Need help finding tools and materials for your group? We have lots of resources and recommendations, both literary and visual, for leading enriched studies and discussions. Check out the many possibilities below.
Books with questions/study companion
Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians, by Lawrence Kushner
The Christian story finds its roots in the Hebrew Scriptures. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner addresses Jewish Spirituality through a Christian lens. For those looking for resources on how to explore the Jewish roots of the Christian faith, this book is perhaps the best place to start. It is short, succinct, and very reader-friendly. This book is 103 pages in length.
To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future, by Dan B. Allender
Hidden in the details and experiences of our lives are clues to who we are. If we have the courage to go to those places, we will find the person God created us to be. God is writing his story of redemption in your life. Whether simply discussing Allender’s ideas, or actually engaging the process of storytelling with one another, To Be Told will help you better understand what God is up to in your life. This book is 240 pages in length. A workbook can be purchased to accompany this book and guide you through the process of writing your story.
Embracing Grace, by Scot McKnight
In our highly individualistic culture, the message of Jesus is often reduced to a private spirituality concerned only with getting to heaven. Jesus’ message however is much bigger. The story of the Scriptures is a holistic story concerned with the redemption of all things. In his short book Embracing Grace, Scot McKnight offers a compelling way to think about the fullness of Jesus’ message and what implications it carries for Christians. This is a short book of 176 pages.
Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline, by Lauren Winner
Having converted to Christianity from Orthodox Judaism, Lauren Winner discovered that she missed “the daily rhythms and routines that drew the sacred down into everyday”. In Mudhouse Sabbath, Winner discusses eleven Jewish spiritual practices and how they can enrich and give clarity to the holistic nature of Jesus’ message. This is a short book of 142 pages.
The Myth of a Christian Nation, by Greg Boyd
During an election season, Pastor Greg Boyd gave a series of sermons on why Christian allegiance should be first and foremost to Jesus and not a political party. Those sermons have become The Myth of a Christian Nation. By contrasting the power over mentality of the world with the power under mentality of Jesus, Boyd paints the picture of a Jesus who is first and foremost interested in love in the midst of a power hungry world. He goes to great lengths to connect all of his thoughts to the Biblical text. This book is 219 pages in length.
A Framework for Understanding Poverty, by Dr. Ruby Payne
One of the most urgent crises in the world today is poverty. Millions of people face the daily challenge of living in poverty, whether globally or locally. As we announce the arrival of God’s kingdom by working for measurable change among the oppressed, we must seek to understand the complexity of poverty. In A Framework for Understanding Poverty Dr. Ruby Payne discusses facts about poverty, while also providing practical and compassionate strategies for addressing its impact on the people. A workbook companion can also be purchased to accompany the book.
This Beautiful Mess, by Rick McKinley
Rick McKinley is a friend of Mars Hill and lead pastor at Imago Dei Community in Portland, Oregon. This Beautiful Mess seeks to understand the central theme of Jesus’ ministry: The Kingdom of God. What is this kingdom? Is it already here? How am I meant to be a part of it? Each chapter contains thought provoking questions for anyone seeking to find where their story intersects with God’s story.
In the Name of Jesus, by Henri Nouwen
Copyright 1989, Used with permission of the Crossroad Publishing Company
Description: In the Name of Jesus is a book about what it means to be a Christian in a world full of temptations. Whether we are tempted by power or self-reliance, Nouwen reminds us that a Jesus-centered life comes through prayer and the hard work of healing and forgiveness. Anyone who is trying to become more like Jesus will find this book to be a helpful guide. This is a short book of 107 pages.
Study Guide: A short study guide can be found at the back of this book.
Let Your Life Speak, by Parker Palmer
Who has God created me to be? Why am I here? What is my God-given purpose? These are all questions that we wrestle with. In this short but powerful book, Parker Palmer explores what it means to live as the unique person God created each of us to be.
