In this age of technology, we teens tend to spend more time on our devices than with our families or learning about the things that really matter. The books below are a small collection of some of the wonderful, worthwhile books out there. Most are about fascinating missionaries—people who put their all into the work God gave them.
The teen years are the amazing developing years—when we finally decide what we’re going to believe about the world—and as such, we need to make sure that the books we read at that time are worthwhile and upbuilding, as well. While some of these Christian books for teens are for younger teenagers, some are for young adults—and there is so much to learn (and enjoy!) in each one of them.
1. How to Stay Christian in High School | Best for: Age 15 and above
This book is a gem. It discusses some pretty weighty matters, and yet it’s well-written and gripping. Through the stories of different teens in the Bible—Joseph, Daniel, Mary, James and John—Steve Gerali draws powerful lessons on what it means be, think, and behave like a Christian when you’re a teen. I loved how he made the Bible stories so relatable—almost like bringing them into the 21st century, helping us understand why things are the way they are in the Bible. If you’re looking for encouragement, or a helping hand as you navigate the world of teendom (is that a word?), this is a great resource.
2. Mary Slessor: Forward into Calabar | Best for: Ages 10 – 15, Adults
Mary Slessor…the woman who wanted to be a missionary, but when her brother died and she couldn’t go with him she went by herself. First, she practiced at home. For several years she taught a Sunday school class—often bringing in some of the tough children around town to teach. Then she felt the call to go as a missionary by herself—without her brother—and soon she was on her way to Calabar. Through many adventures, much faith, and lots of love, she worked with the African people and helped many come to the truth. This is a great story about a fascinating missionary, and is also a good encouragement to do what you believe you should do—when it’s in line with God’s Word, that is.
3. Star of Light | Best for: Ages 8 – 15 and above
Hamid, a ten-year-old from a poor family, must get his blind two-year-old sister Kinza away from their stepfather, who has decided to sell the girl in order to get rid of her—to him, she is useless. With their mother’s help, he sets off for a city over the mountains where his mother knows a Christian English nurse lives. She had been to the nurse, years ago, when her son was sick. She knew the woman loved everyone and would care for Kinza as if she were her own child. After a difficult journey—and almost being caught—Hamid is able to give Kinza to the nurse. Then the stepfather comes to town and spots Kinza. What will happen now? This is very much a Christian story, with beautiful themes about Jesus woven in. I really enjoy re-reading this book.
4. Twice Freed | Best for: Ages 12 – 15 and above
Onesimus’ one desire since he can remember is to be free—no longer a slave, but a man in his own right. Then, one evening as he and his master are in Ephesus on business, a new voice is heard among the confused hubbub of the worship of the goddess Diana—a man who is teaching about a new God, one who loves and cares for His children. But how can such a thing be? Strangely, his master is drawn to the man—whose name is Paul—and while Onesimus longs to accept the new teaching as well, he can’t forgive those who have wronged him. Can he ever be truly free? Will his hate make his life bitter forever? This masterfully written story of the boy found in the book of Philemon shows the effect hate has on us, and how there is hope in Jesus.
5. Nothing Else Matters | Best for: Age 12 and above, Adults
Lamia’s life has taken an ugly turn when her brother is captured—and then killed by militant Muslims who used to be their friends. With civil war raging all around them, her family must eke out a living as well as they can. As time goes on, her faith in the God of the Bible lessens, and is replaced by anger and hate. Even though redemption is offered to her, can she forgive her enemies—those who killed her mother, brother, and who destroyed their home and family? Although terribly sad, this story also has a blossom of faith among the ashes. It tells the unforgettable story of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, and is a gripping tale of grief and hope.
6. David Livingstone: Africa’s Trailblazer | Best for: Ages 10 – 15, Adults
David Livingstone is an icon of modern missionary history. As a boy in Scotland, he was fascinated in adventure stories, and after coming to the Lord he soon realized he wanted to become a missionary. Eventually making it to Calabar, Africa, he spent some time with the missionaries there and then headed inland on explorations of his own. He married the daughter of Robert Moffat, and together they moved to a mission station he built further inland from the main center.
