I am an avid reader. I love to begin books. No, that is not a misprint. While I love beginning books, I rarely finish them. A cursory glance at my bookshelf would reveal hundreds upon hundreds of books, spine bent and underlined – many of which contain later chapters still in unread, pristine condition.
I can’t wait to read Revelation…no one tell me how it ends.
During my travels during the past decade and at almost every event this past year, the most popular question after “Why are you so gray at your age?” is “Can you recommend any books for me and my Core Members that would help us in ministry?”
My answer, often times, is an overly excited “Absolutely!” followed by a verbal barrage of butchered renditions of the correct titles and awkward pronunciations of authors’ actual names.
In truth, there are far too many books to list here. There is a danger, too, of composing such a list, at all. Some will critique it based merely on its theological veracity or its spiritual depth. Others will scrutinize it for its short-sightedness or omissions. Still others will compare it to their own mental lists. Please, do neither. All are valuable and valid discussions but out of the scope of my intended purpose here.
This is not the end all, be-all list of resources that would be helpful. This is merely a list of five books that I have found incredibly valuable within my ministry in the past year. This is a list of five titles that I think would help you (and your Core Team) if you haven’t availed yourself of them yet.
To make it easier, we have linked to these books in our Life Teen store, if any of you wish to purchase them directly from our online store. We’ve included pictures of the cover, too, for those of you who have a parish gift shop or local Catholic bookstore. I’ve also included a brief paragraph about each to give you a better idea of its contents.
May we never forget in our role as apostles that we must continually approach the Lord and His ministry as disciples, as students.
I hope you are blessed by these works (and many other works not named here).
These are in alphabetical order, not order of importance, necessarily.
Fundamentals of the Faith
Author: Peter Kreeft
Kreeft is a Professor of Philosophy at Boston College and a uniquely talented writer. He has an uncanny ability to take otherwise “high-minded” philosophical premises and make them very accessible to the average non-theologian reader. This book, Fundamentals of the Faith is a priceless and timeless work. In it he not only breaks down historic arguments about the existence of God (essential reading for ministry in the modern relativist culture) but also about the Our Father, the Creed, virtues, prayer and a variety of other topics.
This is a great book for every Core Members’ shelf. Buy “Fundamentals of the Faith”
To Know Christ Jesus
Author: Frank Sheed
Sheed might be one of the greatest modern evangelists our Church has known. A street-corner preacher turned writer/publisher, Sheed pointed countless souls back to God with his seamless logic and unparalleled command of the Scriptures. This book will walk you through the Gospels in a new way, not one at a time but chronologically. He weaves all four portraits together into an incredible piece, giving the reader amazing insight at every turn about history, geography, culture, idioms and human nature. It might sound dry but it’s not. This book will give the average gospel reader a whole new view, a more intimate view of Jesus and all the gospel characters.
This is a great book for those who want to go “deeper” with Jesus. Buy “To Know Christ Jesus”
Author: M.D. Anonymous
Written by an “anonymous” psychiatrist on a college campus, this book is a must read for all those in youth ministry. Whether or not you have a realistic understanding of what transpires at institutions of “higher learning” after your teens leave your program, this is a sobering read. She writes under the pseudonym out of fear of retaliation from the “politically correct” institution and pervasive cultural mindset that is not only allowing but in many cases encouraging the destruction of our young people.
This is an important read for all who love and serve our adolescents, especially parents. Buy “Unprotected”
You Can Understand the Bible
Author: Peter Kreeft
Yes, another title from Prof. Kreeft and it’s just as good (but distinctly different) than his Fundamentals book that I listed earlier. In this work, he takes you through every book of the Bible, giving you the “lay of the land” and “main points” to look for as you read it. There are several books like this in their approach (believe me, I have more than I can count sitting – unfinished – in my bookcase) but this is the best one I’ve personally seen for one reason – it’s practicality. Kreeft doesn’t waste time on highly academic, exegetical principles that scholars like to babble about but that fail to bless the average Mass-going reader. His writing is crisp, concise and tangible. His examples are easily digestible and even easier to remember. I’ll put it to you this way, I’ve turned about two dozen priests and youth ministers on to this book in the past year and every single one of them have gone on to tell me that is has been an invaluable tool in their homily, Life Night preparation and even more so in their daily prayer.
This is another great book for every Core Members’ bookshelf…actually, any Catholic’s bookshelf. Even teens can understand this book. Buy “You Can Understand the Bible”
Youth Culture 101
Author: Walt Mueller
If you want the “one-stop shop” for youth statistics and the current “whassup” in teen and pop culture, this is your book. If you find yourself always scurrying around looking for “stats” to back up why youth ministry is so important, look no further. If you have been trying to put your finger on why we are losing the culture war and speaking such a different language (as adults) with our young people, this book will answer many of your looming questions. There’s too much information to cover it here – the 450 page book does it well enough on its own. This work is a great introduction to postmodern culture and a wide-eyed look at some of the antidotes to moral relativism.
This is like an encyclopedia/dictionary for youth ministers. You might not read it every day, but you’ll be glad it’s there when you need it. Buy “Youth Culture 101″
That’s it for this time around. Check back in the spring for more titles. I’ve finished all five of these books…that’s about as close to a five-star rating as I can give.
Thanks for all you’re doing to build the Kingdom, brothers and sisters – trust in my daily prayer before the Blessed Sacrament for each of you, and for your families.