Creation Care, by Floresta
Created and distributed by Floresta, floresta.org
This small group study guide explores environmental stewardship by studying the relationship between Creator and creation, God and man, man and habitat, and man and one another. Less than fifty pages long, it is a short study of four chapters loaded with questions, resources, and ideas for taking action.
Making All Things New, by Nouwen
What does it look like to live a life of spiritual discipline in our fast paced world? In Making All Things New Henri Nouwen offers thoughts on the pitfalls of busyness, worrying, and what it means to listen for the voice of God that promises to “make all things new”. The Formation Team has written questions for reflection to be a guide as you read. This is a short book of ninety-five pages.
A New Kind of Christian, by Brian McLaren
A New Kind of Christian is a story about two friends who discuss the difficult questions of trying to live faithfully in our culture and world. The story unfolds as a series of conversations about faith, doubt, fear, and reason to name just a few. If you’ve ever found yourself captured by the beauty of faith and simultaneously perplexed by the shortcomings of religion, A New Kind of Christian will be a helpful guide as you process. The book is 192 pages.
Study Guide: A short study guide with questions can be found at the back of this book.
Waking the Dead, by John Eldredge
Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life and have it to the full.” Waking the Dead explores what it means to become the fully alive people that God intended us to be. Acknowledging the difficulties of life, Eldredge gives a voice to the hope we have in Christ and the beauty of Christian community. This book is 256 pages in length.
Study Guide: A guidebook with questions and discussion topics can be purchased to accompany this book
Serve God Save the Planet, by Matthew Sleeth
In Serve God Save the Planet author Matthew Sleeth explores how Christians can fulfill their call to be stewards of creation in a modern world. Weaving his many Emergency Room stories with the Biblical story, Sleeth lays out a compelling and very practical challenge to live a life of environmental responsibility. The book is 197 pages.
Study Guide: Discussion questions for each chapter can be found on page 200. In addition, there are several helpful appendices that unpack the very practical ways in which we can begin to live more simply and responsibly.
Just Eating? Practicing Our Faith at the Table by Jennifer Halteman Schrock
Description: Hospitality is a spiritual practice. There is something about sharing a meal together that joins us together in a unique way. Just Eating? is a curriculum that examines the role of food in community, health, hospitality, and service. It is full of guided reading, group experience and exercises, and spiritual practices for groups to do together.
Study Guide: Just Eating? is a short study. Participant and leader guides can be found or purchased at: pcusa.org/hunger/features/justeating.htm#studyguide.
Eat This Book, by Eugene Peterson
Eat This Book is an exploration in how we read the Bible. Many of us long to do more than simply read the text. We want the stories and words to take up residence in our hearts and leave us forever changed. Peterson discusses what it looks like for us to live the text as we read it. He says, “The Bible, all of it, is livable; it is the text for living our lives.” Eat This Book addresses how we can read and interact with the Bible in a deeper way. It is a short book of 176 pages.
Study Guide: A study guide can be purchased to accompany the book. It is helpfully organized into a nine session study, but chapters 2 and 6 are short and can be combined to make for a seven session study. For every chapter, the study guide provides a summary, definitions of key words and phrases, quotations to consider, questions for interaction, a suggested activity, and a liturgical prayer.
Books without questions/study companion
unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity... and Why It Matters, by David Kinnaman
unChristian paints an intriguing picture of how Christianity is regarded in our culture. It explores why Christianity is viewed as it is, and looks specifically at the work of churches that may have contributed to this perception. Drawing from many different contributors, including Mission Year President, Leroy Barber, the book encourages churches to consider taking a different posture in the world.
The Wounded Healer, by Henri J.M. Nouwen
Nouwen encourages men and women to locate the suffering in their own hearts and to make that place the starting point of their loving service to one another. Healing can only happen when we have wrestled with our own brokenness. We believe that God wants to redeem every part of us so that we become whole people. This short book is a profound guide for individuals or groups interested in exploring the idea of wholeness on the inner journey.
