Protestant Educators

Picture of Lawrence O. Richards

Lawrence O. Richards (b. 1931) was the most prominent and prolific Christian education writer in evangelical circles during the last half of the Twentieth Century. He has written major works on overall philosophy of Christian education, church renewal, children’s ministry, youth ministry, leadership, ministry of the laity, small groups, spirituality and Bible teaching. A relational understanding of the church serves as a substructure to many of his innovative concepts of ministry.

Biography

Education and Writings

Lawrence (Larry) O. Richards was born September 25, 1931, in Milan, Michigan. His home environment was a positive one, with both parents providing ample affirmation. His father was an elder in the local Presbyterian church, and his mother often verbalized her faith in the home. Richards grew up in the religious education programs of his church, but after junior high school did not give much attention to his religious formation.

From 1949 through 1951, Richards attended Antioch College in Ohio. He had no clear direction and hence left college and served in the Navy from 1951-1955. He was stationed in New York City and, during this time, converted to Christ under the ministry of Donald Grey Barnhouse, one of the great Bible teachers of that era. He described his conversion as a conversion not from unbelief to belief, but rather a conversion to basic biblical Christianity (Downs, 1982, p. 115).

Following this experience Richards became an avid Bible student and formed some of his most basic theological convictions. After his Navy stint he resumed his academic studies at the University of Michigan where, in 1958, he received a B. A. in philosophy. He graduated magna cum laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. During his Michigan years he married Marla Hafner, and they now have three children, Paul, Joy, and Timothy.

His biblical curiosity was far from satisfied when Richards entered Dallas Theological Seminary, whose Th.M. curriculum required four years of Greek and three years of Hebrew, and provided a theological framework taught from a mildly Reformed and decidedly Dispensational viewpoint. His initial interest in Greek studies was turned to Christian education by Dr. Howard Hendricks, who challenged him that knowing biblical content was not sufficient if he could not communicate it adequately. Richards’s study of principles for communicating the Bible progressed through his academic and personal study and formed the basis for many of his future Christian education works. In 1962 Richards was ordained by the non-denominational Grace Bible Church of Dallas, Texas.

After graduating summa cum laude from Dallas Theological Seminary, Richards moved to Wheaton, Illinois, where from 1962-1965 he was an editor of children’s church materials for Scripture Press Publications, a large curriculum house servicing evangelical churches. He was also an Associate Pastor in charge of Christian education at a local church and taught a large Bible class. During this time Richards began to be disillusioned by the educational program of the church, even to the point of taking his children out of Sunday School.

From 1965-1972 Richards was an Assistant Professor of Christian Education in the Wheaton College Graduate School where he also taught New Testament and Old Testament courses. During this time he was also enrolled in Ph.D. studies at the joint program offered by Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. His doctoral studies were in Religious Education and Social Psychology, with an emphasis in research methodologies in education, social psychology, and anthropology. He graduated in 1972, having written a dissertation on the relationship between the home and church educational programs entitled “Pre-evaluation Research on a Home/Church Christian Education Program” (1972). This research provided some of the foundations for his Sunday School PLUS curriculum.

In the summer of 1967, Richards and some of his fellow faculty members of the Wheaton Graduate School Christian Education department went to the school’s summer camp to conduct a seminar entitled “Trends in Education.” It turned out to be a revolutionary turning point in Richards’s career when the results of the seminar were published in the National Association of Evangelicals periodical United Evangelical Action and later in his first book, A New Face for the Church (1970). These works thrust him into the national evangelical spotlight and identified him as an advocate of renewal in the church. Richards (1979) would later write of this renewal movement:

Theologically, the past ten years have been a quiet but deep rethinking of the nature of the church. Stimulated by the attack in the 60’s on the Church as an institution, there has been a growing belief that we must define our educational mission in terms of the nature of the Church as Family and Body. Socialization, not a “schooling” education is the critical task…. Both theological and behavioral science input affirms the importance of the transforming community as the true educator of the Christian. “Talking about the faith” is clearly inadequate; community in every dimension of human potential, is increasingly seen to be the issue. (pp. 29, 31)

In 1972, Richards moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where he embarked upon a career of full-time writing and speaking, in which he remains involved. During the Phoenix years he directed an internship program for seminary students and spent five years developing and testing his Sunday School PLUS curriculum. He also served as an elder at Our Heritage Wesleyan Church in Scottsdale, Arizona, and frequently spoke at conventions as well as conducted seminars and Schools of Ministry at midwestern and western universities. Richards has taught courses at Princeton Theological Seminary, Talbot School of Theology, and in other places in the United States and around the world. He also designed and wrote the courses for a degree completion program offered at the College of Biblical Studies in Houston, Texas.

Richards is the author of some 200 works, some of which have been translated into 24 languages, making him the most prolific of 20th century evangelical Christian educators and probably the most influential evangelical Christian education theorist (Benson, 1984, p. 64). Some of his major works are being reprinted 20 or more years after their original publication date. Richards’s writing career divides into two primary sections. From roughly the mid-60s to the mid-80s of the 20th century, he wrote his major Christian education theoretical works, interspersed with teacher training guidebooks, parenting materials, biblical curriculum, and Bible study guides. From approximately the mid-80s to the present, Richards’s writing has focused more on writing devotional books, Christian life enrichment books, Bible study aids, and study Bibles.

