Some things change, some stay the same. Household size is shrinking, people are older when they marry than in previous generations, and increasing numbers of households are headed by single parents. Yet questions about how to get along with a spouse and how to raise well-adjusted children continue to be asked by every generation. “Although often the basic wisdom on any given topic is somewhat timeless, each generation seems to need it delivered in a relatable voice,” says Jeff James, v-p of marketing at Nelson Books.
Real Couples, Real Experience
Many Christian marriage books are written by couples acting as mentors to their readers. Jefferson Bethke, a spoken-word artist and bestselling author (Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough), teams with his wife Alyssa Bethke on Love that Lasts: How We Discovered God’s Better Way for Love, Dating, Marriage, and Sex (Nelson Books, Oct.). Noting that they’ve only been married four years, the popular online personalities, who have a YouTube channel, consulted with 12 well-known couples—such mentors and friends as Craig Groeschel and Amy Groeschel and Willie Robertson and Korie Robertson—to develop a book that anchors a package of resources (including videos, guidebooks and a self-assessment) for couples who want to work on their marriages.
Nelson’s James notes that the marketing campaign will encompass both the traditionally published book and the supplemental self-published products from the Bethkes. “We believe we have a formula that lifts all boats and delivers the greatest value to the reader,” James says, explaining that, since the Bethkes’ self-published works tie into their books with Nelson, the combination should boost sales for both.
Another couple coauthors a book about marriage rooted in their own story of near loss. Fierce Marriage: Radically Pursuing Each Other in Light of Christ’s Relentless Love by Ryan Frederick and Selena Frederick (Baker, Apr. 2018) looks at how their marriage, and faith, changed after Ryan’s serious heart surgery a decade ago. Marketing will harness the couple’s social media presence; they have almost 500,000 fans and followers.
Enter the Ring by D.A. Horton and Elicia Horton (NavPress, Jan. 2018) subverts the traditional symbol of marriage, the wedding ring, with this punny reference to a boxing ring. The authors, married millennials, argue that marriage is a fight for two people to become one and a fight against the marriage-destroying temptations the world offers.
On the subject of fighting, money is one of the most argued-about subjects for couples. Money Problems, Marriage Solutions: 7 Keys to Aligning Your Finances and Uniting Your Hearts by Chuck Bentley and Ann Bentley (Moody, Sept.) offers the expertise of the CEO of Crown Financial Ministries (the financial management ministry founded by the late Larry Burkett) and his wife, Ann, who have been married since 1978. Marketing for the title will get an assist from Crown.
John E. Hinkley, associate publisher on the Gary Chapman Team, says Moody balances the timely and the timeless in keeping its marriage and family life list fresh. (Chapman is the author of the perennially bestselling guide The 5 Love Languages.) Hinkley says, “We are constantly watchful for new approaches to marriage and family, taking into account cultural changes, while seeking to identify practitioner-authors who can communicate ways married couples and parents in today’s world can be more effective.”
Catholic couples can make a retreat to advance their relationships. Dan DeMatte and Amber DeMatte offer a structure for doing so in Three Secrets to Holiness in Marriage: A 33-Day Self-Guided Retreat for Catholic Couples (Ave Maria, Feb. 2018). The DeMattes were featured in the 2006 A&E reality series God or the Girl, in which Dan DeMatte was one of four young men trying to decide whether or not to become a priest.
Although many marriage books are penned by couples reflecting on their own experiences, some take a more pastoral perspective. Aimed at young adult readers, Single Dating Engaged Married by Ben Stuart (Thomas Nelson, Sept.) describes and provides a guide to navigating the relational stages young adults pass through in their 20s. Stuart is on the ministry team at Passion City Church in Atlanta. Marketing and promotion will target Christian college and outlets and media that millennials frequent, including podcasts and social media.