The travel bug, however, wouldn’t allow him to stay still long, and soon he moved on to other unexplored horizons. His wife eventually went back to England, where she could care better for the children while he was mapping new areas and meeting different needy tribes. David never settled down for proper missionary work, but he did invaluable work in preparation for other missionaries to come evangelize after him. This is a fascinating biography.
7. The Church of the East | Best for: Age 15 and above, Adults
After Rome fell, what happened to the church in the eastern half of the world? Whenever we study church history, we always hear a lot about the western church—how the church councils went, what popes were in office when, how there were schisms in the church, what the main debates of the time were, what groups broke off from the official church, etc. Before I read this book, I had little to no knowledge of what happened to the eastern church after the fall of Constantinople in 1204—although trouble had been brewing between the Roman and Greek churches since before 1000. This book fills in the gap. It tells of the Nestorian movement—which was condemned by a church council in 431—how it spread all over eastern Asia, bringing thousands to the Lord. It also tells of the affect of Roman Catholic priests coming into areas where the Nestorians still held on even in the late 1400s/early 1500s. This is a fascinating book, one that is a must-read if you’re studying church history. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it—even though it is a bit gruesome at times.
8. Cameron Townsend: Good News in Every Language | Best for: Ages 10 – 15, Adults
During World War I, God called Cameron Townsend to go to Guatemala to sell Bibles. Even though he had been enlisted in the army, God miraculously gave him an honorable discharge, and he set off for Guatemala. When he finally arrived, he slowly began to realize that none of the country people could read—or even speak—Spanish! One man he talked to said that his God must not be very great, because He couldn’t speak the native language. This disturbed Cam, and soon he set to work to learn and write down the Indian’s language. Ten years later, he had a completed version of the New Testament. After realizing how much need there was for this kind of thing, he founded the Wycliffe Bible Translators to train other people for the important task of giving the Bible to unreached people groups. The work is still going on today—inspired by a man who was willing to give all to do what his God wanted him to do.
9. Torches of Joy | Best for: Age 10 and above, Adults
In 1960, John and Helen Dekker moved to New Guinea to work among the Dani people. The Dani lived in filthy villages, always fearful of the spirits and each other. John began sharing the gospel with them, and soon a church was organized. Soon, the villages were becoming cleaner, and fear of the spirits was disappearing. Many learned to read, write, and soon the Dani were sending out their own missionaries to neighboring tribes. This is a truly incredible, inspiring story of how God can change an entire culture for their good and His glory.
10. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: In the Midst of Wickedness | Best for: Ages 12 – 15, Adults
When Hitler rose to power, Dietrich Bonhoeffer—a pastor in Germany—feared this spelled the doom of his well-beloved homeland. As Hitler’s influence grew, Dietrich began warning the Germans of what was to come if he wasn’t overthrown. No one seemed to pay attention to him, however, and as the Nazi party became stronger and stronger it soon became very difficult to continue leading a quiet Christian life. Pastors were being targeted by the officials, as they tried to control what they taught their congregations. Dietrich wasn’t one to back down easily, however. He did his best to keep the international Christian community aware of what was going on in Germany—although it was very dangerous work.
After seeing how Hitler was treating his own people and those in the nations that he conquered, Dietrich came to the belief that it would be better to kill him than let him murder more people. He was involved in several unsuccessful assassination attempts, and eventually was imprisoned. Although not a very happy story, this is a fascinating look at World War II from the German perspective, and also a great biography of a famous Christian theologian.
11. Gladys Aylward: No Mountain Too High | Best for: Ages 10 – 15
Gladys Aylward, the woman who influenced Chinese missions almost as much as Hudson Taylor, is brought to life in this biography. Gladys longed to go to China as a missionary, but the mission board decided she was too old to learn Chinese. However, this would not stop her one bit—so she saved her pennies, bought a railroad ticket, and managed to get through the war lines between Russia and China safely. She eventually reached Yangcheng, where she helped an old missionary named Mrs. Lawson run an inn. They worked together for several years, and when Mrs. Lawson died Gladys took over running the inn with the help of a Chinese man. Gladys had many adventures as she helped, healed and witnessed to many people. This is an inspiring story, one that any will enjoy.