Richards believes that, first and foremost, Christian education is a theological discipline, even though he will buttress his ideas with social science and educational theory insight. This emphasis on the primacy of being biblical and theological aided him in communicating his insights and making them palatable to his largely evangelical audience. For Richards ecclesiology is the most important theological topic, knowing that if the church could function according to a biblical pattern it would function in a renewed pattern. He writes:

Our choice of socialization as an appropriate approximation of the educational strategy to be adopted by Christian education, then, is rooted not in the social sciences, but in theology. It is because of the nature of the Christian faith, and the nature of the church itself, that we focus on modeling as the key method. (Richards, 1975, p. 81)

A couple of Richards’s Christian education theory works deserve special recognition. His Creative Bible Teaching (1970) was one of his earliest book reflecting more traditional evangelical Christian education concerns, namely communicating biblical content effectively. Its “Hook-Book-Look-Took” format for Bible teaching provides a solid template for effective communication of the Bible. It is particularly important because this format became the approach of almost all of the evangelical Sunday school curriculum publishers. A Theology of Christian Education (1975) is Richards’s most important theoretical work. In it he provides the seed ideas that are developed in depth in many of his other major Christian education theory books. Two central ideas dominate the substructure for this book: 1) faith-as-life is a lived-out reality, not simply concepts to be affirmed; and 2) the church is to function as an organism more than an organization based in the biblical concepts of the body of Christ and the family of God. He concludes that a modeling method of faith transmission in Christian community and the home (akin to socialization and social learning theory) is superior to the schooling model (cognitive processing) that was so prevalent in evangelicalism then and today. Both of these works are still in print.

Richards currently resides in Raleigh, N.C., where he and is wife are active members of the North Raleigh United Methodist Church. He serves as general editor for the 20 some volumes in the Bible Smart series (Nelson), of which he wrote the lead volume, The Bible, and also Moses, the Man and his Mission (2008). His Essential Guide to the Bible, to be published by Guideposts, is due for 2009 publication.

One of Richards most exciting projects has been the revision of the NIV Teen Study Bible, which he developed with his wife Sue. This Bible which has been used by over three million teens, has been thoroughly revised for today's young people and was released in July of 2008.

In 2006 and 2007 Richards wrote a series of six novels on The Invisible War, which traces the conflict between angels and demons from Creation to History's end. The third volume in that series, the Blind Prophet, will be published by Tate Publishers in late 2008 or early 2009, with the other volumes to follow. Richards currently communicates through a weblog, www.demondope.com , which tracks and evaluates contemporary occult activities from a biblical perspective.

One additional current project is the development of curriculum for Mentorlink, an international ministry established by Dr. Stacy Rinehart and led by Dr. Rick Sessons that is designed to mentor Christian leaders in the church, NGOs, and marketplace on every continent (see www.Mentorlink.org )


Contributions to Christian Education

Lawrence O. Richards has outlined the most comprehensive theory of Christian education by any evangelical writer of the 20th century. Perhaps this “big picture” perspective is his greatest legacy. His bombshell book on the renewal of the church, A New Face for the Church (1970) was written in the cultural foment of the 60s when there was widespread discontent with the established, institutional church. Richards was able to get a wide-ranging hearing because of his comprehensive perspective. First, he was devoted to Christian education being a theological discipline, which gave him a wide reading with traditional evangelicals; however, he was also conversant with the social science literature and could bring it to bear on church problems within a theological framework. This integrative ability helped him avoid the stigmatic label of being “liberal” in an era when lines were still tightly drawn into liberal and fundamentalist camps. His work was more comprehensive because it was integrative.

Second, his work was comprehensive because he did not envision Christian education as a slice of the church ministry but evaluated the church as an entire educational environment, which either nurtured faith or retarded its development. Most evangelical Christian education writing prior to Richards focused on issues related to Sunday school improvement. This shift for Richards was driven by a number of factors. The first factor was that he saw ecclesiology as the key to understanding Christian nurture. If the church (in its entirety) could functionally be the kind of church described in the New Testament, then it would be the nurturing environment that would produce more vivacious Christians. A second factor driving a more comprehensive view was his modeling-oriented (socialization) theory of Christian learning. All of the interactions in the web of relationships of the church were potentially edifying or damaging for a person’s spiritual growth. Therefore, a quick survey of the table of contents of Richards’s most important book, A Theology of Christian Education (1976) reveals an interest in subjects that had not typically been a part of the evangelical educational vision of the past--subjects such as the centrality of the home, leadership functioning, the pulpit and worship, small groups, and one-on-one strategies of ministry.

Last of all, Richards’s theory of Christian education was comprehensive because he wrote major works on most facets of educational ministry (and, as noted earlier, on facets of ministry not traditionally thought of as being educational). His book, A Theology of Christian Education (1975), sets the agenda and is fleshed out in greater detail in A Theology of Church Leadership (1980), Youth Ministry: Its Renewal in the Local Church (1972), A Theology of Personal Ministry (1981), Children’s Ministry: Nurturing Faith in the Family of God (1983), and A Practical Theology of Spirituality (1987). To date no American evangelical author has produce such voluminous or comprehensive coverage of Christian education theory and practice.

A second major contribution by Richards has been his expansion of evangelical thinking about teaching and learning the faith. When Richards was writing his major theoretical works most evangelicals had a cognitive processing, schooling-oriented, and transmissive approach to learning (and many still do). Verbal transmission of biblical concepts was viewed as the essence of Christian education. Richards has undermined and expanded this viewpoint throughout his writing career. In Creative Bible Teaching (1970), his “Hook-Book-Look-Took” approach, although still working out of a cognitive processing orientation, emphasizes through the “Hook” that interest in the biblical material should not be assumed and that learner needs should be considered, and, through the "Took," that Bible teaching is incomplete until it is applied in life.

In A Theology of Christian Education (1976), Richards asserts that Christian education is concerned with life, the vivification of believers, and a transformation of the total person to be more like the person of Jesus. Content knowledge, even biblical content knowledge, is not an adequate goal for Christian education. Even more radically, within that book Richards would affirm that this new and distinct “life” is best transmitted through a modeling mode more akin to socialization than to schooling. Faith is more often “caught” by seeing the new life demonstrated in relationships in the home or church than it is “taught” in more school-like settings. Last of all Richards emphasizes in his article “Experiencing Reality Together” (1982) that the goal of biblical instruction is not the transmission of information but rather gaining a disciple’s commitment to orient to the reality presented in the Bible and to enter into the experience of that reality. All of these emphases expand the traditional evangelical understanding of Christian education; however, these emphases should not be construed as an indifference to biblical literacy or accuracy by Richards, since the latter portion of his distinguished career has focused on publishing tools that will assist Christians in avoiding “biblical ineptitude.”

