5 Bible Reference Books for Youth Ministry

Posted on November 21, 2011


In my Adult Bible Fellowship, we are going through a series on how to study the Bible. This past Sunday, we took a look at some of the extra-biblical reference material out there. I brought out some of my resources that are designed for a more general audience. For most people in the ABF, these tools were foreign to them; they were used to studying the Bible without any reference material.

While I believe it is important to read the Bible by itself – and letting the Holy Spirit speak through the text – it is important to use biblical references when studying the Bible – especially when prepping for a sermon or youth group lesson. With that in mind, I decided to highlight 5 Bible Reference Books for Youth Ministry. These are books that would help any student, small group leader, lay leader, and youth worker in their Bible study and lesson prep. One note: all these resources are physical books. While I use electronic tools like Logos for the majority of my sermon & lesson prep, not everyone has access to or the finances for these tools.

5 Bible Reference Books for Youth Ministry

Ryken's Bible HandbookRyken’s Bible Handbook by Leland Ryken

This book is a great introduction to the Bible. In it, Leland Ryken – English professor at Wheaton – provides an overview of each book of the Bible: how each book is structured, key factors in each book, and how the books interact with one another. What sets this Bible Handbook apart from others is the literary focus; Ryken carefully notes how each book of the Bible is a literary unit by itself, along with serving as a component of the literary whole (Bible). I still refer to this book constantly.

NIV Compact Bible Commentary by John Sailhamer

While not an exhaustive commentary, this small book provides a significant amount of insight on the Bible. Written by a top scholar, this book uses the NIV (1984) for it’s textual basis, but can easily be used by someone working with most modern English translations. This is the commentary I recommend to students, lay leaders, and anyone interested in studying the Bible while not breaking the bank.

HarperCollins Concise Atlas of the Bible

Atlases help bring the biblical narratives to life. With an atlas, you can trace the route a patriarch traveled, follow Joshua’s Promised Land campaign, and see where Jesus preached and healed people. In the Concise Atlas, the maps are accompanied by tons of references and commentary. This is an older atlas that I used for college; I am sure that some of the newer atlases are even better at making the biblical narrative more tangible.

Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible

Just like Bible atlases, this book on biblical manners and customs helps put flesh on the biblical narrative. The Bible contains references to customs and traditions that are foreign to us here in the 21st century. This book provides accurate and detailed explanations of the biblical customs, as well as the background behind the customs. This is a very useful guide that will help you better explain a passage for your students.

Doctrine by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears

Systematic theology books can be some of the driest and most boring biblical reference books out there. I love theology, and yet I cannot always handle some systematic theology books out there. What is great about the book Doctrine by Driscoll and Breshears is it provides a concise look at theological truths. The book covers all the major points found in all systematic theologies. It does not overwhelm the reader with discussing the minutiae of every theological argument, but it does dive deep enough for most students, lay leaders, and youth pastors. Given the authors’ background, Doctrine makes Reformed theology accessible to a general audience.

Honorable Mention

ESV Study Bible

Even though this post is devoted to extra-biblical reference materials, I had to make an exception for the fine notes and references found in the ESV Study Bible. This Study Bible contains a good combination of all 5 reference books described above. Some of the reference material is found below or in-line with the biblical text; the bulk is found at the back, after the New Testament. This is a very valuable reference tool that will help you Bible study and lesson prep become more profitable.

Question: What helpful Bible Reference Book am I missing?

[Disclosure: the above post contains Amazon affiliate links]

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