Looking for a good read or a thought-provoking book for your small group? Here are some great recommendations from out staff!
A Crazy, Holy Grace by Frederick Buechner
- In this book American theologian Buechner examines the ideas of pain and memory and the ready availability of God’s grace in those moments. He talks about some of his own experiences of pain, loss, and wondering why God seems so silent in those moments. This would be a good study for any group as, unfortunately, we all experience pain and loss throughout our lives.
- This book has 6 chapters that are really separate essays, so they would be good to use for a six-week discussion series. There is a leader guide and DVD (each video seems to be about 15 minutes) if you’d care to use it. The guide compresses the book into 4 sessions, so you would do it in 4 weeks rather than 6.
The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller
- Keller uses the parable of the prodigal son to help us reexamine our ideas about sin, lostness, forgiveness, and hope. This is a great deep dive into one of the most easily recognizable of Jesus’ parables.
- The book is broken into seven sessions. There is a discussion guide available if you would like it.
Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler
- I cannot recommend this book enough. It is beautiful, poignant, and utterly devastating. Kate Bowler is a professor at Duke Divinity school who, at the age of 35 and with a 2 year old son, was diagnosed with a terminal cancer. In this book she is brutally honest about her struggles finding God while coming to terms with her own death.
- There are 9 chapters that span the first year of her diagnosis and treatment, and there are two wonderful appendices entitled, “Absolutely Never Say This To People Experiencing Terrible Times: A Short List” and “Give This a Go and See How It Works”.
Names for the Messiah by Walter Brueggemann
- This is a good Advent study by one of the best Old Testament theologians of the past century. Brueggemann looks at the names given to the messiah in Isaiah 9:6--Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace--how those names put certain expectations of the Messiah in the minds of first-century Israel, and how Jesus met them in very unexpected ways.
- This is a 4-week Advent study.
A Way Other Than Our Own by Walter Brueggemann
- Another Walter Brueggemann title, this time for Lent. God challenges us to choose paths that we would not choose on our own--paths that require sacrifice and risk. In this devotional, Brueggemann challenges readers to walk an alternative path of humility, justice, and peace.
- Rather than a weekly study, this is a daily devotional for the 40 days of Lent. Each devotion is only a page, though, so it would be a good tool to use for class discussion of the week’s readings.
Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Rev. Tish Harrison Warren
- This is one of my favorite books that I’ve read recently! Waren, an Anglican priest, argues that Christian formation happens most in the small, dull, and mundane moments of our daily lives. The book walks through a single day and connects things like waking up, brushing your teeth, eating leftovers, and sipping tea to weighty theological topics like baptism, communion, ritual, confession, sacred space, community, and more.
- There are 11 chapters, each around 10-15 pages and appendix with discussion questions and practices from each chapter to try. This would be great for either a full 11-week study using one chapter per week, or to condense into a 6 week study doing two chapters per week.
The Sign and the Sacrifice: The Meaning of the Cross and Resurrection by Archbishop Rowan Williams
- Why is the cross, an instrument of death and torture, the ubiquitous symbol of the Christian church? Former Archbishop of Canterbury and man with the most interesting eyebrows in the world (seriously, look him up), Rowan Williams, attempts to answer this question. In doing so, he explores the meaning and significance of Christ’s death and resurrection to the early church and to us today.
- This would work well as a post-Easter study with Good Friday still fresh in our minds. There are 5 chapters, each about 20 pages. It would be best to take this book one chapter per session. There are a few discussion questions at the end of each chapter.
A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master” by Rachel Held Evans
- Evans, a popular liberal millennial Christian author and (eye roll) blogger sets out to answer the question, “Could an ancient collection of sacred texts, spanning multiple genres and assembled over thousands of years in cultures very different from our own, really offer a single cohesive formula for how to be a woman? And do the women of Scripture fit into this same mold? Must I?” And thus starts her entire year of taking everything the Scriptures say about women literally. She spends the year exploring issues like domesticity, modesty, fertility, submission, justice, and more. This book is absurd, quite funny, and full of wonderful insights into how we interact with God and with one another.
- There are twelve chapters, each about 20 pages, and a free discussion guide created by the author. I’d suggest doing two chapters per session (yeah, that means about 40 pages per week, but the writing in this one is really easy and entirely narrative). While the title may make you think this is a study just for women, I’d recommend it for any group looking for something both insightful and light-hearted.
- One of Andrew’s favorites, With looks at four ways people relate to God (under God, over God, from God, and for God) and argues that a better way of understanding the divine-human relationship is “living in communion with God.”
- There are nine chapters and an appendix with a group discussion guide. This is a good study for groups of all types grappling with what it means to be in relationship with the God of the universe.
These series stream and will require a login and password (the church has an account, so email Ryan if your class wants to use one)
Allegiance to Empire video curriculum
- What does it mean to be a follower of Christ--the savior who went to the outcast, ate with sinners, and empowered the powerless--while living in the most powerful nation in human history? Is it possible that America is a “Christian Nation”? What if it isn’t? How do we engage with our culture while remembering that we are, as 1 Peter says, resident aliens?
- It is an 7-week video-based series. The videos stream from the Work of the People website and there is a leader discussion guide.
Living Fully Expressed in Love video curriculum
- This series leads us to examine how we understand worship. What does “worship” mean to you? This series is meant to reconnect (or connect for the first time) us to the fullness of Christian worship and what it means to be part of this liturgy--a word which comes from Greek and translates to “the work of the people”.
- It is an 5-week video based series. The videos stream from the Work of the People website and there is a leader guide
Covenental Restoration: A series on Faith & Race video curriculum
- Racism and oppression have a long and painful past and present, it is an open, aching human wound that reflects a fracture in our relationship with God. Understanding how it was promoted and is still alive and acting out in the construct of our beliefs and systems and structures is the beginning of caring for this wound.
- This is a 12-session video based series. The videos stream from the Work of the People website and there is a leader guide.