A third contribution is that Richards’s writings show a consistent pattern of urging the church to be more relational in its approach to Christian education and ministry. This relational thread running through his writing was discerned during this author’s doctoral research and confirmed in an interview with Richards. The relational emphasis has its ultimate grounding in Richards’s ecclesiology, which stresses the biblical images of the “body of Christ” and the “family of God” and whose practical implications seem to Richards to be most lacking in the modern church. Christians are to be relationally interdependent in the body of Christ and function like a healthy family to functions if it is to be like the New Testament church. This more relational emphasis shows up in a variety of ways in Richards’s ideas about Christian education:

  • Faith-as-life is best transferred by the more relational socialization model than the Sunday school classroom model.
  • The more relational home is a better environment to teach the faith than the church classroom.
  • The highly relational small group is the best environment to learn the faith and thus should be central to the church’s ministry.
  • Church leaders should primarily be doing interpersonal work and interactive communication within the congregation as examples, rather than primarily managing the programs of the church and doing one-way communication in pulpits and classrooms.
  • Decision-making should be by consensus after interactive discussion rather than by vote after minimal dialogue.
  • Ministry is primarily transactional and concerned with right relationships rather than with right programs and structures.
  • Curriculum of the church is not primarily about selecting the right content to convey, but structuring the right kinds of relationships for conveying faith-as-life. All of these concepts and others that could be added to them highlight the decidedly relational cast that Richards envisions for the renewed church.

Richards is prophetic about the church, not in the sense of promoting social justice issues, but in the sense of seeing the future and its issues. For instance his placing small groups at the center of maturing Christian adults and giving the church a more relational than programmatic organizational architecture has been prophetic of the dominance of the small group-based and cell-based churches of the late 20th century and into the 21st century. The current cell-church movement could still learn a few things from Richards. Whereas the cell church movement tends to emphasize groups for fellowship, care, and outreach, Richards would see their greatest impact in terms of learning the faith from one another.

Richards’s concern for leadership being servant leadership among the people seems even more crucial in an era of mega-churches where leadership is often an icon and apt to follow the lead of business models of leadership more than to follow the lead of Scripture. Richards’s promotion of the empowerment of the laity into ministry along the lines of their giftedness and the formation of teams for effective ministry was a neglected idea that has now become commonplace and expected in many churches. Richards’s emphasis on the centrality of the family in the formation of the next generation of Christians was articulated before others considered the American family to be in a crisis and before many of the prominent family ministries began to dot the evangelical landscape. In many of these “prophetic” areas Richards, as a prominent 20th century Christian educator, still has much to say and some fresh insights for Christian educators and leaders in the church of the 21st century.

There are a few areas of caution for those studying Richards. First, Richards has had the privilege of being a researcher and writer without the added duties of pastoral ministry or full-time academic teaching. While this has afforded him the opportunity to bring fresh theoretical insight to church ministry, it also means that he has not personally tried to implement his ideas in church practice. Practitioners of ministry have periodically been critical of his ideas because they have unanticipated consequences when implemented. An example would be Richards’s emphasis on consensus decision-making. When applied it was found that an obstructionist person could derail decision-making indefinitely. Also people became reluctant to share dissenting opinions for fear it would bring the ministry to a halt. These are problems that became evident in practice more than in theory. Richards is a brilliant theorist of Christian education practice, but at times there are limitations to being a theorist.

Second, Richards has a tendency to present ideas in false dichotomies. A false dichotomy is presenting two ideas as polar opposites with an excluded middle when in actuality they may be on a continuum. His use of the word “versus” implies it is necessary to choose one or the other option when there may be elements of both which are biblical and important to maintain in the life of the church. He frequently uses dichotomies such as “Society Churches” versus “Community Churches,” “ Body Leadership” versus “Institutional Leadership,” and “Church as Organism” versus “Church as Organization.” These may be useful as heuristic devices for analysis, but often they lead to “either-or” choices that may distort the reality of church life and ministry.

Third, Richards’s hermeneutical approach jumps directly from biblical theology to issues in the contemporary church. This approach, commonly used by many within the evangelical movement, tends to ignore tradition and much of the careful discussion and development of theology throughout the history of the church. Richards’s approach is particularly amenable to critique of the church and innovation in ministry but may be less discerning for determining when the church has simply accommodated to culture. Perhaps a more historically informed approach might be more sagacious.

Finally, Richards may not address adequately the conserving nature of the socialization process. If socialization and modeling are the primary means by which the church passes on the faith, then the church will tend to pass on its current conceptualization and experience of being the church. Healthy churches will transmit health, and unhealthy churches will transmit diseased and distorted faith. How can a socialization model lead to renewal of weak and unhealthy churches? Perhaps it is the renewing work of the Holy Spirit and the prophetic nature of the Word of God that Richards would invoke for changing such churches. But would such churches change by hearing the Word of God empowered by the Holy Spirit given their cultural and church socialization patterns?

