim Press, 2011. This resource uses the imagery of the table as a metaphor for the ways our churches engage differences and diversity through a biblical background of welcoming all God’s children. In the 21st century, faithful Christians are being challenged with the topic of why living with diversity of faith and culture is important, the ways that it is impacting church communities, and why education for church members is essential. God’s Big Table is an encouraging guide for clergy and church families who want to be open to a diverse faith community.
Mary E. Speedy is a retired certified church educator living in Mechanicsburg, PA.