My role as a student pastor is one of my greatest sources of joy. I’m halfway through my senior year of college, so the struggles of middle and high school are still pretty fresh in my memory. Books got me through adolescence, taught me about the world, and guided me through some of life’s toughest questions. As a student pastor, I have many parents and small group leaders who ask me to recommend books, devotionals, and studies for their teenagers or themselves. Instead of answering everyone individually, I thought I’d compile a list of the books that helped me the most through middle school, high school, and college. Thankfully, I was able to get recommendations from some other Jesus-loving bookworms, so there should be a title here for everyone. Reading is the most accessible way to learn, explore, and grow. Give these books to yourself or your favorite teenager, and watch what happens.
The Case For Christ, Student Edition: Every Christian questions their faith at some point. If you’ve been raised in the church, that questioning may come sooner than later for you. When I was in middle school, I grew angry and doubtful towards God, and my mom gave me this book. I love the Student Edition because every chapter is broken up by key questions teenagers may have, like “Did Jesus Really Think He was God?” and “Did Jesus Fake His Death?” This is a helpful choice to guide tough conversations and seemingly unanswerable questions.
Jesus Calling: This devotional is great for people who aren’t readers. Every day, there’s scripture and a short note from God to His children. If you or your student wants to get into the habit of reading God’s Word and having daily quiet time, this is a great place to start.
Guys Are Waffles, Girls Are Spaghetti: Up until I graduated, my family would spend every weekend in our local Lifeway. Books about dating and love seemed way more interesting to my boy-crazy, adolescent self, and this book taught me some God-given truths about dating. Chad Eastham does a great job at tackling men and women’s differences in a way that honors both genders. His books talk about relationships in a God-honoring way, and are sprinkled with funny anecdotes and poignant lessons. His writing style is easy to understand, but still engaging.
Gospel-Fluency: If you want to feel more confident sharing the Gospel, this is a great book to tackle. Vanderstelt uses clear language, but this book is best for someone with an upper high school reading ability.
Sun Stand Still: Steven Furtick uses this book to present a unique perspective on having an Old Testament faith in a New Testament world. This is one of my husband’s favorite reads, and it encouraged him to test the power of prayer and trust God’s faithfulness more and more.
The Search For Significance: Billy Graham said this book “should be read by every Christian,” and there’s not much I can say to top that. McGee helps readers learn to define themselves by the freedom of God’s love instead of personal accomplishments or flaws. Anyone struggling with self-doubt, self-hate, or insecurity should check this one out.
Forgotten God, Crazy Love, Multiply: Francis Chan’s books are great for students who want to dive into Christian literature. His work is concise, powerful, relatable, and memorable. Forgotten God and Crazy Love are both less than 200 pages, and Multiply is just over 300. These would be great books to read with your student or a friend.
Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire: My dad recently heard Jim Cymbala speak at Brooklyn Tabernacle and couldn’t stop raving about him. In Fresh Wind, Cymbala tells the story of how the power of prayer changed his congregation in an inner-city area. If you want to learn more about prayer and boldness in faith, this is a great memoir-style read.
Love Does: Bob Goff is a crowd-favorite for a reason. His philosophy on love over judgment and forgiveness over bitterness is balm to a divided world’s soul. Hate radiates from every direction thanks to mass media and politics, but Goff’s collection of stories and short lessons will bring joy to your heart. This book is great for anyone who wants to love bigger and brighter.
Captivating: This book came into my life in a season of change, loneliness, and mild depression. John and Stasi Eldredge are some of my favorite authors, because they’re able to capture huge, massive truths in easy-to-digest language. This book is great for high school, college, or older women who are struggling with identity and insecurities.
The Hiding Place: Corrie ten Boom hid Jews and the persecuted during WWII, and survived a tremulous time in concentration camp. This book is more than a historical memoir, it’s a testament to the power of forgiveness, faith, and perseverance. I read this book at the same time as Captivating, and my world was completely rocked.
Passion and Purity: Remember when I talked about how boy-crazy I was as a teenager? A mentor recommended this book to me while I was in a damaging relationship, and I wish I had taken Elisabeth Elliot’s words to heart sooner. Elliot tells the story of her time at Bible school, where she met and fell in love with her husband, Jim Elliot. Their story is too beautiful for me to detail here, but the book teaches crucial lessons about boundaries, patience, and intention in dating. If you or your student is dating, this book is a must-read.
Killing Lions: Another Eldredge favorite! This book is written by John and his son, Sam, and is based on a series of phone calls between the two as Sam entered adulthood. The fatherly advice is simple and life-changing, and is great for any young man walking through middle school, high school, college, or “the real world.” I read this to try to understand my future husband better, and boy did it help.
I pray this list is a helpful resource to you on your journey towards Christ. Please feel free to bookmark it, share it, or add to it in the comments below.