Works cited

  • Benson, W. (1984). Evangelical philosophies of religious education. In M. J. Taylor (Ed.), Changing patterns of religious education (pp. 53-73). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • Downs, P. G. (1982). Christian nurture: A comparative analysis of the theories of Horace Bushnell and Lawrence O. Richards. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, New York University, New York.
  • Richards, L. O. (1987). A practical theology of spirituality. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • Richards, L. O. (1983). Children’s ministry: Nurturing faith in the family of God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • Richards, L. O. (1982). Experiencing Reality Together: Toward the Impossible Dream. In Norma H. Thompson (Ed.), Education and theology. (pp. 198-215). Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press.
  • Richards, L. O. (1981). A theology of personal ministry. (with Gib Martin) Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • Richards, L. O. (1980). A theology of church leadership. (with Clyde Hoeltke) Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • Richards, L. O. (1979). A prophecy (or hope). Religious Education, 74, 29-32.
  • Richards, L. O. (1975). A theology of Christian education. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • Richards, L. O. (1972). Youth ministry: Its renewal in the local church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • Richards, L. O. (1972). Pre-evaluative research on a church/home Christian education program (Doctoral dissertation, Northwestern University, 1972)). Dissertation Abstracts International, 33, 10A, 5575.
  • Richards, L. O. (1970a). A new face for the church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • Richards, L. O. (1970b). Creative Bible teaching. Chicago: Moody. (revised and expanded in 1998)
  • In addition, a handful of doctoral dissertations not cited above could be helpful in understanding the flow of Dr. Richards’ life and thought.
  • Lim, A. Y. (1982). A comparative study of the socialization models of Christian education by John H. Westerhoff III and Lawrence O. Richards. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, New York University, New York.
  • Norton, J. A. (1985). A critical analysis of Lawrence O. Richards’ curriculum beliefs about Christian education in the local church. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, State University of New York at Buffalo.
  • Sell, P. W. (1992). An analysis of the comprehensiveness and coherence of Lawrence O. Richards’ philosophy of Christian education. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa. Unless otherwise cited much of the materials for this biographical sketch has come from phone interviews with Dr. Richards in 1992 and 2002 and from a brief resume provided by Dr. Richards.

Bibliography

Books and Monographs

  • (2002). The KJV kids’ study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (2002). The Richards’ Bible dictionary. Toronto: World Publishers.
  • (2002). The victor Bible background commentary. Wheaton, IL: Chariot Victor.
  • (2001). The Bible for teens: An overview study. Lancaster, PA: Starburst Publications.
  • (2001). Every name of God in the Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  • (2001). Every teaching of Jesus in the Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  • (2001). The illustrated concise Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  • (2000). The NIV adventure Bible. (contributor) Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (Ed.) (2000). Life of Christ. Lancaster, PA: Starburst Publishing.
  • (2000). Men of the Bible. Lancaster, PA: Starburst Publishing.
  • (ed.) (2000). What’s in the Bible for teens. Lancaster, PA: Starburst Publishing.
  • (ed.) (2000). What’s in the Bible for women. Lancaster, PA: Starburst Publishing.
  • (1999). Every man in the Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  • (1999). Every woman in the Bible. (with Sue Richards) Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  • (1999). The global concise Bible dictionary. Toronto: Global Christian Publishers.
  • (1999). The New international encyclopedia of biblical words. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1998). The Bible: God’s word for the biblically inept. Lancaster, PA: Starburst Publishers.
  • (1998). Every covenant and promise in the Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  • (1998). Every good and fallen angel in the Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  • (1998). Every miracle and wonder in the Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  • (1998). Every prayer and petition in the Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  • (1998). First Corinthians: The essentials and nonessentials of Christian living. Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press.
  • (1998). Second Corinthians: God’s way is the best. Nampa: Idaho: Pacific Press Publishers.
  • (1998). The teen study Bible (NIV). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1997). The illustrated Bible handbook. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  • (1996). Forgiveness: The gift that heals and sets free. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  • (1996). Fulfillment: The adventure of a life worth living. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  • (1996). God’s word for girls. Grand Rapids: World Publishing.
  • (1996). Holiness: The blessings of the good life. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  • (1996). Intimacy: The secrets of loving and being loved. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  • (1996). Nelson’s student Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  • (1996). The personal growth study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  • (1994). The Holy Bible (KJV): Kid’s study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1994). The parenting Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1994). The victor Bible background commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  • (1993). Bible difficulties solved: Answers to more than 500 baffling questions fom Genesis to Revelation. New York: Testament Books.
  • (1992). Small group member’s commentary. Colorado Springs: Chariot-Victor.
  • (1991). The Bible reader’s companion. Baltimore, MD: Halo Press.
  • (1991). Talkable Bible stories. Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell.
  • (1991). Zondervan expository dictionary of Bible words. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1990). The applied Bible dictionary. Eastbourne, UK: Kingsway.
  • (1990). The daily devotional commentary. Eastbourne, UK: Kingsway.
  • (1990). The revell Bible dictionary. Old Tappan: NJ: Fleming H. Revell.
  • (1990). The 365-day devotional commentary. Colorado Springs: Chariot-Victor.
  • (1989). Adventures of the kingdom builders. Ventura, CA: Gospel Light.
  • (1989). International children’s Bible handbook. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  • (1989). It couldn’t just happen: Faith building evidences for young people. Dallas: Word.
  • (1989). When life is unfair. Dallas: Word.
  • (1988). Children: The lively learners. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook.
  • (1988). Church leadership: Following the example of Jesus Christ. (with Clyde Hoeldtke) Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1988). Everyday Bible insights. Dallas: Word.
  • (1988). Living in touch with God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1988). Parents: Round-the-clock teachers. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook.
  • (1988). Preschoolers: The huggable learners. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook.
  • (1988). Teachers: Teaching with love. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook.
  • (1988). Teens: Giving youth the grow-ahead. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook.
  • (1988). Wisdom for the graduate. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1987). Creative personal Bible study. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1987). Dictionary of basic Bible truths. Grand Rapids: Lamplighter Books.
  • (1987). Illustrated Bible handbook. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  • (1987). 99 ways to start a group and keep it growing. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1987). A practical theology of spirituality. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1987). Richards’ complete Bible handbook. Dallas: Word.
  • (1987). Spiritual secrets to physical health. (with Paul Johnson) Waco, TX: Word Books.
  • (1987). The teacher’s commentary. Colorado Springs: Chariot-Victor.
  • (1987). When people you trust let you down. Waco, TX: Word Books.
  • (1987). The zondervan dictionary of Christian literacy. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1986). International children’s Bible handbook. Fort Worth: Sweet Publishing.
  • (1986). Personal ministry handbook. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
  • (1986). Tomorrow today. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  • (1985). Expository dictionary of bible words. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1985). When it hurts too much to wait. Carmel, NY: Guideposts.
  • (1984). The believer’s praise book. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1984). The believer’s prayer book. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1984). The Christian man’s promise book. Grand Rapids: Daybreak Books.
  • (1984). The Christian woman’s promise book. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1983). The believer’s guidebook. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1983). Children’s ministry: Nurturing faith in the family of God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1983). Talkable Bible stories. Tarrytown, NY: Fleming H. Revell.
  • (1983). A theology of children’s ministry. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1983). The word parent’s guidebook. Waco, TX: Word Books.
  • (1982). How I can make decisions. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1982). How to understand the Bible without being a seminary student. St. Louis: Bible Memory Association International.
  • (1982). Nurturing my students. (with Marlene LeFever) Elgin, IL: David C. Cook.
  • (1982). Promises for the graduate. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1982). Teaching youth. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.
  • (1982). The word Bible handbook. Waco, TX: Word Books.
  • (1981). Basic Christian values. (with Norm Wakefield) Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1981). First steps for new and used Christians. (with Norm Wakefield) Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1981). Fruit of the spirit. (with Norm Wakefield) Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1981). The good life: A study of Romans 12-16. (with Norm Wakefield) Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1981). Love your neighbor. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1981). Our life together: A woman’s workshop on fellowship. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1981). Remarriage: A healing gift from God. Dallas: Word.
  • (1981). A theology of personal ministry. (with Gib Martin) Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1981). Who can I turn to? (with Paul Johnson) Portland, OR: Multnomah Press.
  • (1980). Comfort. (with Paul Johnson) Portland, OR: Multnomah Press.
  • (1980). Death and the caring community. (with Paul Johnson) Portland, OR: Multnomah Press.
  • (1980). The screwloose lectures: Studies in the ethics of hell. Waco, TX: Word Books.
  • (1980). A theology of church leadership. (with Clyde Hoeltke) Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1979). How far can I go? Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1979). How I can be real. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1979). How I can experience God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1979). How I can fit in. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1979). How I can make decisions. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1978). Family life education. (with Charles Sell and Lawrence Crabb) Glen Ellyn, IL: Scripture Press.
  • (1978). His glory. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook.
  • (1978). Lift high the torch. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook.
  • (1978). Pass it on: Our heritage from the apostolic age. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook.
  • (1978). Springtime coming: Prophetic themes in the Old Testament. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook.
  • (1977). Christ preeminent: The early church discovers it’s identity: Studies in Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Hebrews and 1 Peter. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook.
  • (1977). Edge of judgement. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook.
  • (1977). Enriching your marriage. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing.
  • (1977). The great adventure: The first days of the church: Studies in James. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook.
  • (1977). Regions beyond: The early church in mission: Studies in Acts. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook.
  • (1977). Years of darkness, days of glory: Lessons from Israel’s history. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook.
  • (1976). A child’s life of Christ. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing.
  • (1976). Christ’s mission on earth. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  • (1976). Freedom road: Understanding Redemption: Studies in Exodus. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook.
  • (1976). Let day begin: Man in God’s universe. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook.
  • (1976). The servant king: The Life of Jesus on Earth. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook.
  • (1976). A theology of Christian education. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. Republished as Christian education in 1988.
  • (1975). The complete Christian: Insights from the book of Hebrews. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books
  • (1975). Helping my child know Jesus. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing.
  • (1975). Helping my child love. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing.
  • (1975). Helping my child memorize scripture. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing.
  • (1975). Helping my children obey. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing.
  • (1975). Helping my child overcome fears. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing.
  • (1975). Helping my child pray. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing.
  • (1975). Helping my child share. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing.
  • (1975). Helping my family worship. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing.
  • (1975). How the church can help the family face the future. St. Louis: Family “76.
  • (1975). One way. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  • (1975). Three churches in renewal. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1975). You and preschoolers. (with Elsiebeth McDaniel) Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1975). You and teaching. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1974). Psychology and the Bible. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  • (1974). What you should know about the Bible. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  • (1974). You and adults. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1974). You, the parent. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1973). Becoming one in the Spirit. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  • (1973). Science and Bible: Can we believe both? Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  • (1973). You and children. (with Elsiebeth McDaniel) Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1973). You and youth. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1973). You can be transformed: A study of the Gospel of Luke. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  • (1972). A guy and a girl. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.
  • (1972). Reshaping evangelical higher education. (with Marvin Mayers and Robert Webber) Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1972). You, the teacher. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1972). Youth ministry: Its renewal in the local church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1971). Youth asks. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1970). A new face for the church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1970). Creative bible teaching). Chicago: Moody. (revised and expanded in 1998)
  • (1970). What’s in it for me? Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1969). How far can I go? Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1968). Are you for real? Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1968). Tommorow’s church today. Wheaton, IL: National Association of Evangelicals.
  • (1965). The key to Sunday school achievement. Chicago: Greater Chicago Sunday School Association.

