Some of my all-time-favorite books related to College Ministry and Leadership.
Let me know in the comments what books you would recommend I read/add to this list. I’m always up for buying new books (and letting them languish on my shelves for years until they get read).

Understanding College Students:

Souls in Transition– Christian Smith

There is no better book out there for understanding this generation of college students. Pretty dry (I love how one commenter on Amazon described it: “Great Scholarship waiting a popularizing”) but incredibly insightful. I couldn’t put it down despite it’s less than accessible writing- the material is that good. Buy the book and skip the technical parts (survey results and charts). In fact, just read the Intro, Chapters 2, 5 and 10. Those chapters are easy to read and worth the price of the book.

Just Do Something – Kevin Deyoung

My favorite kind of book – short and packed with amazing insight. The best book I read in 2009. College is a time of making life-altering decisions. This book gives a very clear and Biblical approach to decision making and the will of God. Absolutely essential reading for anyone in college ministry (or anyone in college).


Made to Stick – Stan and Chip Heath

– Best book I’ve ever read on how to communicate/speak. Amazing book. Must read for anyone who teaches (even in small groups).

The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell

I would recommend anything by Gladwell. Such a great storyteller. But this is the most practical and helpful of his books for ministry.

A little technical (great for data nerds) but very good for learning how to simply portray complex systems and information

The First 90 Days – Michael Watkins

Read this when I first became a Campus Director. Recommended to anyone starting in a new role.


Unfinished Business – Greg Ogden

This book changed how I do college ministry. Though written primarily for pastors of churches, it is a must read book for any ministry. The main idea: the Professionals (us ministers) need to stop doing ministry and start helping the body of Christ operate as it should – a priesthood of believers who are equipped to do the ministry. The main job of the Professionals is to equip the laity, not do ministry themselves.

Christ-Centered Preaching – Bryan Chapell

This one is seminary level but a great introduction to Christ-Centered preaching.

The Reason for God – TIm Keller

Keller does an incredible job at answering the “defeater beliefs” that prevent people from even starting to think about spiritual things. “In a flood of bestsellers by skeptics and atheists…Tim Keller stands out as an effective counterpoint and a defender of the faith. The Reason for God makes a tight, accessible case for reasoned religious belief.”
—Washington Post

The Masterplan of Evangelism – Robert Coleman

I don’t think they would let me stay on staff with Cru if I didn’t list this. A concise look at how Jesus did ministry and a Biblical approach to changing the world thru multiplication.

Sex and Dating:

Passion and Purity – Elisabeth Elliott

Old school. And probably the best book every written on dating


When I Don’t Desire God – John Piper

If you’re like me, you like John Piper (I own more books by him than any other author) and his passion for enjoying Christ above all things. You want to Desire God, but you’re just not there. You don’t always desire Christ above all and you’re not sure how to even start sometimes. Piper (finally) explains “how to go about Desiring God” and not just “you should desire God”. As one reviewer on Amazon put it: “Piper at his best and most practical”. If short on time, just read Ch. 7-10. You’ll be hard pressed to find more compelling chapters on reading God’s word and prayer.

All of Piper’s stuff is available free online here.

Whiter Than Snow – Paul David Tripp

GREAT short Christ-centered devotionals (each day takes only a few minutes to read).


The Shadow of the Almighty – Elisabeth Elliott

My favorite book of all time. Jim Elliott’s life is an example of what God can do through someone completely yielded to Him.

A Severe Mercy – Sheldon Vanauken

The story of an agnostic couple who find Christ through CS Lewis. I’d classify this one as Romance/Biography

photo courtesy of MorBCN via Flickr

  • Just ordered “Made to Stick”…loved another book by those brothers called, “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.” It’s awesome. Those guys are some of my favorite writers. Their research data is so much fun to read!