It’s an understudied and underexplored area, but there are some significant recent books on ministry with young adults that are really worth checking out. These are my top three recommendations.

1. Changing Shape: The Faith Lives of Millennials (2020: SCM Press)

Ruth Perrin is an outstanding thought leader in this area. She brings a distinctive balance of high level academic insight and years of experience as a practitioner working with students and young adults in a local church context.

What you get from Ruth’s book is an extensive commentary on the culture of millennials and an authentic feel for what it is like to grow up as a young adult in 21st-century Britain. It is worth reading for this analysis alone, but Ruth then takes us further with some insightful research into three broad categories of millennials with varying relationships with faith and church. You cannot help but be encouraged by reading about those whose faith is thriving, but in equal measure, the stories of those who have walked away are harrowing. I wept as I read them.


Changing Shape is heartbreaking and hopeful, perceptive and practical. The section at the end, What do you want church leaders to hear?” should be part of formational training at every UK theological college. If 7 Conversations has got your brain whirring on this subject, this book is a perfect next step.

2. The XYZ of Discipleship (2020: MD Publishing)

Nick and Marjorie Allan are leaders of The Well, a church in Sheffield, and their brilliant book is crammed full of the wisdom they have gleaned in 25 years of church leadership. There are important insights into the world of this generation, but the main reason to read this book is to spend a few hours listening to these pioneering and gifted leaders explore how they have created a culture in their church that nurtures disciples and builds community.

The XYZ of Discipleship grapples with some big issues: identity, community, truth and tolerance. It begins by sensitively exploring their impact on the lives of this generation. But then it pulls no punches in exposing the fallacies in many contemporary worldviews, when held up to biblical values. These themes are then reinforced with case studies, featuring real life examples written first-hand by young adults. The book finishes with a flourish with some deeply practical and cutting-edge suggestions of what the church of the future must look like if we are to engage and reach younger generations.

Nick and Marjorie are the real deal. I’ve witnessed first hand their work and ministry and can vouch for the fact that this book is lived out in their lives. Every time you speak to them, there is a story of another young adult who has become a Christian. Their book is for anyone looking for practical advice on how to create a church culture that works for this generation.

3. Faith for Exiles (2019: Baker Books)

In 2011, David Kinnaman wrote You Lost Me, which analysed the depressing reasons why 59 per cent of young adults with a Christian background had dropped out of church involvement. Faith for Exiles is far more hopeful and encouraging. It focuses instead on the characteristics of those who have stuck around in church, and, not only them, but those whose faith is resilient”.

David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock take five practices that they observe in young adults with an active and passionate faith and ask how we might cultivate and encourage these. The backdrop is framed as Digital Babylon”, combining the narrative of exile from the Old Testament with the seismic changes brought about by an online world. The authors expertly inspire us to build up disciples through intimacy with Jesus, cultural discernment, meaningful relationships, vocational discipleship and engagement in countercultural mission.

Despite largely being based on US research and culture, which has its own nuances, there is much for us as UK leaders to learn from and apply. If you are asking what makes faithful disciples in a culture hostile to faith, this is a superb overview.

This blog is part of 7 Conversations, a suite of interactive, integrated resources for leaders in local settings seeking to understand young adults and bring them into a rock-solid relationship with Jesus.

7 conversations your church needs to have to reach young adults

7 conversations your church needs to have to reach young adults

A suite of resources to help your church reach, engage and disciple 20s and 30s Find out more