Chapters in Books

  • (1982). Experiencing reality together: Toward the impossible dream. In Norma H. Thompson (ed), Education and theology. (pp. 198-215). Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press.
  • (1982). Youth and church renewal. In D. Campbell Wyckoff (ed.) Religious education: Ministry with youth. (pp. 35-99). Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press.
  • (1976). How the church can help the family face the future. In Gary R. Collins (ed.). Facing the future: Church and family together. Waco, TX: Word Books.
  • (1972). Cognitive development of adolescents. In Roy Zuck (ed.) Education in the church. (pp. 198-211). Chicago: Moody Press.

Articles

  • (1994). Critical thinking and Christian perspective. Christian Education Journal. 15, 13-20.
  • (1989). Theology of servant leadership: A response. Christian Education Journal. 9, 67-71.
  • (1980). Listen for the living God. Eternity. 31 (May), 30-31.
  • (1980). How to think God’s thoughts. Eternity. 31 (June), 28-29.
  • (1980). The wider circle. Eternity. 31 (July-August) 32-33.
  • (1980). The great American congregation. Christianity Today. 24, (Nov. 21), 20-23.
  • (1979). A prophecy (or hope). Religious Education. 74, 29-32.
  • (1977). Church teaching: Content without context. Christianity Today. 21, (April 15), 16-18.
  • (1975). Pre-evaluative research on a church/home Christian education program. Religious Education. 70 (July-August).
  • (1972). Some significant books of 1971 (pt. 3 Practical Theology) in Christianity Today. 16, (Mar. 3), 9-11.
  • (1968-1976). The idea bank. United Evangelical Action. Is a regular column on renewal themes.