Then Comes Baby
A 2015 Pew survey found that almost a third of parents often or sometimes turn to magazines, books, and websites for parenting advice. For those advice-seekers looking for a Christian take on parenting, new books address a variety of family issues and circumstances.
The Art of Parenting: Aiming Your Child’s Heart toward God by Dennis Rainey and Barbara Rainey (Bethany House, Apr. 2018) draws on the authors’ years of raising their own family of six (“and a bunch of grandchildren,” their bio adds) as well as ministry experience; Dennis Rainey is a cofounder of FamilyLife, an arm of Cru, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ. The film Like Arrows: The Art of Parenting, featuring actor-writer-director Alex Kendrick—a fixture of Christian family films—will be released next spring in conjunction with the book. FamilyLife also will produce and promote a related Art of Parenting curriculum that will include scenes from the film.
The developer of the popular Godly Play religious education curriculum used in many mainline Protestant churches adapts techniques for home use in Stories of God at Home: A Godly Play Approach by Jerome W. Berryman (Church Publishing, Apr. 2018). Berryman shows parents how to use the technique of “storying”—sharing faith stories and traditions—to promote children’s spiritual development. The Godly Play Foundation, which trains teachers in the Montessori-based system, will be involved in promoting the title.
Beyond religious education, parents face the significant question of the all-around best schooling to prepare children for college, work, and life. Popular and prolific psychologist Kevin Leman examines the menu of choices today’s parents have in Education a la Carte (Revell, Sept.). Revell will support this lead title with a national media tour and extensive digital advertising.
Leman has written more than 50 books, so his is a familiar name. His editor Lonnie Hull DuPont says Leman is skillful at keeping his books ever-new. “He stays fresh by being out there in the world, speaking to parents, and listening to his audiences and his readers,” she says. “He’s very receptive regarding what’s bothering parents. He has strong ideas on how to create a loving, strong, and stable household, and yet I marvel how he still manages to stay just hip enough. And he manages to make it fun.”
As Mothers See It
Becoming MomStrong by blogger and podcaster Heidi St. John (Tyndale Momentum, Sept.) encourages Christian mothers to rely on God’s strength as they raise their families.
St. John’s publisher, Ron Beers, notes the challenge from competing information on marriage and parenting readily available on the internet. “Consumers are less willing to part with $15 or $20 when there is so much practical information available for free,” he says. “But someone’s personal story about how they dealt with challenges in their marriage or in raising their kids is always unique and fresh, and so this is what we primarily look for in this category.” The book will have an associated Bible study and journal.
Mom Set Free by Jeannie Cunnion (Howard, Aug.) is intended to take the pressure off mothers to be perfect in their lives and households. “Parenting is not about God relying on us to be perfect for our kids,” Cunnion writes. “Parenting is about us relying on God to captivate our child’s heart despite all of our mistakes.” The book features a foreword by television personality Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Cunnion has also developed a companion Bible study.
For readers trying to create a healthy family life despite growing up in tumultuous circumstances themselves, help may be found in Mending Broken Branches: When God Reclaims Your Dysfunctional Family Tree by Elizabeth Oates (Kregel, Oct.). The book provides space to answer journaling prompts. Oates is cofounder of Project Restoration Ministry, which works with young married couples, and her family includes three biological children, one adopted through foster care, and one child she and her husband are currently fostering. In a similar vein is Family Trees and Olive Branches by Christina Hergenrader (Concordia, Nov.), a Lutheran schoolteacher and married mother of four who has also written a YA novel. Hergenrader writes that “God’s answer to family fallouts is always grace.”
Many books in this niche are written by married coauthors; few are written by mother and child, much less a child in seventh grade. This Child of Faith by Sophronia Scott and her son Tain Gregory (Paraclete, Dec.) focuses on teaching faith to children. They faced a special challenge to that faith: Tain was in a third grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School on the morning of the infamous school shootings. Barnes & Noble has selected the title for nationwide promotion; it will be published for the fifth anniversary of the tragedy.