The Blue Parakeet, by Scot McKnight
What is the Bible? What do we do with the Bible, and how do we read it in a way that helps us discern what it means for our lives? Everyone comes to the Bible a little differently. In this book McKnight explores several different approaches that Christians bring to the Bible. Author Scot McKnight suggests understanding the Bible as a grand story made up of little stories. Further, he recommends that our listening to the text is crucial in helping us discern its meaning. This is a terrific read for anyone, whether a seasoned reader of the Bible or a beginner.
Everything Must Change, by Brian McLaren
What could change if Jesus redefined the desires of his followers’ hearts? What could change if the compelling movement of Christ moved beyond individual hearts and began to challenge societal and global dysfunction? What if God’s people were so compelled by the love of Christ that they were willing to put themselves at risk to bring healing to a broken world? That would be some very Good News indeed. In this book, Brian McLaren explores the holistic, missional, and intensely hopeful nature of Christianity.
Faith and Doubt, by John Ortberg
We tend to divide life into what can be seen and what can’t be seen, what we can know and what we can’t be sure of. Doubt is part of what it means to be a human. If we wait for it to be removed, we’ll never actually live. We all live by faith. Every one of us has certain core convictions about how the world works, and Jesus is interested in transforming our core convictions. Jesus is interested in people living life abundantly. Life abundant means full commitment even when there isn’t full certainty. This is faith. It’s trusting Jesus with everything. It’s trusting that our lives are being poured out for something greater than ourselves.
The Selfless Way of Christ: Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life, by Henri Nouwen
The way of Christ is a counter-intuitive and paradoxical journey of transformation. In this short book, Henri Nouwen explores the downward path of Jesus in a world consumed with upward mobility. Jesus invites his followers on this downward path of self-emptying service and love.
How Children Raise Parents: The Art of Listening to Your Family, by Dan B. Allender
There are very few things that will grow a person into spiritual maturity like the experience of parenting. Allender invites parents to grow closer to their families by letting go of the pressure that parents put on themselves to always do the right things. Instead, what if parents could learn to interact with the failures, dilemmas, and rigors of childhood as invaluable lessons to be received, rather than paralyzing experiences to be dreaded and avoided?
Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller
Jazz can be an ambiguous form of music that often doesn’t resolve. It lingers and meanders. Faith can be, and often is, the same way. As Miller explores the complexities of faith in God in a broken world, he addresses the frustrations and pockets of great beauty that we find. In addressing broad topics such as Belief, Money, Church, Worship, and Romance, Miller speaks to everyone seeking to follow Jesus. This book is 256 pages in length, reads quickly, and is sure to spark good discussion.
Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life, by Shauna Niequist
Faith has a lot to do with seeing the world with new eyes or as Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote, having “Eyes remade for wonder”. In this short book of essays, Niequist explores the wonders and complexities of everyday life. This short book is an easy read and is full of compelling stories, intriguing questions, and is a beautiful reminder that life is a journey and that celebration is vital to living well.
Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile, by Rob Bell and Don Golden
This is a book about theology and understanding the “ultimate truths of the universe” as they are laid out in the stories of the Scriptures. In particular, this is a book about reading the Bible from a New Exodus perspective—viewing the Exodus story as a key to understanding what the Bible has to say about God’s people joining him in the work of redemption, here and now.
Life of the Beloved, by Henri Nouwen
In an open letter to a friend, Nouwen focuses his writing on our identity in Christ. You are God’s beloved. Our lives are fragmented at times, but the way in which God regards us does not change. If there is breath in your lungs, you are His beloved. This book is 120 pages in length and easy to read.
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, by Peter Scazzero
Becoming more like Jesus is a journey. In Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Pastor Peter Scazzero writes about waking up to our immaturity and unhealthiness and journeying toward a mature life in Jesus. Scazzero does more than talk about the journey. He offers some very practical ideas about living a life of spiritual discipline and practice. This book is 210 pages in length.
