When I was in high school a pastor put Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper in my hands and it changed my life. It helped reorient my worldview around a sovereign God who called me to spend my life for the things that mattered. That book was a cheap, but enormous investment in my future spiritual life.
As a student pastor I often have parents or mentors ask me what books they should be putting in front of their high-schoolers to help equip them to both grow in their faith and learn to defend it. There are no shortage of books marketed at teenage Christians, but not very many of them are helpful—where some are downright harmful. Over time, these 5 books have become mainstays that I recommend and hope they will for you too!
What is the Gospel by Greg Gilbert
It’s hard for students to get anywhere spiritually if they’re unclear on the Gospel. This small, accessible book is a great entry point to understanding the Gospel. The Gospel is the best news in the world, and this book will help your student understand how to define it.
This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years by Jaquelle Crow
If What is the Gospel defines the gospel for your teen, This Changes Everything will give them an on the ground look at how the gospel changes their life. Written by a teenager for teenagers, it gives a unique and biblically rigorous look at gospel living for highschoolers that I haven’t seen repeated anywhere else.
The Jesus I Wish I Knew in Highschool by Cameron Cole and Charlotte Getz
Teenagers live in a complicated world full of failure, loneliness, anxiety, sin, shame, and more. The Jesus I Wish I Knew in High-School is a one of a kind book that covers everything from rejection and shame to disability and tragedy. It is written by adults who are chronicling how a better understanding of the gospel would have transformed their teen years. This is a new book that is becoming essential reading for my students and leaders.
10 Questions Every Teenager Should Ask and Answer about Christianity
Challenges to the Christian faith have shifted quite a bit over the last 20 to 30 years. Objections have shifted from being primarily scientific to primarily ethical. This leaves a lot of older apologetic resources answering questions no one is asking. The same cannot be said for this book. McLaughlin answers 10 broad questions that every student will be confronted with in this day and age. Written for high-schoolers, it is an accessible resource from them.
Don’t Waste Your Life by Piper
This book was influential for me and it is as relevant today as ever! The American dream still beckons to many of our students. Worldly success at the expense of joy in Christ is a temptation in every culture for every age. Don’t Waste Your Life is a classic work that helps students see the emptiness of mere success, health, and wealth—calling them instead to a life of joyful sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel. Don’t let your student waste their life on success. Help them spend it for joy!
Teenagers today face a host a unique challenges that necessitate unique answers. Books like these manage to confront the specific challenges present with this generation of high-schoolers without compromising the Gospel. They are also readable, applicable, and easy-to-use in a discipling relationship. Getting the right book in a teenagers hand at the right time just might change their life—I know it did mine.