12. The Bronze Bow | Best for: Age 10 and above, Adults
Judea, at the time of Christ—Daniel hates what the Romans have done to his country and his family, and is willing to do anything he can to rid the land of them. While living with a local band of rebels, he is able to unleash his hatred at times, but when his grandmother dies he is suddenly burdened with the responsibility of his sister. Forced to move back to the village, Daniel takes up the blacksmith’s trade—after a friend suddenly gives up working to go follow a new teacher named Jesus. Daniel cannot understand the love and joy he senses in this man, and longs for it—but he cannot forgive the Romans, as Jesus tells him he should. Will hate and anger always rule his life? Can he ever find true, lasting joy? This story brings to life the struggles that everyday Jews at the time had. It also shows how beautiful Jesus’ words were to them who accepted Him. Incredibly well written and gripping—not “flat” like other books about the time tend to be—this is a must read if you’re studying Jesus’ life or if you just want an entertaining story (while getting some history on the side, if you prefer!).
13. Within the Palace Gates | Best for: Age 12 and above, Adults
A retelling of the life of Nehemiah—from what we know about him in the book of Nehemiah—Anna P. Siviter has crafted a thrilling story describing the events spoken of in the Bible. Nehemiah, cupbearer to the great king Artaxerxes Longimanus, lives in the Persian capitol Susa with his mother. When his brother—thought to be long dead—appears in the city, Nehemiah learns of the tragic state of the Jewish nation. The walls of Jerusalem are broken down, and raiding bands often sweep through, taking captives and all valuables that they can find. Nehemiah decides he must journey to Jerusalem, and oversee the rebuilding of the city. Meanwhile, his brother Hanani has suffered the loss of his wife and eldest son to raiders, and has come to petition the king to help him get his dear ones back. Will Nehemiah be given permission to go? Will Hanani recover his wife and son—before it’s too late? This story is full of adventure, and brings the Biblical chronicle to life without destroying any facts we know of the time or from the Biblical account. I found it very encouraging to my faith, and really enjoyed the ending.
14. Amy Carmichael: Rescuer of Precious Gems | Best for: Ages 10 – 15, Adults
Amy Carmichael dedicated her life to the service of the Lord, and even through sickness she did her best to help others. When the Lord called her to work for Him as an eighteen-year-old, she had no idea what He wanted her to do. Soon, it became apparent that—for the time being at least—she was to work among the “shawlies”—women who worked in Scotland’s many factories. After several years of productive service, Amy went on to be a missionary in Japan for a time, and then because of poor health she moved to India. Eventually, she founded Dohnavur Fellowship, where she and other Indian Christians took in and cared for many homeless girls. Throughout her many illnesses, she wrote many different books and pamphlets, trying to encourage Christians around the globe. This is a fascinating biography, one that I found very inspirational.
15. Mary Slessor: Missionary Mother | Best for: Ages 12 – 15, Adults
Mary Slessor, missionary to Calabar, Africa, didn’t have a very easy upbringing. Her father was a drunkard, and she, her mother, and her sister had to support their family with what little they could earn in Scotland’s factories. Even though she worked long hours, she did her best to learn what she could, and she helped teach a thriving Sunday School as a young adult. Then God called her to Calabar, and with the blessing of her mother she went. Through her lifetime of ministry to the Africans, she touched many lives and was an inspiration to many more. She never gave up, and always did what she felt was right—even in the face of severe opposition. Many came to the Lord through her witness. This book is a great introduction to her life, one I enjoyed reading.
16. Light from Heaven | Best for: Age 12 and above, Adults
With a father who never wanted children—whose only ambition in life was to make more money—Joseph had a rough upbringing. His mother loved him dearly, and taught him to love and serve the Lord. As the years went by, with his father abusing and belittling him as much as he could, Joseph learned to take all his cares to his Heavenly Father. Then Joseph met and began courting the woman he believed was God’s choice for him. When his father decided he didn’t like the match—and did his best to break up the courtship—Joseph had to learn to forgive. A story of how evil can be turned into a blessing by God, this is an encouraging tale of faith.
Question: What was the title of the last good book you read? What Christian books for teens would you add to this list?