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Way To Live: Christian Practices for Teens

Nowhere are small groups used more than in youth ministry, where postmodern students bring the assumption that everyone experiences everything differently. That is why we should be glad that Way To Live has turned the old model on its ear.

Nowhere are small groups used more than in youth ministry, where postmodern students bring the assumption that everyone experiences everything differently. That is why we should be glad that Way To Live has turned the old model on its ear.
Way To Live: Christian Practices For Teens invites students to join a grand ecumenical experiment in spiritual formation. The book is divided into 18 categories of living for students to consider. Here there are no “foolproof” plans. Instead, the chapters attempt to begin thought-provoking internal conversations with the reader about biblical living and spiritual formation.
With powerful stories from the lives of the authors and careful insights from the Bible, these chapters are neither pushy nor presumptuous. Instead, the approach is to place the truth of the Gospel in a very relevant frame for teens and challenge them to consider what that truth means for their way of life.
Perhaps this works so well because chapters were written in collaboration with students. This is one of the overwhelming strengths of the book. Where many other youth ministry books tend to aim too high or too low when addressing teenagers, Way To Live comes across in a more steady tone.
The adult authors are top notch too. The list includes a diverse group of seminary professors, laypeople, ministers, and even one of the ladies from the folk-rock band “The Indigo Girls.”
Categories for discussion include bodies, justice, grieving, prayer and welcoming, among others. The careful handling of various subjects is impressive. One of the book’s stated goals is to address these issues in a way that presents a positive life choice, not the common defensive attitude that spends time attacking culture.
This is done very clearly in the chapter on bodies. The author is frank and relevant about teenage sexuality, while presenting the biblical model as a way of living that teens can choose. Also, the chapter on grief is alone worth the price of the book for any youth worker who may be seeking a resource to help grieving teens process some of their feelings.
A Web site has been designed in conjunction with this material (/www.waytolive.org). There, youth workers can download a free PDF guide for leading small groups through Way To Live. The authors make clear in the text that students should experience the book in the presence of a community.
However, unlike its small group predecessors, Way To Live does not necessitate everyone being on the same page. The reader is encouraged to begin in whichever chapter he might find useful. Chapters are given color tabs on the side of the book, allowing a student to choose a random chapter with ease. This is a unique part of the Way To Live experience.
There are some minor publishing drawbacks. Some of the picture illustrations inside the book seem dated. Also, the text format can seem very crowded and unimaginative in places. Nonetheless, any youth worker who wants her students to be stretched theologically and spiritually should make plans to use this book with a small group soon.
Way To Live is a book that many of us have been waiting for.
Johnny Lewis is pastor of Kendalls Baptist Church in New London, N.C.
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