Having transitioned from advertising to pastoral ministry, Shane Hipps knows firsthand how media shapes people. In his short book The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture, Shane discusses how media shapes culture and more specifically how it shapes the church.
Sex God, by Rob Bell
Sexuality is spiritual. It’s connected to God. It’s connected to heaven. Sex God is a look at the complexity of human sexuality that also tells the story of a God who becomes human and humans who are made in the image of God. We’re never meant to separate the individual from the image of God. This book is 201 pages in length and is a very accessible and thought provoking read.
Real Sex, by Lauren Winner
We live in a sexually saturated culture. We are confronted with questions of sexuality nearly everywhere we turn. By looking honestly at the questions a sexual culture forces a Christian to ask, Lauren Winner offers some very helpful and thought provoking reflections. Whether addressing cultural lies about sex or married sex, Real Sex will challenge you to think deeply about what it means to follow Jesus in a sexually saturated culture. This book is 192 pages in length.
Velvet Elvis, by Rob Bell
Following Jesus brings with it all kinds of questions and challenges. We need to ask our questions. We need to wrestle with our faith. Faith isn’t something to take lightly, and God has room for our questions. Rob does just that in Velvet Elvis. The book is 208 pages in length and reads very quickly because of the conversational style in which it is written.
The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life, by Tony Jones
The other side of being a disciple is discipline. As followers of Jesus, we must cultivate practices and space in our lives in which we can hear from God. Spiritual disciplines and practices are concentrated efforts to do just that. In this book, Tony Jones addresses the human longing for connection with God and explores sixteen different spiritual practices. This book is 224 pages in length.
Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life, by Dr. Bob Lupton
With 35 years of experience in community development and many compelling stories, Dr. Lupton invites us to think hard about what it means to serve and build community by building relationships. Everyone has something to contribute to the restoration of all things. Dr. Lupton’s book is a hopeful challenge to rethink how we serve. This book is 139 pages in length and very reader friendly.
Simply Christian, by N.T. Wright
Few writers are able to convey the Narrative of Scripture as simply and as powerfully as N.T. Wright has in Simply Christian. Wright tells the story of the Bible discussing justice, heaven, God, Israel, Jesus, the Spirit, and what it might look like to join the story. In very clear and readable language, the book articulates an overview of the Christian perspective. This book is 256 pages in length.
The Irresistible Revolution, by Shane Claiborne
As followers of Jesus, we are being constantly invited into an entirely new way of being in the world. Most of us long to be active participants in the restoration of all things but aren’t quite sure what that looks like. In The Irresistible Revolution Shane talks about what it means to be an ordinary radical and to join God in the restoration of all things. This book is 368 pages in length. It is a very easy read; accessible and humorous.
The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Henri Nouwen
The writings of Henri Nouwen are some of the best guides on the inward journey. The Return of the Prodigal Son is a detailed look at Jesus’ parable of two lost sons and one father. Inspired by Rembrandt’s painting, Nouwen invites us to find ourselves in all the characters of the story: a son in need of return, a son who never left but desperately needs to return, and a father whose love is unthinkable. This is short book of 160 pages.
The Least of These, DVD short film, by Rik Swartzwelder
Based on a true story from the life of Tony Campolo, this short film captures the isolated life of a diner owner and the dull routine of diner regulars. A stranger to the diner dares to imagine that things can be different and lives out the good news of Jesus in a peculiar way. Bonus features include master storyteller Tony Campolo telling stories. The Least of These is a brilliant short film that has won numerous awards and is sure to spark good conversation about what it means to live the way of Jesus in a world not interested in hearing. This film can be purchased online at amazon.com or other distributors.
