Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Can you believe it? It’s almost that time of year, again: graduation! There is a common practice among youth workers and parents to give books as graduation gifts. Over at the webspot of CPYU’s College Transition Initiative, we recommend some titles (suggested reading for college bound students) that we think can be helpful to students.

Now, we’re sure that there are many more good gift books out there and that’s where you come in. Here’s another chance to win a FREE book. Help us create a list! Here’s the question:

What do you think are the best books to give to graduating high school students?

(There needs to be at least 10 comments to qualify. Winner will be chosen randomly from list of participants and will get to choose from a LONG list of FREE books. Only one comment per person.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Generation Me

Scot McKnight, at his popular blog, Jesus Creed, has done a series of thought provoking posts on this important book. Click here to read McKnight's reflections. The following review by Derek Melleby appeared in the winter 2007 edition of Engage: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU.

Many people have tried to label the current generation, but Jean M. Twenge believes her label has staying power. Based on the results of 12 studies of generational differences, as well as data from 1.3 million young Americans, the title alone of Twenge’s book is a conversation starter: Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before (Free Press, 2006).

So, how did we get here? According to Twenge, the “Me Generation” consists of people born in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. Currently this group ranges from elementary school kids to 30-something adults. Here’s what’s most unique about this generation: they have been bombarded with the notion that the individual always comes first and being happy is the highest virtue. This has been communicated by educational programs that attempt to build high self-esteem and is reinforced by popular culture. Movies, music and advertising continually remind kids they are special and can do anything they put their mind to.

So, why the misery? Here’s the ironic twist: “Generation Me has the highest self-esteem of any generation, but also the most depression. We are more free and equal, but also more cynical. We expect to follow our dreams, but are anxious about making that happen.” Basically, this generation has been taught unrealistic expectations about how the world actually works.

There are many books currently available about the different generations and the new “emerging adulthood.” What sets this book apart is its engaging style, narrative approach and tons of statistics. If you’re looking for an accessible (and entertaining!) guide to understanding the current generation, start with this one. You won’t be disappointed.

Related Links:
McKnight is also doing a series of posts about David Naugle's new book Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness that we highly recommend. (Be sure to (re)visit our interview with Dr. Naugle as he talks about why his book is helpful to parents and youth workers.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

We Have a Winner!

The winner of the FREE book giveaway is:

Jeff Bouman! Mr. Bouman's name was randomly selected (a very scientific process) from the list of comments. His choice for the book that offers the best introduction to the Christian faith was: So Much More: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality by Debra Rienstra (Jossey-Bass, 2005). Jeff, please send an email to dmelleby(at)cpyu.org to claim your prize!

Here’s a list of books that received multiple mentions:

The Bible. Many commented that they introduce the faith by having people read the Bible. The specific books of the Bible mentioned: John, Luke, James and Philippians.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Lewis’s book was mentioned the most. One person commented that it is still helpful for teenagers.

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Don Miller.

The Case for Christ. by Lee Strobel.

Knowing God by J.I. Packer

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense by N.T. Wright

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

Vintage Jesus: Timely Answers to Timely Questions by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears

Thank you to all who participated. There will be more opportunities to win in the near future. Check in, spread the word.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


John Stott’s book Basic Christianity has recently been released in a special 50th Anniversary Edition (InterVarsity Press). Stott is one of CPYU’s favorite writers. In fact, we are offering our favorite Stott book for $3 off the regular price during the month of February!

Click here to purchase The Contemporary Christian for only $16 (shipping included!).

John Stott’s recent book The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor won a prestigious CPYU Bookshelf Award. You can read an excerpt from The Living Church on pages 12-13 of the Winter 2008 edition of Engage: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU.

In honor of Basic Christianity’s 50th year anniversary, here’s the FREE book question:

What book do you think offers the best introduction to the Christian faith?

(There needs to be at least 10 comments to qualify. Winner will be chosen randomly from list of participants and will get to choose from a LONG list of FREE books. Only one comment per person.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

And The WINNER Is...

Drum roll please...

The winner of the CPYU Bookshelf FREE book giveaway is:

njjim3 (His favorite book read in 2008 was: The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri Nouwen)

To claim your prize, njjim3, send an email to dmelleby(at)cpyu.org

And here are books that received multiple mentions from the 65 participants:

Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch. (Read a CPYU Bookshelf review here)

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller (Read a CPYU review here)

The Shack by William Young (Read a CPYU review here)

UnChristian: What A New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity and Why It Matters by David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons (Listen to a CPYU podcast with David Kinnaman here)

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan (Learn more here)

And finally, if you don't mind, my favorite mention:

Remembering by Wendell Berry (Read a CPYU Bookshelf exclusive interview with Matt Bonzo about his new book on Wendell Berry here)

A NEW CPYU Bookshelf FREE book giveaway question will be posted this week. Tell your friends!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Kingdom-Driven Youth Ministry

Reviewed by Chris Wagner

This review appeared in the Winter 2008 edition of Engage: The Journal of Youth Culture from CPYU.