Unpublished Works

  • (1972). Pre-evaluation research on a church/home Christian education program. (doctoral dissertation, Northwestern University, 1972).

Reviews of Lawrence O. Richards’ Books

  • Sipes, A. J. and R. J. Choun. (1997). A review of the book International children’s Bible handbook. Bibliotheca Sacra, 154, 382.
  • Conay, H. (1994). A review of the book The victor Bible background commentary: New Testament. Religious Broadcasting. 26, 76.
  • Smith, David L. (1994) A review of the book The victor Bible background commentary. Didaskalia, 5, 97,98.
  • Conay, H. (1993). A review of the book Bible difficulties solved. Religious Broadcasting, 25, 50.
  • Nieusma, G. (1992). A review of the book It couldn’t just happen. Christian Parenting Today, 4, (January 18).
  • Young, J. T. (1992). A review of the book The zondervan dictionary of biblical literacy. The Theological Educator, 46: (Fall), 156f.
  • Bush, L. Russ. (1989) A review of the book A practical theology of spirituality. Southwestern Journal of Theology, 31, 62.
  • Coulton, C. E. (1989). A review of the book Personal ministry handbook. Criswell Theological Review, 3, (Spring), 437-438.
  • Donaldson, Pauline. (1989) A review of the book Wisdom for the graduate. Fundamentalist Journal, 8, 41.
  • Eaton, J. (1989). A review of the book It couldn’t just happen. Today’s Christian Woman. 11, 14.
  • Phelan, John E. (1989) A review of the book Expository dictionary of Bible words. Covenant Quarterly, 47, 42.
  • Sailer, William S. (1989) A review of the book The dictionary of basic Bible truths. Evangelical Journal, 7, 47.
  • Baker, David W. (1988) A review of the book A teacher’s commentary. Ashland Theological Journal, 20, 71-72.
  • Di Giani, Mariano. (1988) A review of the book A practical theology of spirituality. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 31, 503-504
  • Eppeheimer, W. (1988). A review of the book Personal ministry handbook. Alliance Life, 123, 23.
  • Gunter, C. B. (1988). A review of the book It couldn’t just happen. Fundamentalist Journal, 7, 51.
  • Hinson, E. Glenn. (1988). A review of the book A practical theology of spirituality. Review and Expositor, 85, 573.
  • Lamport, M. A. (1988). A review of the book Youth ministry: It’s renewal in the church (rev. ed.). Youthworker, 4, 72,73.
  • Meadors, Gary T. (1988) A review of the book A practical theology of spirituality. Grace Theological Journal, 9, 159-60.
  • Sibley, Larry. (1988) A review of the book A practical theology of spirituality. Christianity Today, 32, (Feb, 19), 37.
  • Blomberg, Craig L. (1987). A review of the book expository dictionary of Bible words. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 30, 228-31.Case, Stephen W. (1987). A review of the book Youth ministry. Andrew’s University Seminary Studies, 25, 314-15.
  • Craig, Kenneth M. (1987). A review of the book Expository dictionary of Bible words, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 49, 320-21.
  • Jones, T. K. (1987). A review of the book Personal ministry handbook. Leadership, 8, 124-5.
  • Lamport, Mark A. (1987). A review of the book Youth ministry. Christian Scholar’s Review, 16, 421-22.
  • Richardson, Brian C. (1987). A review of the book Youth ministry. Christian Education Journal, 7, 92-3.
  • Wieland, Randy. (1987). A review of the book Youth ministry. Reformed Review, 40, 267-68.
  • Williamson, H. G. M. (1987) A review of the book Expository dictionary of Bible words. Vetus Testamentum, 37, 497.
  • Burns, John A. (1986). A review of the book Expository dictionary of Bible words. Criswell Theological Review, 1, 171-72.
  • Bush, L. Russ. (1986). A review of the book Expository dictionary of Bible words. Southwestern Journal of Theology, 28, 59.
  • Byrne, H. W. (1983). A review of the book A theology of church leadership. Asbury Seminarian, 35, 55.
  • Mitchell, Christopher. (1986). A review of the book Expository dictionary of Bible words. Hebrew Studies, 27, 138.
  • Shea, William H. (1986) A review of the book Expository dictionary of Bible words. Andrews University Seminary Studies, 24, 197-99.
  • Smith, Paul M. (1986). A review of the book Expository dictionary of Bible words. Reformed Review, 40, 73.
  • Benson, Warren S. (1983). A review of the book A theology of children’s ministry. Trinity Journal, 4, 130-34.
  • Pease, N. F. (1983). A review of the book A theology of personal ministry. Andrews University Seminary Review, 21, (Spring), 104-106.
  • Powell, D. D. (1983). A review of the book Death and the caring community. Christian Librarian, 25, 166-7.
  • Schwanda, T. (1983). A review of the book A theology of church leadership. Reformed Review, 36, (Spring), 161-162.
  • Smith, M. G. (1983). A review if the book A theology of personal ministry. Eternity, 34, 38.
  • Snyder, H. A. (1983). A review of the book A theology of personal ministry. Wesleyan Theological Journal, 18, 107-8.
  • Tripp, K. F. (1983). A review of the book Death and the caring community. Worship, 57, (November), 550-552.
  • Barber, C. J. (1982). A review of the book Remarriage, a healing gift from God. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 10, 81.
  • Cerling, C. (1982). A review of the book Remarriage, A healing gift from God. Christianity Today, 26, 106.
  • Cole, S. J. (1982). A review of the book A theology of personal ministry. Christianity Today, 26, 61.
  • DeRidder, R. R. (1982). A review of the book A theology of church leadership. Calvin Theological Journal, 17, 295-7.
  • Eaton, J. (1982). A review of the book Death and the caring community. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 10, 263-4.
  • Follprecht, W. (1982). A review of the book Death and the caring community. Leadership. 3, 68.
  • Getz, Gene A and A. D. Litfin (1982). A review of the book A theology of church leadership. Bibliotheca Sacra, 139, 85-6.
  • Grounds, V. (1982). A review of the book Death and the caring community. Moody Monthly, 82, 108-9.
  • Mallone, G. (1982). A review of the book A theology of church leadership. Christianity Today, 26, 70-4.
  • Matthews, J. (1982) A review of the book A theology of church leadership. Crux, 18 (3), 23-24.
  • Mayor, S. H. (1982). A review of the book A theology of church leadership, Expository Times, 93, (January), 125-126.
  • Ryan, J. (1982). A review of the book Death and the caring community. Eternity, 33, 39-40.
  • Smith, C. R. (1982). A review of the book Death and the caring community. Grace Theological Journal, 3, 152.
  • Schmidt, S. A. (1982). A review of the book A theology of church leadership. Religious Education, 77, (Sept./ Oct/), 582-583.
  • Cook, S. S. (1981). A review of the book A theology of church leadership. Trinity Journal, 2 (Spring) 106-109.
  • Ewert, D. (1981). A review of the book The screwloose letters. Christianity Today, 25, 91-92.
  • White, E. (1981). A review of the book A theology of church leadership. Review and Expositor, 78 (Summer) 455-456.
  • Wyckoff, D. C. (1981). A review of the book A theology of church leadership. Review of Books and Religion, 10 (Summer), 8-9.
  • Hawkins, S. (1980). A review of the book Youth ministry. Christianity Today, 24, (April 4), 38.
  • Tinder, Edith. (1976). A review of the book A theology of Christian education. Christianity Today, 20, (August 6), 30.
  • Edge, Findley. (1976). A review of the book A theology of Christian education. Review and Expositon, 73, 243-44.
  • Larson, Clifford E. (1976). A review of the book A theology of Christian education. Review of Books and Religion, 5, 6.
  • Zeitler, Sylvia A. (1976). A review of the book A theology of Christian education. Theological Studies, 37, 353-54.
  • Getz, Gene. (1971). A review of the book A new face for the church. Bibliotheca Sacra, 128, 161-62.
  • West, Norman. (1971). A review of the book A new face for the church. Christianity Today, 15, (March 26), 28.
  • LeBar, Lois. (1970). A review of the book Creative Bible teaching. Christianity Today, 15 (October 23), 21-22.

