I really wanted to like "The Jesus Creed for Students" but...

As part of a class that I took called “Christological Foundations”, I read Scot McKnight’s “The Jesus Creed.” As with other Scot McKnight books that I’ve read, I devoured it, finding it to be a fresh, thoughtful look at faith, and specifically, at Christ.

For this reason, I was excited about the recent release of “The Jesus Creed for Students” by Scot McKnight, Chris Folmsbee, and Syler Thomas. Because I thoroughly enjoyed “The Jesus Creed,” I anticipated loving the student edition.

In actuality, I struggled with this book because of its inability to engage me. Despite the fact that I love to read, I found it challenging to get through this 100 page book. (I’m pretty sure that I read the 300 page “Jesus Creed” in about half the time it took me to read the student edition of it.) Though this book contains nuggets of truth well worth exploring like “The Jesus Creed, to love God and to love others, is the footing on which the kingdom of heaven comes to earth,” (29) I think the average teenager would struggle to stay engaged long enough to find them.

Even if they did somehow stumble upon them, I’m not sure that most evangelical teenagers would know what to make of these ideas or how to process them, especially considering this book definitely gives the impression that it’s designed for individual consumption as opposed to group discussion. This, despite the fact that each chapter contains a variety of thought-provoking questions within it that could easily be adapted for group discussion.

Another thing I struggled with in reading this book is its intended age group. According to the book’s back cover, it’s “essential Christian formation for anyone between 16 and 22.” Without a doubt, this book would fail to engage anyone younger than 16. However, I struggle with why I would give this book to a college student – someone between the ages of 18 – 22. I would rather give this age group an actual version of “The Jesus Creed”. It’s fully within their ability to comprehend it and they would benefit far more from this well-written, challenging book than from a watered down version of it that I suspect they’d also find insulting thanks to the book’s illustrations and length.

Despite these flaws, the book’s strength is the freshness with which it approaches more traditional things. For example, I found the strongest chapter in the book to be Chapter 5: The Lord’s Prayer. As someone who serves in a mainline denomination in which this prayer is said every week, I enjoyed this chapter’s exploration of this prayer and the author’s reminder that “Jesus doesn’t want us to repeat the Lord’s Prayer mindlessly but to use the Lord’s Prayer mindfully.” (40)

So – would I recommend this book?

Let’s put it this way. Prior to reading it, I had hoped to use it for discussion with my Student Leadership Team. I’m no longer planning on doing so.

That said, I’m not prepared to chuck this book either. It just might prove useful for a very narrow range of upperclassmen high school students who love to read and are willing to work through a book about Jesus with a mentor who can help them digest the gems found buried within it.

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

Based on National Research

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