Recognizing that past youth ministry models have largely failed in the cultural context of our changing postmodern world, Wendell J. Loewen invites churches and youth ministries to embrace a kingdom-driven ministry paradigm. Beyond Me: Grounding Youth Ministry in God’s Story (Faith & Life Resources, 2008) compels readers to consider using the theology of God’s reign to refocus ministry efforts in a way that invites youth to discover their place within God’s narrative.

In the first half of his book, Loewen explores what it looks like to grow up as a teen in today’s world. A graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary, Loewen was greatly influenced by Chap Clark. This is most obvious in the sections describing the systemic abandonment of teens by adults, and the differences between early, middle and late adolescence. Beyond Me also describes how postmodernism and consumerism shape the adolescent story.

The book’s strength is found in how it boldly demonstrates how the narrative of God’s reign offers a compelling counter-narrative to the postmodern, consumerist worldview most teens have adopted. It describes four dimensions of God’s kingdom and how they speak to the identity, autonomy and sense of belonging of teens. This type of ministry focus moves beyond the programmatic and offers a theology that encourages God’s reign to be realized in every area of life. The church is asked to come alongside teens as they discover how their individual calling fits into the calling of God’s church and his present and future work in the world. Teens move beyond an individualistic faith to one that is integrated into the community of believers and works with the body of Christ to live out kingdom traits. Youth ministries that adhere to these principles will find themselves being agents of change that help advance God’s kingdom.

Click here to download Engage for FREE.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Here's how it works: "Comment" to answer the following question and you are qualified to win a free book. Here's the catch: There needs to be at least 10 comments to qualify. Here's how you receive the FREE book: At the end of the week, if, and only if, there are 10 (or more) comments, we will put the names in a hat and draw a winner. The winner will then receive details on how to get the free book. (The winner will get to choose from a long list of GREAT books.) How fun!

And here is this week's question:

Walt and Derek have been offering their lists of best books read in 2008. You can read Walt's list here (part 1 & part 2) and Derek's list here (part 1 & part 2). Now, it's your turn.

What was the BEST BOOK you read in 2008?

Come on, it's for a FREE book! Spread the word!

Monday, February 2, 2009

MORE Book Awards: Best Read in 2008, Part 2

Awarded by Walt Mueller

The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World, by David Wells. Another thought-provoking book that’s bound to tick a lot of people off. When I first started reading Well’s critiques of American Christianity a few years ago I thought he was being a little bit rough on folks. But the combination of studying the Scriptures, observing the church in my travels, being deeply entrenched in the youth ministry community, watching culture, and reading/listening to Wells has changed my mind. Contrary to what some believe, this isn’t a guy who has an axe to grind. Rather, He has a Lord to serve. His criticisms, observations, and suggestions aren’t the result of some willy-nilly knee-jerk reaction that lacks insight and depth. I’m increasingly convinced that David Wells gets it. . . . which is why this is an important book for the church.

Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, And Live to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back, by Frank Schaeffer. Another memoir written by the somewhat disgruntled son of one of my heroes of the faith. Francis Schaeffer has had a deep and profound influence on our ministry at CPYU. He had the same influence on many of my kindred spirits in the faith. Why then, would I choose to read a book by his irritated and angry son? I’m not sure. All I know is that of all the memoirs and biographies I read during 2008, this one gripped me the most. Perhaps it’s because I grew up living the fishbowl life of a preacher’s kid in the 1960s. A thread of fundamentalism wound through that life, although it disappeared as time went on. Reading Frank Schaeffer’s take on his childhood resonated we me in so many ways. Not only that, it’s made me rethink what it means to be a dad in ministry.

Child of Divorce, Child of God: A Journey of Hope and Healing, by Kristine Steakley. I grew up in an intact family. My wife did not. We come from different worlds. If you are someone working with kids, it’s likely that half of your student population is growing up in my world. The other half is growing up in my wife’s. Steakley takes readers on a journey through her own experience. It is gut-wrenching. It is real-life. It’s a story we need to hear. . . . especially if it’s not our own. What I like most about this book is the fact that Steakley found the source of healing, hope, and strength in Christ and his work alone. This is a must-read for children of divorce and for those called to minister to them.

Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction, by David Sheff. This is one of two memoirs on addiction that I read. The other, Tweak, was written by Sheff’s son Nick. When the world that is the way it’s not supposed to be rears its ugly head to shatter individuals and families, we can’t turn our heads in the other direction. . . . or cross over and walk by on the other side. This book is compelling reading into the emotions, realities, and dynamics of watching one’s child choose foolishly. . . and then become enslaved to the consequences of those choices.

Safe at Home, by Richard Doster. I had to include at least one book on baseball since I read quite a few. Dick Doster is a friend who edits ByFaith magazine. I’m always a little bit “iffy” on tackling novels by Christian writers. Too many bad tastes left in my mouth from bad experiences in the past. This one tasted good. It’s a great story about minor league baseball, the Civil Rights Movement, the south, and how one town handled the breaking of the color barrier when one of their own sons signs a contract with the town’s team. This is a good story that’s well-researched and well-written. I put this one down and picked up Jackie Robinson’s autobiography.

There you have it! Any suggestions for what I should be reading this year?