Andy Blanks and the people at youthministry360.com have come out with an incredible resource for students. The book New: First Steps for New Christ-Followers is really much more than what the straight forward title describes. It is book, it is a journal, it is a helps tool for students to understand the Bible and a launching pad for continued study and growth.
As I first read through the book, I simply viewed this book on the merits of how it would be received by students who had just recently given their lives to Christ. I know my students are pretty cynical and hate being patronized. To tell you the truth, I was kind of expecting a simple how-to book that treated my students like 5th graders. (Sorry Andy) But to my surprise, I found this book to be an engaging and relevant.
One of the things I love about this book is that they layout design is captivating. The color, the images, and the font layout actually draw you in to read the page and push you to the next. This book was made for students with short attention spans. Every page gets right to the point and has clear and simple teaching, directions, questions, and reflections. Andy has found a great balance between keeping his information simple and straightforward without being light in the content.
Besides the superficials of the book, the content is perfect for students. I know that few students read through the 100 page plus books I hand them on being a Christ-follower. If I am lucky, they simply arrive on their shelf with only a handful of pages read. Because the layout is so great, the content is incredibly easy to take and I think will be easy to absorb.
Andy allows for the joys and fears that come with starting out on a Journey with Christ. He doesn't patronize the students while doesn't expect them to know things they should know, but don't. He gives clear guidance on how to read the Bible, how to pray, how to share about this new life, and where to go after they have worked through this book.
This book is a great gift for students who have recently given their lives to Christ. It sets up a daily, 4 week regiment that sets the tone and pace for continued growth and discipleship, and is written and presented in a way that is captivating and engaging.
After I read through this book with my patronizing lenses on with "those" students in mind, I actually came to a surprising conclusion. It would be a mistake to classify this book as simply a tool for bran new Christians. The tools and theology that are presented are things my students, even some of my most solid church kids are sorely lacking.
If we are honest, our students are having less and less biblical background and have little practical help or experience in some of the basics of our faith. It is easy for me to assume they know much more than they do and that their devotional life is much stronger than it is. But the sad truth is that we am simply putting our heads in the sand. (I used the we instead of me so you wouldn't think I am an awful youth worker.)
I am choosing to buy this book for every one of my students and give them away on our first youth group of the fall. I will sell it as a "refresher." But I know that for many of my students it will be brand new material. By using it as a refresher, this book sets the tone and rhythm for spiritual conversations, spiritual disciplines, and spiritual growth. (Can you hook me up with a bulk rate option?)
Andy, thanks again for being a great resource for those of us in the trenches, for making our jobs easier, so we can love students into the kingdom better. This is a great book and thanks for letting me take a look at it.
Don't let the title fool you. And whatever you do, don't think your students are farther down the spiritual maturity road then they really are. This book is a must read for every high school student! And if you are cheap like me, than a must read for a small handful of my favorite students who I will encourage to read and write in pencil so I can collect at the end of the month and give to my second tier students, and repeat until every student as had a chance to read it. :)