Well, one thing we can say for 2020: it was a good year for reading! Lockdown and quarantine provided us ample time to work through that stack on our desk or bedside table, and of course there were some new ones to add to the mix. Here are the best new gospel-centered resources for parents from 2020.
Best New Parenting Book
Family Discipleship: Leading Your Home Through Time, Moments, and Milestones by Matt Chandler and Adam Griffin.
Simply put, this book is outstanding.
Both authors are fathers and pastors, and this guide to family discipleship is saturated with grace. Written to help parents “intentionally design spiritual leadership” in their homes, the focus is on practices that help parent disciple their kids at any age. While the book has a sample spiritual disciplines plan and lots of suggestions for “how-to,” there is no prescriptive formula for parenting, but rather encouragement to rely on the Holy Spirit. Chandler and Griffin affirm that forming disciples is a parent’s highest privilege and God-given duty, but they frequently remind parents that God, not mom or dad, is responsible for salvation.
The format is simple. The Gospel and the Word of God constitute the foundation of family discipleship, and significant attention is given to modeling, which is defined as “serving as a godly example for your family, living out your genuine walk with God, and demonstrating true repentance when you fall short.”
Parents are then asked to do a thorough examination of how they spend their time, as individuals and as a family, because discipleship will be conducted through a framework of intentional time as well as moments and milestones. “Moments” refers to discipling through everyday life as it happens and the section on milestones examines what it looks like to observe and celebrate significant spiritual milestones that occur in the growth of a child.
One of the many strengths of the book is that it helps parents develop a plan for spiritual discipleship that is utterly uncompromising on its commitment to God’s truth and graciously flexible to the individual family. This is the rare guide that doesn’t assume all Christian families look the same; Chandler and Griffin acknowledge unique circumstances, such as special needs children or single parents, and validate these difficulties while exhorting their readers to persevere in a plan for discipleship with God’s help. A solid foundation of grace through Jesus Christ makes this book one of the most hopeful and encouraging books available to parents today.
The Pop Culture Parent: Helping Kids Engage Their World for Christ by Ted Turnau, Stephen Burnett, and Jared Moore.
This is a very helpful book. Rather than shunning pop culture out of fear, the authors (all fathers, all Christians in some form of ministry) invite parents to engage with pop culture alongside their children, with the goal of shaping and guiding their thinking. The authors share a series of five questions that can be applied to any piece of pop culture, from songs to films to video games, to begin to find common grace, to discern false teaching, and to talk about how Jesus is the answer to the “hopes” the piece raises. Then, they model how these questions might be used in discussion with your family. For example, one entire chapter is devoted to walking your younger kids through the movie Frozen; a later chapter examines The Force Awakens with teenagers.
The gospel remains front and center on every page, and there is no compromise of what Scripture teaches. At the same time, the authors acknowledge that our kids live in their contemporary culture and need some familiarity with its language. Safely engaging with pop culture is matter of training our kids in wisdom and discernment. Thorough, thoughtful, and sound, this is an excellent guide for parents who want to be able to disciple their kids even as they enjoy pop culture together.
Here are some other outstanding resources published in 2020 that will be very helpful to parents:
Counselor and professor David Murray has written a unique resource: two books that work together in tandem to help families whose teenagers struggle with anxiety and/or depression. The parent book, Why Is My Teenager Feeling Like This? helps parents understand how to approach struggling teens. Murray offers eighteen different scenarios, fictional accounts of struggling teens, and offers key truths in Scripture that address the root causes of the anxiety or depression. Panicky Paul, Controlling Colin, and Negative Nicole all receive compassionate attention, along with specific applications of gospel truth and suggested changes or new habits that can help the teenager. Through it all, Murray’s tone is hopeful, realistic, and compassionate.
For more from Murray, please read his article on Rooted: Five Questions to Ask Your Teenager About His or Her Anxiety.
Building Bridges: Biblical Counseling Activities for Children and Teens by Julie Lowe. This is a fantastic resource for anyone who disciples teenagers, including parents. As a veteran counselor, Lowe reaches out to help people who disciple teens but are not themselves trained counselors. She trains her audience in how to “be an expert on the young person in front of you,” how to ask good questions, and how to evaluate developmental stages and social dynamics to understand the needs of youth. Lowe provides methods and specific activities for drawing out children and teens. Her explanations are detailed: she offers objectives, practices, and suggested modifications, all with an eye to age-appropriate adjustments. Above all, however, Lowe wants adults to connect young people with the truth that they are beloved image-bearers whose redemption and identity is eternally secure in Christ. What young people need, Lowe writes, is for adults to find “winsome ways to point them to the Lord.” Lowe helps us do exactly that.
Mother to Son: Letters to a Black Boy on Identity and Hope by Jasmine Holmes. One of the most important books published in 2020.
In prose rich with beauty, pain, and grace, Jasmine Holmes tells a very particular story of a mother’s tender and fierce love for her young Black son and her fight to help him see himself as Jesus sees him. The church needs this book, not only for the women who are raising their own Black sons, not only for those who need to hear her experience, but for all of us who live in the tension of lament and joy on this side of heaven. Read our review here.
The Dad Difference: The Four Most Important Gifts You Can Give Your Kids by Bryan Loritts.
A solid resource for helping dads think about their irreplaceable value in their lives of their children, The Dad Difference is written by a man who grew up with a wise and loving father. Much of Lorritt’s insight comes from looking back at his own father’s parenting now that he is himself a father. Numerous anecdotes from his personal life and years as a pastor make Lorritts a wise guide for men who want to think practically about how to raise their children. One caveat: the book ends with a gospel-centered epilogue that examines what the gospel means for fathers. Start reading here, and then flip to the beginning of the book, so that the gospel implications of the author’s wisdom stay with you as you read.
Check out the best new books for youth pastors on the youth ministry side of the blog.