Dads also have their say. Before You Wake: Life Lessons from a Father to His Children by Erick Erickson (Hachette, Oct.) expands a viral essay the Atlanta radio host and former editor of RedState.com wrote to his children when both he and his wife faced grave medical situations. Erickson includes a total of 10 letters mixing practical and inspirational guidance in this gift book.
The pain of a father’s absence is explored in The Father Effect: Hope and Healing from a Dad’s Absence by John Finch (FaithWords, Oct.), who heads the Father Effect ministry. Finch’s father committed suicide when John was 11; the author has also produced short and feature films on the subject.
A number of parenting books combine ministry and personal perspectives. Raising Passionate Jesus Followers: The Power of Intentional Parenting by Phil Comer and Diane Comer (Zondervan, Mar. 2018) offers insights from the couple who founded Westside: A Jesus Church in Portland, Ore., and dispense advice at faith-based parenting conferences held worldwide. They raised four children, one of whom is pastor-author John Mark Comer (Loveology). A paid digital media campaign will focus on homeschooling and parenting websites.
When children cry out at night, parents might want help understanding their children’s dreams. A charismatic Christian interpretation can be found in A Parents’ Guide to Understanding Children’s Dreams and Nightmares by Texas minister Recie Saunders (Whitaker House, Nov.).
Figuring out how to talk to children about technology and social media use is a relatively new concern for parents, and there are books to help. The Tech Talk: Strategies for Families in a Digital World by clinical psychologist Michael Horne (Our Sunday Visitor, Sept.) gives families strategies for understanding what the digital world offers to kids and for keeping it in balance with other activities.
The teen years offer unique challenges for parents, as their adolescent children become capable of testing limits while they are developing their own separate identities. Set Free to Choose Right: Equipping Today’s Kids to Make Right Moral Choices for Life, by the much-published evangelical Christian author Josh McDowell (Barbour, Feb. 2018) offers guidance on teaching preteens and teens to make good choices. Marketing will include McDowell’s own large subscriber list; he has written more than 100 books, including the classic Evidence That Demands a Verdict.
Understanding Your Teen: Shaping their Character, Facing their Realities by Jim Burns (IVP, Nov.) examines issues teens face today, such as cyberbullying, dating violence, and social media use. Burns is president of HomeWord, a family ministry associated with Azusa Pacific University. He speaks at seminars and conferences around the world, hosts ministry radio broadcasts, and has authored multiple books on family life.
Even when children grow to adulthood, they never stop being children. Relatively few books address the distinct life stage of letting young adult children go. Two that do are Fledge: Launching Your Kids without Losing Your Mind by Brenda L. Yoder (Herald Press, Mar. 2018), who is a counselor, educator, and mother of four. A national marketing campaign is planned; Yoder is active on social media. Preparing, Adjusting, and Loving the Empty Nest by Michele Howe (Hendrickson, Aug.) further plumbs the subject Howe tackled in her previous book, Empty Nest, What’s Next? Writes Howe, “From the inside out, we’re prepping our beloved offspring to jump headlong into life’s myriad of choices without us at their side.”
Not Just for Christians
Just as statistics show changes in family forms, they also testify to a changing American religious landscape, with a larger variety of religions, secularism, and nonreligious spirituality embraced in the culture. In Good Faith: Secular Parenting in a Religious World by Maria Polonchek (Rowman & Littlefield, Aug.) offers guidance and resources for families looking to provide moral formation for their children outside of religious instruction. Raising Resilience: The Wisdom and Science of Happy Families and Thriving Children by Christopher Willard (Sounds True, Oct.) explores Buddhist principles as well as neuroscience research to guide parents in cultivating goodness in their children. And, because kindness is a central teaching of all religions as well as secular character education, How to Raise Kind Kids by Thomas Lickona (Penguin, Apr. 2018) might make sense to many parents. Lickona is a developmental psychologist and founding president of the Association for Moral Education.