Book Review: So The Next Generation Will Know: Preparing Young Christians for a Challenging World by Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace
(Guest post by Teasi Cannon)
I like to start a non-fiction book by identifying the promise it makes. In other words, what does it pledge I’ll walk away with by the time I turn the last page? I do this for a couple of reasons: first, it helps me decide whether it belongs on my dresser stack (books I’ll get to sometime this year) or my coffee table stack (books I want to read now); and second, to see if the author (s) actually make good on that promise.
I’m pleased to report… So the Next Generation Will Know: Preparing Young Christians for a Challenging World (David C. Cook, May 2019) by authors Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace made it to the coffee table (very top of the stack) and passed the fulfilled-promise test with flying colors.
The book is written with the following audience in mind: parents, youth workers, Christian educators, and people who love young people. Since I’ve been all four (at times simultaneously), I paid close attention to the book’s promise: To show readers how (with practical advice) to teach the truth of Christianity to the next generation, given the special challenges they face and their unique identity.
I read the book in two days. It’s that good. And even though feelings are subjective and not always the best litmus test for a book’s reliability…I have to say I felt SO encouraged when I turned the last page. This is HUGE because it would have been easy for a book of this nature—claiming to prepare me for something so daunting—to leave me feeling ignorant for what I don’t know or shamed for what I’m not doing.
A quick glance through the table of contents should put all readers at ease. Every chapter starts with the word love. In fact, the entire book springboards off Jesus’ words in John 15:13. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
We are reminded from the book’s start that the next generation needs our sacrificial love, which means they need us to do whatever it takes to make sure they know and embrace the truth. So many of us are ready to rise to the occasion, but don’t know where to start. And that’s where this book comes to the rescue.
The practical tips are actually…practical. I can’t tell you how many times—especially as an educator—I’m immensely underwhelmed by the “suggested learning activities” I’ve found in books, including teacher manuals. But I experienced not a single eye-rolling moment while reading the suggestions in So the Next Generation Will Know. In fact, they made me want to grab some neighbor kids and get started immediately.
As a mom, I found the practical tips for parents meaningful, not nerdy, affordable, and easily assimilated into a normal (meaning crazy and unpredictable) life with normal (meaning sometimes preoccupied or confused) teens. I also felt lovingly encouraged to put my own oxygen mask on first before expecting to help my children. In other words, the best teacher is a humble, life-long learner.
As a Christian educator, I found the tips easily applied to real classrooms, using nearly any scope and sequence including cross-curricular opportunities. There are very clear guidelines and thorough suggestions with easily accessed resources. I was thrilled that the authors address something that always broke my heart: student apathy. A sobering observation I made several times when teaching Bible to Christian students was that it seemed faith conversations had become white noise to some of them. I often took this as a personal failure, which the authors both admit to, as well. I LOVE that this book hits this challenge head on and offers suggestions regarding how to stay encouraged as educators and to love apathetic students well.
As a youth worker, I found the tips challenging and encouraging. The authors have both worked with youth extensively as educators and ministers. They speak honestly about their own mistakes, which is disarming, but they also provide a much-needed nudge to make youth group time more about relationships and truth than pizza and fun. The book is loaded with practical suggestions that…again…are not cheesy (pizza on the brain now) and will work. Included are step-by-step suggestions for how to turn youth camps into truly life-changing experiences that lead to well-tested and action-packed faith.
As a person who loves youth, I left the book feeling even more love for them. The authors do an incredible job of using current data and personal experience to help readers understand the unique challenges Gen Z (the youngest and largest generation in America born between 2000-2015) faces today. Warning: you will feel a sudden urge to hug the next teen you see after reading Part One.
I remember an irritated teenage me telling my parents, “You just don’t get it…things are different now than when you were my age.” I don’t think they agreed back then. But the adult me sure does believe it for today’s teens. Things are exponentially harder and different for them than when I was their age and understanding this is essential to loving them.
Though their challenges are unique, this book reminds readers of what all ages have in common…our needs: unconditional love, purpose, security, affirmation…and truth. The Truth. Thankfully, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
I will be recommending this book to every parent, educator, and youth worker I know. It’s the perfect summer (or any time) read for anyone who loves teens.