Some of the best resources I’ve found for curriculum, for understanding myself, and for better understanding my youth and their families. Hint: They’re usually not explicitly Christian. The belief that only “Christian” books, music, movies, etc. are of value for forming people who follow in the Way of Jesus is to sell ourselves – and our students – tragically short. Feel free to also check out my book, Woo, which is about following Jesus but maybe not in the way you’d expect.

  1. The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams. If you haven’t begun to already, it’s time to start reading children’s stories again. When I think about love and Jesus and the gospel, this story comes to mind. It is a beautiful description of the toll love takes, and how being loved is what helps us become the realest versions of ourselves.
  2. Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall. This crayon may as well be a teenager you know. This story acknowledges the pain and difficulty of figuring out your true identity, and navigating the many expectations that society places on all of us to be who we “should” be, instead of who we truly are.
  3. Soul Pancake: Chew On Life’s Big Questions, by Rainn Wilson and Devon Gundry. Best book of conversation starters and deep questions you could ask for, in language that teenagers will be compelled by. I’ve worn out my copy.
  4. The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. Ever feel stuck, creatively or personally or otherwise? This book explores, in manageable bite-sizes the many sources of creativity block and how to overcome them. Rob Bell assigned it to me in a seminary preaching class and I’m so grateful.
  5. Teaching As A Subversive Activity, by Neil Postman & Charles Weingartner. This is for every youth worker or teacher who has ever seen teenagers’ eyes glaze over, and wanted to do something different, and wasn’t sure what to do. This book changed forever the way I think of my role as a teacher, and the immeasurable value of following our teenagers’ lead.
  6. Enneagram Made Easy, by Renee Baron. Youth Worker, know thyself! The Enneagram takes you beyond the categories of the more familiar Myers-Briggs, and allows you to have even more self-awareness about your core desires, fears, motivations, and how you embody those in the world around you.
  7. All Joy And No Fun, by Jennifer Senior. If you ever wanted a glimpse into the inner workings of today’s parents, here it is. A sweeping cultural commentary that speaks truth to how parents are navigating the changing cultural landscape.
  8. Love Poems from God and Number 9: Rilke’s Book of Hours. Give your soul some beauty and poetry. These greats from the East and West, Christian and non-Christian, help me tune in to who God is and how love is central to the work we do as youth workers. The more whole we work to become, the better we will be able to serve the students and families in our care – so get your poetry on.

About The Author

Morgan Schmidt is the Director of Teens & 20-Somethings at First Presbyterian Church and Co-Director of the Bend Youth Collective, a collaborative ecumenical youth ministry. She is the author of Woo: Awakening Teenagers' Desire to Follow in the Way of Jesus. Morgan received her MDiv. from The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and loves living in Bend, Oregon with her husband, Ian, and golden retriever, Buddy.

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