I get a lot of questions about teenagers. It only makes sense, I am the pastor of student ministry at my church. The questions range from why I do what I do (I point them to my philosophy of ministry), to what am I teaching, to “how do I disciple my kids at home that will be a benefit to their spiritual growth?”
One of the top questions I get is, “what resources/books would you recommend for my teenager?”
My first response is always “read the Bible. It is God’s Word. They will get more from being committed to spending time in God’s Word (reading, studying, praying over, etc) than they will get from reading 100 books. I then encourage the parents to do this with their teenager, so that both the parent and teenager grow in grace and knowledge together.
My second response is, “it depends on the teenager.” Most Christian teenagers are at best young, immature Christians. Very few (and I mean very, very few) have the maturity to handle something difficult because (1) their reading comprehension is very low, and (2) they can barely articulate the basics of Biblical Christianity. Therefore, most Christian teens need to start simply and get the core of Christianity down. Things like the gospel, who God is, who Christ is, who the Holy Spirit is, the priority of spiritual disciples and church involvement/service, the necessity/practice of holiness (separation & moral purity), and the practice of evangelism. If there is a mature Christian teen who is articulate of their faith, has been discipled well, and can handle harder books, then great! But that is not the vast majority.
My third response is the list below. Because I love to read and read on behalf of teenagers (so that I can recommend good books), the list is a bit long. However, I am going to give you a top-6, and then the rest will be a list you can check out on your own. The following books are specifically for Christian teens, but not exclusively. I, as an adult, have benefited greatly from these and so I encourage parents to read this books as well … maybe with their Christian teen (*hint hint).
Trusting God by Jerry Bridges
Life is tough, but it is tougher for Christian teens because they are fighting a spiritual battle against very formidable foes—the world, the Devil, and their flesh. Without the necessary biblical truth, they can get swallowed up in the difficulties that come with just living life.
Enter Jerry Bridge’s book. Jerry lays a Biblical foundation for trusting God in every circumstance in life. Bridges does this dominantly by laying the foundation of knowing God’s sovereignty and goodness toward those in Christ. Bridges also addresses various areas every Christian struggles to trust God with suffering, salvation, your heart, others hearts, failing health and even the weather. Bridges (now in Heaven) helps his readers (n this case, teens who have struggles with the sinful decisions of parents, peer-pressure, and raging hormones) take a long, helpful, biblical drink of God’s goodness and faithfulness.
How to Study the Bible by Andy Deane
It does not matter how long a teen has been in the church, Bible study will probably be a difficulty and absent from most Christian teen’s walk. The reason I have come to discover—and remember as a Christian teen—is they don’t know HOW to study the Bible. Andy Deane fills that gap with this book.
Deane used to be a Jr. High Pastor and was asked by parents and teens how to study the Bible. This sent him on a quest to find the best. He found 40 different step-by-step Bible study methods. To Deane, they were all helpful and so he put them all in this book. And his instruction is simply: pick one and go. If you get into a rut, then pick another and go. Very practical! Very helpful. Highly, highly recommended!
Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart by J.D. Greear
God saved me at 8yrs old. Growing up in a Baptist church, salvation meant “asking Jesus into your heart” and then year after year “re-committing myself back to Jesus,” which really was just asking Jesus to come into my heart again.
I really wish I would have had this book when I was a teen. It would have blown up that whole understanding of “losing Jesus” and what biblical assurance really is.
Greear (recently taking the position of President of the SBC) answers questions like: What exactly is faith? What is repentance? Why are there so many warnings that seem to imply we can lose our salvation? He then answers in a helpful, biblical, and practical way that even a Christian teenager can get it.
As a side note: I have a youth pastor friend of mine who gives this all of his teens who grew up in the church to help them see if they are truly saved. I have not used it for that purpose, but I think this book would help in that situation as well.
Sex, Dating, and Relationships by G. Hiestand & J. Thomas
Kevin DeYoung says of this book: “This is a straightforward, yet provocative little book. You’ll find a lot of practical, sane, biblical wisdom that will explode a number of our cultural assumptions about dating. … you really should read this book. The result may just be a simpler, more God-honoring approach to dating than you thought possible.”
I cannot say it any better. Hiestand & Thomas in right in the face of “dating” as our American culture defines it and helps understand what the Bible says. In a culture that has thoroughly messed up God’s purpose in relationships (family, marriage, and neighbors), this small book is a breath of fresh biblical air that I believe every Christian teenager must read. You too parents.
Holiness by J.C. Ryle
Hebrews 12:14 says, “Strive … for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” First Thessalonians 4:3 concurs: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification,” or holiness. In other words, a Christian is one who pursues, desires, and practices holy living.
J.C. Ryle is old-school, but very helpful and very pointed. He gets into the house of a Christian and flings open every door and opens every window in order to expose hidden sin and the necessity of the pursuit of holiness in every area of the Christian.
This may be a difficult read for a younger teens, but an older teen needs to stretch themselves and drink from this firehose of truth.
This Changes Everything by Jaquelle Crowe
Jesus is the most important Person and part of a Christian teen. They need to understand that truth and how it changes their life. Jaquelle Crowe is a teen and has written to teens to help them see that the gospel is a life-changer, and not just some set of facts we hold. On the same level as Do Hard Things, Crowe uses the Bible and its truths to show how relationships, sin, habits, music, time, and other areas are under the control of the gospel for a Christian teen.
That is my top-6. If you want a recommended aimed specifically at a teen’s gender I recommend:
GUYS: Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle
J.C. Ryle offers helpful advice to young men and urges them toward godliness. He opens the Scriptures to warn against the things young men are most prone to: laziness, lust, peer pressure, etc. Though written 50+ years ago, sin is sin and so the topics as relevant today as when he first wrote about them.
Thankfully, it is only a 5-chapter book, because it really packs a punch; and is great for small groups of guys, or a father and son discussion/study.
GALS: Lies Young Women Believe by N. DeMoss & D. Gresh
Satan has worked tirelessly throughout the ages to twist messages about God, guys, appearance, anger, PMS, and other falsehoods. Our media-driven culture has embraced these lies and then feeds young women with their rotten delicacies. DeMoss & Gresh have written to expose these lies in the light of biblical truth. Their insights specifically aim at equipping 13-19 yr olds, so this is perfect for a small group of ladies, or mom and daughter discussion/study.
OTHER BOOKS FOR CHRISTIAN TEENS
The Pursuit of God, by A. W. Tozer
Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, by C. J. Manahney
Desiring God, by John Piper
Disciplines of a Godly Man, by R. Kent Hughes
The Treasure Principle, by Randy Alcorn
Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel With Hidden Idols, by Brad Bigney
The Gospel According to Jesus, by John MacArthur
Stop Dating the Church, by Joshua Harris
Reasons We Believe, by Nathan Busenitz
Just Do Something, by Kevin DeYoung
Sexual Detox, by Tim Challies
Depression, by Edward T. Welch
The Doctrines of Grace: Student Edition, by Shane Lems