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Christian Religious Education Twelve Significant Books (since 2010) Stretching Our Horizons

25 Jan 2019 1:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Dr. Jack Seymour is a Professor Emeritus at Garrett-Evangelical Theological seminary. He co-chairs the editorial committee of Horizons in Religious Education, the book series of the Religious Education Association (REA). Contact him at jack.seymour@garrett.edu.

Margaret Ann Crain holds the distinction of Professor Emeritus at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.  She is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church and author of The United Methodist Deacon: Ordained to word, service, compassion, and justice. Contact her at margaretann.crain@garrett.edu.


Scholarship in Christian Religious Education is alive and well.  The following important books written by a diverse set of authors, all Christian religious educators, focus on teaching the people of God for hope and transformation.  Promoting “abundant living” promised in the gospel is their commanding vision.  They are all grounded in actual experiences and communities. Of course, some are difficult, primarily because their content addresses the violence, racism, and division of our time, but they tell us the truth. They offer direction and insights for how Christian education impacts our world.  Reading them enriches vision and empowers ministry.  They will make a difference!

We would be happy to be in touch with any of you about the ideas and practices in these books.  We suggest starting some small groups in your local areas to read them together and to glean directions for our work as church educators, youth ministers, children’s workers, and teachers. 


Elizabeth Caldwell.  Engaging a Child’s Curiosity about the Bible. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2016.

How do we support children and parents as they read the Bible and interpret its meanings?  After a review of several Bible story books, Elizabeth Caldwell offers an effective method (“I wonder”) of joining in conversation with families and children. Upon completing this book, she and Carol Wehrheim edited a wonderful Bible story book, Growing in God's Love: A Story Bible (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2018), to help parents, teachers and children experience the witness of the Bible.

Leah Gunning Francis.  Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership & Awakening Community.  St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2015.

Through this rich narrative, we meet the people of God in Ferguson, Missouri as they respond to the shooting death of Michael Brown.  Leah Gunning Francis spoke with those who lived and worked in Ferguson – church and community leaders who responded to racism and violence.  She introduces us to effective practices of leadership and action that make a difference, offer hope,  and educate communities.

Courtney T. Goto, 2016. The Grace of Playing: Pedagogies for Leaning into God’s New Creation. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2016. 

Connecting devotional practices, art, meditation, and teaching, Courtney Goto invites us to experience the “grace” of teaching.  Our vocation as people of God is to respond to God’s invitation in the everyday real moments of our lives.  She provides directions on how we teach, play, and learn so that we can “lean” into God’s emerging creation?

Thomas H. Groome. Will There Be Faith: A New Vision for Educating and Growing Disciples. New York: Harper Collins, 2011.

Tom Groome asks how faith will last into the future?  He responds calling us to teach a living and vital faith. He describes the ways congregations and schools organize their ministries to touch the deepest realities of people’s lives, including a concrete method for teaching.  For Tom, we join in vital villages of faith and partner in God’s vision enlivening our world with hope and justice.

Charles R. Foster.  From Generation to Generation: The Adaptive Challenge of Mainline Protestant Education in Forming Faith.  Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2012. 

Exploring past decisions that limited the scope and impact of Christian religious education, Chuck Foster offers directions about how to engage the whole congregation as a setting for learning.  He calls us to teach the fullness of faith.  Practices of hospitality, celebration, and conversation are enlivened as profound moments of teaching and learning.

Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook. God Beyond Borders: Interreligious Learning among Faith Communities.  Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2014

Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook introduces us to many projects in interfaith dialogue, community-building, and action.  We see concrete efforts that assist us to cross differences, to understand each other, and to work together for the common good.  She shows us how to engage in interfaith learning. 

Emily A. Peck-McClain. Arm in Arm with Adolescent Girls: Educating into the New Creation. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2018. 

We hear the stories of several young women from diverse cultures as they seek to live day to day.  Emily Peck-McClain invites us to see their struggles and their hopes as they confront forces that seek to limit and silence them.  In the letters of the apostle Paul, she finds resources for enlivening faith, offering practices for living, and building healthy and faithful futures.

Patrick Reyes.  Nobody Cries When We Die: God, Community and Surviving to Adulthood.  St. Louis. MO: Chalice Press, 2016.

One of the most powerful and prophetic books on this list.  Patrick Reyes exposes us to the violent realities in which he and many others grow up.  We meet mentors that offer hope and new life.  He shows how many of our patterns of Christian education tame the gospel and avoid the most important realities of living together.  He calls Christian education to focus on survival and abundant living – on how God “calls us to life in the midst of violence and pain (p. 169).”

Jack L Seymour.  Teaching the Way of Jesus: Educating Christians for Faithful Living.  Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2014.

Grounded in biblical study, Jack Seymour invites us to rethink Christian religious education as teaching and living the Way of Jesus.  Community-building and prayer, teaching, and mission all become pathways of learning.  Like the disciples of the first generation who sought to embody Jesus’ practices of healing and new life, we are concretely invited to know the Way of Jesus so we can teach and live the Way of Jesus. 

Mai-Anh Le Tran. Reset the Heart: Unlearning Violence, Relearning Hope.  Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2017.

How does Christian faith address the violence of our world – the violence of racism, class segregation, and bullying?  Mai-Anh Le Tran offers us actual practices and case studies of Christian religious education that empower us to communicate and learn as we seek redemption, hope, and new life.

Katherine Turpin & Anne Carter Walker. Nurturing Different Dreams: Youth Ministry across Lines of Difference. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2014.

Using experiences and case studies, Katherine Turpin and Anne Carter Walker offer options for youth ministries in churches and schools.  In an increasingly diverse world where youth encounter each other daily as well as the realities of social stratification and separation, we need their suggestions and practices for teaching across differences and promoting mutual learning.

Almeda Wright.  The Spiritual Lives of Young African Americans. New York City, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Through extensive study with young African American Christians, Almeda Wright reveals the realities of racism and violence that they face daily.  She provides concrete practices of youth ministry, practices of spirituality and transformation that help us offer and choose life – abundant living.


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