Theses and Dissertations about Richards

  • Downs, P. (1982). Christian nurture: A comparative analysis of the theories of Horace Bushnell and Lawrence O. Richards. (doctoral dissertation, New York University, 1982).
  • Jones, H. W. (1992). The development and implementation of a wholistic ministry for youth within the church-owned housing complex. (doctoral dissertation, Drew University, 1992).
  • Lim, A. Y. (1982). A comparative study of the socialization models of Christian education by John H. Westerhoff III and Lawrence O. Richards. (doctoral dissertation, New York University, 1982).
  • Norton, J. A. (1985). A critical analysis of Lawrence O. Richrds’ curriculum beliefs about Christian education in the local church. (doctoral dissertation, State University of New York at Buffalo, 1985).
  • Sappington, D. P. (1994). Spirituality: An evangelical comparative analysis of Lawrence O. Richards’ multifaceted definition with implications for assessment instrumentation. (doctoral dissertation, Talbot School of Theology, 1994)
  • Sell, P. W. (1992). An analysis of the comprehensiveness and coherence of Lawrence O. Richards’ philosophy of Christian education. (doctoral dissertation, University of Iowa, 1992).

Chapters and Articles about Richards

  • Benson, W. (1984). Evangelical philosophies of religious education. In Changing patterns of religious education. (pp. 53-73). Nashville: Abingdon.
  • Downs, P. (1982. Christian nurture: A comparison of Horace Bushnell and Lawrence O. Richards. Trinity Journal 3 (Fall 1982), 195-214 and also in Christian Education Journal, 4, (2), 43-57.
  • Habermas, R. T. (1984). Even what you don’t say counts. Christian Education Journal, 5, (2), 24-28.
  • Llovio, K. (1984). Toward a definition of Christian education: A Comparison of Richards and Westerhoff. Christian Education Journal, 5, (2), 15-23.
  • Smith, P. J. (1984). Larry Richards’ definition of Christian education. Christian Education Journal, 5, (2), 5-14.

Excerpts from Publications

(1975). A theology of Christian education. Zondervan.

What then does change as Christ gives us new life? The capacity to understand and to enter into the meaning of life as God designed it is new. The ability to experience all that other faiths hold up as distant ideals is new. In every area where the Fall brought death, Christ brings life, and with that life He brings energizing power, freeing us to grow and to be transformed. Seeing in life the distinctive of the Christian faith, Christian education is given clearer focus. Valuing all men as persons, respecting all men as having worth and dignity, Christian education seeks to communicate and to nurture faith-as-life…. (pg. 13,14) Christian education can never deal with individual life alone. Christian education has to concern itself with the processes within the Body which nurture corporate and individual growth in Christ. Any Christian educational approach which focuses on either the individual or the group to the exclusion of the other is bound to fall short…. Thus the Church of Christ is a living organism, not merely and organization. And principles for its growth and nurture must be sought in its nature as an organism, not in its organizational expressions. It is life that sets the Christian apart. It is life that sets the Church apart. And it must be a concern for life – for its transmission and its nurture – that sets Christian education apart. (pg. 15,16) The Christian, confident that revelation is possible, trusts Scripture to distinguish that which is false, base, wrong, impure, ugly, and which is to be rejected. Yet this commitment in no way means that we must rely on indoctrination to communicate a reality which believers need to learn as a way of life! In fact, because what God has revealed is a reality to be experienced, we can insist that God’s Truth must be learned in exactly the same ways that any “experienced reality” is to be learned! That is, we are to be discipled into faith’s life in the same way any person is discipled into his or her culture. (emphasis in the text . (pg. 77)

(1982). Experiencing reality together: Toward the impossible dream in Norma H. Thompson editor, Education and theology. Religious Education Press.

