In general, these books are recommended for adults who work with youth more than for youth themselves.  Some portions of the books may be suitable for direct use with youth.

Why Jesus Crossed the Road: Following the Unconventional Travel Itinerary of Jesus, Bruce Main

If you are looking for a resource to help answer the question “Why Mission?”  The book “Why Jesus Crossed the Road” is excellent. The book discusses the importance of getting out of our comfortable spaces in order to listen and learn from others.  In the first section of his book, Main, the author, discusses the Transformational Learning Theory by Jack Mezirow and the process which can lead to real and lasting transformation. In the second section, he breaks down social justice issues and how when we cross the road and engage with others who are unlike us, we create an opportunity for real change.  In the third section he discusses the roadblocks to crossing the road and how we can move through those obstacles. In the fourth and last section, he shares stories of lasting transformation.  

Throughout each section the writer lifts up Biblical examples of the ways that Jesus crossed the road; the social, religious, cultural, economic, and gender boundaries Jesus crossed in order to hear the voice of another. These examples are helpful for answering the question “Why Mission?”  This is an easy read and can be a great resource as we seek to follow the life and teachings of Jesus. 

iGen, Jean M Twenge

A portrait of the newest generation, born after 1995. Dr. Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, examines the traits and trends of young people today and discusses how they relate to the world around them.  They have surprising attitudes toward religion, sexuality and politics. It’s a must read for those involved in youth ministry as we consider ways to connect with young people in our churches.

Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World: Finding Hope in an Age of Despair, Otis Moss III  (for preacher types)

A collection of lectures and sermon transcripts from Rev. Otis Moss III, pastor of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ.  He discusses the need for a “blues sensibility” in preaching, recognizing the pain of social injustices present in our land, particularly among African-Americans, while also holding up the power of the gospel to bring about God’s kingdom of peace and justice.  The book provides a great backdrop by which to approach issues of social justice with young people.

God of the Oppressed, James H Cone

An in depth discussion of Black Theology (Liberation) by Dr. James H. Cone, who served as a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York.  He weaves the experience of African Americans from time of slavery forward and the narrative of Scripture, concluding that God’s focus is on the liberation of the oppressed.  He then contrasts this to white European theologies, which, in his view, seem focused on the philosophical and on maintaining the status quo.

Faith In The Face of Empire, Mitri Raheb

A correlation of the story of Jesus in Scripture, a Palestinian Jew living in the Holy Land occupied by the Roman Empire, with the present situation of Palestinians living under occupation in the Holy Land.  Mitri Raheb is President of Dar al Kalim University in Bethlehem.

So You Want to Talk About Race? Ijeoma Oluo

A best selling book discussing a wide variety of topics regarding race, including white privilege, cultural appropriation, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter movement.  Many have found this to be the most straight-forward and helpful book on issues of race in America.

Dear White Christians, Dr. Jennifer Harvey

Raising White Kids, Dr Jennifer Harvey

Doing Good Is Simple   Chris Marlow

My Name is Child of God… Not “Those People”: A First Person Look at Poverty, Julia Dinsmore

Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World, Elexia Salvatierra & Peter Heltzel


I Am

This is a documentary film by Tom Shadyac, who directed several comedy films such as Bruce Almighty, Ace Ventura, and The Nutty Professor.  In the film, Shadyac reflects on his life, and after a near death experience, decides to go on a quest to understand what makes us human and what our responsibilities are to one another.  There are a number of great interviews in the film, including Bishop Desmond Tutu, a leader in the movement to end apartheid in South Africa. Available on Google play, Amazon Video, and iTunes.  (Suitable for middle school and high school groups)

(Pair with Ephesians 4:1-6)

13th (available on Netflix)

This is a documentary film about the history of disproportionate numbers of African-Americans in our nation’s prisons.  It goes back to the institution of slavery and how the passing of the 13th Amendment to the constitution gives a kind of loophole for the continued slave labor situations found currently in our prison system.  Currently on Netflix. (Due to subject matter, it’s probably best suited for high school groups.)

(Pair with Proverbs 28:3-28)

The Hate You Give (currently in theatres)

A film directed by George Tillman Jr.  It is the story of Starr, a teenage African-American girl who is caught between two worlds– the world of her mostly white wealthy private school and the world of her African-American working class neighborhood.  The film does a great job of exploring the nuances of various characters, covering issues like privilege, tokenism, “colorblindness” and more. The film is rated PG-13 and includes some (not graphic) violence such as a shootings, and references to beatings.  There is some mild adult language, and no nudity.  This is a great film to discuss race history and current race issues in America, along with the connection of race to equity.


Reframing Mission Series:  Radical Love & Rebellion– a conversation with Rev. Amy Cantrell

Rev. Bill Buchanan, Executive. Director of Youth Mission Co, interviews Rev. Amy Cantrell, Founder of Beloved Community of Asheville, NC.  Rev. Cantrell discusses her quest to dismantle colonialism in her own heart and mind, starting a ministry with those struggling on the margins that is based on relationships first and programming second, and her theological reflections on her personal experiences of civil disobedience.  

Mission, Justice, and Bible Study with Youth

A discussion by Rev. Bill Buchanan, Executive Director of YMCo, about how we can discuss social justice during regular Bible study with our young people.  (The webinar was given in a series produced by the Presbyterian Youth Workers Association)

Beyond Mission Trips– a postcolonial look at mission with youth

A discussion by Rev. Bill Buchanan, Executive Director of YMCo, looking at the history of mission in the Church, the “echoes of empire” that remain in our mission efforts today, and how to guide youth towards experiencing mission opportunities differently. (The webinar was given in a series by the Presbyterian Youth Workers Association)

Mission and Music:  Tuning the Ears of Youth Towards Justice through American Music

Rev. Bill Buchanan, Executive Director of YMCo, discusses the musical genres of Blues, Jazz, Soul, and Rap, including how they give us insight into America’s history of racial-economic disparity and resiliency.


Youth Mission Co


Scene on Radio:  Seeing White

A 14 episode season by podcaster and documentarian John Biewen, of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.  Biewen, along with regular guest Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika, look into the history of race in Amercia, how it was constructed, and how white supremacy is perpetuated within our institutions.