The number of parenting books available, secular and Christian, is quite impressive. More are being published every year; only two weeks into February and this is my second review on a book about parenting. The number of available books is indicative of just how challenging the role of parents is. The Gospel Coalition editor, Joe Carter, enters the discipline with his own parenting book, The Life and Faith Field Guide for Parents.
The title is a bit striking, because it sounds like a how-to manual. In many aspects, that is exactly what it is. Carter takes his cue from the Boy Scouts as he puts together this handbook. While the title indicates parents, he writes to anyone who has influence on a child by developing a list of 50 cores skills that every child needs to learn from their parents. This is not an exhaustive list but meant to be a foundational list to help develop later skills. Those 50 skills, and thus 50 chapters, are organized into the following 10 categories:
- Bible Engagement (Chapters 1-12)
- Interacting with God (Chapters 14-17)
- Interacting with Others (Chapters 18-21)
- Discernment & Decisions Making (Chapters 22-25)
- Mental & Physical Health (Chapters 26-30)
- Character Development (Chapters 31-34)
- Engaging the Culture (Chapters 35-38)
- Learning (Chapters 39-42)
- Managing Conflict (Chapters 43-46)
- Evangelism (Chapters 47-50)
The amount of information that Carter fits into this book is quite incredible.
Admittedly, the information is incredibly overwhelming, and no doubt, readers will look at it and think, I don’t even know a lot of this myself. As a result, the book offers good refreshers and development for Christians in general, even if it is oriented towards parents. As an example, in the chapters on Bible engagement, the author does an overview of topics to be covered with children so that they have a good foundation, which include weights and measures, the Jewish calendar, and the geography of Israel.
However, the author’s presentation of the material makes it manageable. The format of each chapter is simplistic as he talks about the topic being addressed and then ends with tips in order to help children. Those tips are not only practical, but he does not make it complicated. Such organization leaves readers with the mindset of, “Yes, this is a lot of information, but I can do this.”
The biggest importance is the Carter is biblically-oriented. He does much to emphasize that the priority is God and the relationship with him. To prove this, note how large the chapter on Bible engagement is, which in terms of content accounts for 27% of the book! If you add to that the section of interacting with God and that number goes up significantly.
Interestingly, the quality of the book goes down the further one gets into it. This does not mean that the content is less biblical or less practical. There is still much to learn from it. However, it seems as though the later chapters were more rushed than the first and so much was left unsaid or emphases were not made that could have been. I lament also that in later chapters he relies more on secular psychology than I personally care for. He does not lay down his biblical fidelity or the motivation of being oriented towards God. However, he incorporates a lot of stats and then constructs certain information around that, despite the flaws of much of the psychological information of today (and no, I’m not trying to discredit the whole industry, but do want to make sure we see its flaws when we look that direction).
Joe Carter has put together a great book and it’s a great resource for parents. Readers should know that this is not a book about cultivating a heart towards God, but rather, is about the knowledge, lessons, habits, and skills that parents should be teaching their children (some of which may cause them to be more inclined towards God). The book is well-researched with lots of helpful information. After completing the book, I was left with an interesting thought: I would be curious to see the final product of a collaboration between Joe Carter and Ben Sasse because I suspect that a combination of their wisdom would yield something incredible for our society (whether it be a book, teaching, TED talk, or another media form). The end result is that this is a book that has much to offer.
To purchase a copy of “The Life and Faith Field Guide for Parents” by Joe Carter, click here.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost to me for the purposes of review. However, my review was not influenced by the author, publisher, or anyone else associated with this book and is the result of my own reading of it.