I met Ken Castor a few years ago on an American youth ministry conference. It was my first time there (I was still living in Germany at the time) and I didn’t really know many people. While worshiping, the band played a song that brought back fresh grief over a student I had lost only a month before and I broke down in tears. Ken didn’t know me at all, but he sat right next to me and asked me if everything was okay, supported me. It was a powerful experience for me and I never forgot this kindness of a complete stranger (at that time, we later connected a few more times at conferences).
The reason I’m sharing this story with you, is that sometimes, knowing an author’s character is important because it helps you determine whether they’re the real thing or not. It’s easy to put theories on paper, especially about Christian living, but it’s a whole different story to live them out in real life yourself. Ken’s book Grow Down shows you what an overflowing life rooted in Christ should look like and knowing Ken personally, he’s living this out himself. This book is not theory, it was born in practice.
Grow Down is a book for students, not youth leaders—though many youth leaders could learn tons from this book as well. The core message is to show students how they can grow roots down into Christ, draw up from His resources, and then life an overflowing life. It’s a powerful, Jesus-centered approach that leads to true growth in faith.
What I love about the book is that it has a deep message that’s not dumbed down in any way. I treats the teen-readers as the critical-thinking, yearning-for-truth people they really are. Ken doesn’t hold back on using abstract concepts, but explains them in a clear way. It gives the book a whole lot of depth en oomph. It helps that the core concept of the book—that picture of a tree growing down roots—is a highly concrete one. Every chapter builds on that image, enriches it, and reinforces it. Ken uses many different questions, assignments (including some creative ones that I thought were pretty cool), and examples to make students reflect and think.
Whether or not you like the tone of a book is always a personal thing. Ken’s style is my kind of humor, a little subtle and not too much of it. I’m not a big fan of books that try to be funny in every other sentence, not even when they’re written for teens. But hey, that’s just me so you may feel differently.
I think this book is best suited for high school students, or maybe middle schoolers who’ve got that abstract thinking muscle quite developed yet. Also, I think Grow Down would be best suited for teens who already have a basic knowledge of faith. It’s discipleship for those who already know Jesus, I’d say. The book can be read independently, but would also be great to study with a group or even for parents to work through with their teen kids. And it would make an awesome graduation gift for a senior!
Highly, highly recommended!