Educational ministries must thus be designed which are in harmony with the essential nature of revelation. It is inadequate to Christian education’s task either in terms of stimulating encounter or transmitting information, although each of these may play a part in educational ministry. The overriding challenge to Christian education is to orient to reality, and call believers to a disciple’s commitment to experience revealed truth. (pg. 206). But linking word with life is a very different enterprise than constructing a belief system. In fact, the very schoolized approaches associated with secular and religious education may be counterproductive, when our goal is viewed as life. It is our theology, and not educational philosophy, which must rule Christian education, and if permitted to rule will force us to develop distinctive educational processes which shift our concentration form the cognitive mapping of verbalized truths to the emotional mapping of revealed realities, which must be linked to our personal perception of reality if they are to transform our lives. (pg. 210) At the same time, if Christian education is to be understood as a process of socialization, which takes place in the believing community, our understanding of ministry is greatly expanded. The Christian educator is not simply the writer of lessons and trainer of teacher. The Christian educator is facilitator of community, and requires mastery not of formal education but of nonformal education – a discipline closer to sociology and anthropology than to education. (pg. 215)

(1970). A new face for the church. Zondervan.

There were no agencies in the church of the New Testament. No shifting of responsibility from the home. And the church of tomorrow, to become again the church, must firmly return to the home responsibilities of Christian nurture that our programs of today deny them. (pg. 41). … at no point, biblically, does the church (which we have seen is to function as a system of interpersonal relationships) touch society. If we take seriously the biblical picture of the church as people in relationship, and we take seriously the biblical function of the church as a transforming community, its forms can never be relevant to society or to societal institutions. The form of the church, if the church is true to herself, can be relevant only to her scripturally assigned task – the personality transformation of believers. The church as a community of believers, exists only for its members. (pg. 84)

(1983). A theology of children’s ministry. Zondervan.

The contemporary church is both organism and institution. As organism, the body of Christ is people in relationship, loving and ministering. As institution, the congregation is people organized to accomplish tasks…. The church as we know it will continue to exist as organism and institution. But in any given congregation one perspective or the other will predominate. Either the institutional elements of the congregational life will support the organic, and shape the faith community experiences at the point of ministry, or institutional concerns will drain the vitality of the local congregation, while agencies become places where information about Christianity is provided, and faith is ignored. (pg. 278, 291)

(1987). A practical theology of spirituality. Zondervan

These statements help us to understand that Christian Spirituality is living a human life in this world in union with God. While this definition is apparently simple, its implications are far reaching. In fact, when correctly understood, Christian spirituality as modeled by Jesus challenges many of our common notions of the “spiritual” world. (pg. 50).

(1970). Creative Bible teaching. Moody Press.

You can use this form in planning your own lessons (unless you teach preschoolers). Make sure that your Hook gets attention, sets a goal and leads into the Bible. Plan the Book to communicate both information and meaning. Check the Look to be sure to guide your students to implications. Finally, construct a Took that will aid and encourage response. (pg. 112).


Recommended Readings

Books

(1987). A practical theology of spirituality. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

This is the last major theoretical work by Richards. It is important in that it outlines the centrality of the believer’s personal relationship with God in the formation of personhood. While not abandoning the nurturing role of the body of Christ that had been a central focus of his writing for so many years, it does provide a useful counterbalance and a more full picture of his viewpoints on spiritual formation.

(1983). A theology of children’s ministry. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

This book is not a “how-to” manual on children’s ministry but rather a plea for a socialization model for children to learn the faith. Consequently there is an emphasis on the Christian home as the ideal environment to socialize into the faith.

(1981). A theology of personal ministry. Grand Rapids: Zondervan

This book outlines an empowered vision of the laity as ministers for God. It lays a theological foundation of the identity and resources of the believer and then works out the implications of that identity for empowerment in ministry. There is a strong emphasis on all believers using their spiritual gifts to promote the formation of disciples.

(1980). A theology of church leadership. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

This book emphasizes shared servant leadership by the Elders of a local church focusing more on ministry to and among the people of God rather than primarily seeing their ministry as decision-making for the church. When decision-making is necessary decisions should be made with complete consensus amongst the Elders.

(1975). A theology of Christian education. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

This is Richards’ finest and most central work. All of his seminal ideas on Christian education are presented in this foundational work and more fully developed in his later works. Christian education is presented as the formation of life in the believer rather than content transferal with modeling being a primary method in a church which is primarily understood as a body functioning as a web of relationships.

(1972). Youth ministry. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

The emphasis of this book is that the adult-youth relationship is the key to communicating life transformation in youth ministry.

(1970). A new face for the church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

This is the book that thrust Richards’ into the Evangelical spotlight. His ecclesiological ideas abut the church as family and the body of Christ set the agenda for a more relational church as opposed to the traditional Evangelical church of the 1960’s.

(1970). Creative Bible teaching. Chicago: Moody Press.

This book outlines his ideas on teaching the Bible including his famous “Hook-Book-Look-Took” approach to the flow of Bible communication.

Articles and Chapters of Books

(1982). “Experiencing reality together: Toward and impossible dream” in Norma H. Thompson editor, Education and theology, Birmingham, Alabama: Religious Education Press, 198-215.

In this chapter Richards expands the Evangelical concept of biblical understanding from affirmation of biblical facts to an experiencing the biblical world view as a reality structure within Christian community.

(1979). “A prophecy (or hope).” Religious Education, 74, 29-32.

In this article Richards’ reflects over his thinking of the 1970’s and concludes that a socialization model rather than a schooling model is the most effective means of communicating the faith to other people.


Author Information

Phillip W. Sell

Phil Sell (Ph.D., University of Iowa) serves as Associate Professor of Educational Ministries at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, in Deerfield, IL.

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