Intersect | Culture, DVD and Curriculum by Andy Crouch, The Christian Vision Project
We are shaped by culture in endless ways. Yet God’s story has always been about freeing people from a culture of despair and awakening their imagination to the ways in which God partners with them for the redemption of all things. We are not simply consumers. We are created in the image of a God who is a creator and a shaper. This six-session DVD and corresponding curriculum is designed for House Churches to experience and envision how followers of Jesus can be a counter-culture for the good of the world. To view a video trailer or sample curriculum please visit christianvisionproject.com/dvd-2006.html.
Faith Lessons DVD, by Ray VanderLaan
The Faith Lessons DVD series is filmed on site in Israel and Turkey exploring the historical and cultural meaning of the Bible. Teacher Ray VanderLaan explains how the message of Jesus was understood during his lifetime and how it continues to carry meaning now. Each Faith Lessons DVD contains between five and ten twenty minute sessions. In addition, a discovery guide containing topics for discussion, questions for reflection, and other study resources can be purchased for each DVD. Faith Lessons DVDs.
Nooma DVDs, by Rob Bell
Noomas are short films that capture the complexity and wonder of what it means to look to God for hope in a broken world. The films are short and thought provoking and each is accompanied by a discussion guide. You can find noomas at nooma.com
Living Faith: Exploring the Essentials of Christianity, DVD, by N.T. Wright.
Covering a broad range of topics, N.T. Wright seeks to provide an accessible overview of the Christian faith. This series can be purchased as a multimedia package that includes a ten session DVD, a participant’s guide, a leader’s guide, as well as a handbook of the Christian faith.
Painting Revelation, DVD, by Debby Topliff
Copyright 2006-2007, Fireflylife
Painting Revelation is a visual artistic journey through the book of Revelation. The 44-minute DVD presents the narrative arc of John’s vision while you watch an artistic portrayal of the content. The DVD includes worksheets, charts, and a comprehensive leader’s guide for those who want to dig into the text—or discussion starters to deepen your small group interaction. It can be watched in one sitting or more. This is a painless way to acquaint yourselves with this complex yet timely book. Visit paintingrevelation.com.
A Deeper Sheet includes a short summary of a Sunday teaching, a suggested reading or readings from Scripture, and a series of questions that offer ways to put a teaching into practice. These questions can be used to prompt discussion in groups or to guide individual reflection. The following are PDF downloads of past Deeper Sheets.
- Facing [9.06.09]
- He’s Sweet I Know [8.30.09]
- Longing For Rest [8.23.09]
- The Importance Of Beginning In The Beginning [8.16.09]
- Eating As A Sacred Obligation [8.09.09]
- The Christ In The Common [8.02.09]
- Why To Sing [7.26.09]
- Yahdah, Yahdah, Yahdah [7.19.09]
- A Gentle Stillness [7.12.09]
- Fasting And Feasting [7.05.09]
- It Stops Here! [6.28.09]
- Tortured By Books [6.21.09]
- Drop The Jawbone [6.14.09]
- The People In The Chairs [6.07.09]
- Bound Together [5.31.09]
- Embodied [5.17.09]
- A Violent Wind, Tongues of Fire, And Other Common Occurrences [5.10.09]
- A Treasure We Don’t Understand [5.3.09]
- Everything I Have Said To You [4.26.09]
- It Wants Us To Swim [4.19.09]
- A Life That Shines [2.15.09]
- 10 Years [2.8.09]
- Light and Skin and Soul [2.1.09]
- Dwelling, Glory, Grace and Truth [1.25.09]
- Like a Child [1.18.09]
- In the Beginning Part II [1.11.09]
- Logos – John 1v1 [01.04.09]
- Jesus and Children [08.24.08]
- Which Story Do We Live In? [08.17.08]
- Jesus and Prayer [08.10.08]
- Jesus and Salvation [08.03.08]
- Re-Ligio [07.27.08]
- Jesus the wonder-working sideshow [07.20.08]
- Isaiah and the Mission of the Church [07.13.08]
- Redefining Hope [07.06.08]
- Ancient Disciplines for the Church [06.29.08]
- The Wind of God [06.08.08]