Tuesday, November 15, 2016

An Interview with Champ Thornton on "The Radical Book for Kids"

I'm excited today to participate in the new blog tour for The Radical Book for Kids by Champ Thornton.

I got to read a copy before it was released and was really impressed. Here's my short review:
The Radical Book for Kids is deceptively fun! While preteens are utterly enjoying themselves with the creative games, hands-on projects, laugh-out-loud jokes, and cool stories, Champ Thornton is radically discipling them with a crash course on Bible study methods, hermeneutics, church history, biblical theology, and Christian life and ethics. This is the kind of book that stealthily helps parents, pastors, and teachers make young followers for Jesus Christ.
It really does all of that! 

I recently got to ask Champ (what a neat name, huh?) a few questions about this really cool book he's written.

Matt:  Tell us about yourself and your family. Who is Champ Thornton and how did you come to write this book?

Champ:  Most centrally, I’m a sinner now welcomed into God’s family through Christ. I’m husband to Robben (we’ve been married since 1996) and dad to three children, all presently under the age of 12. I also serve as an associate pastor at our church in the state of Delaware. Before moving here in 2012, I’d lived most of my life in the Carolinas. That’s where I grew up, went to college and seminary, started a family, and followed the call into pastoral ministry. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, drinking coffee, listening to music, and reading—especially theology, biography, and fiction. But even as a kid, books have been a big part of my life. I remember enjoying the Hardy Boys, then Sherlock Holmes, and later Alistair MacLean novels. So, having enjoyed reading for so long, it has been a privilege to begin putting words back onto the page for others. The Radical Book for Kids started as a conversation over lunch with Marty Machowski, author of many children’s books, including The Ology: Ancient Truths, Ever New. At that time, our church was without a children’s pastor, so I was asking Marty questions about children’s ministry. The conversation turned to writing, and eventually New Growth Press asked me to give them some sample chapters from the book which became The Radical Book for Kids: Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith

Having three young children (two boys and a girl), I wanted to write for boys and girls in the next generation. My hope for them is that they grow up to know God, trust him, love him and serve him with all of their lives. So this book is an attempt to point my kids and others toward that goal. And in the background of this desire is that in 2003 I was diagnosed with a blood clot and a genetic blood disorder. When you’re 29 years old, you think you’re fairly invincible, but God brought into my life a daily reminder of my mortality. I’ve not had another scare like that since, but God has used this diagnosis to raise my awareness of the importance of passing along to the next generation the good news of Christ and the truths of His Word. 

Matt: What is the central message of The Radical Book for Kids? What are you hoping that readers come away thinking, believing, feeling, and doing?

Champ: The Radical Book for Kids is a fun-filled explorer’s guide to the Bible, theology, church history, and life for boys and girls ages 8 and up. In this book, I introduce young readers to the stories of men and women who have lived out their faith in Jesus in radical ways. God sustained them to trust him despite great opposition and difficulty. The book also focuses on the radical roots of our faith. (The word “radical” comes from the Latin word “radix,” which literally means “roots.”) So in many ways it is a “root” book, leading young minds on a tour of the roots of their faith — a tour of the Bible, what it teaches, how to read it and why we should believe it and tell others about it. The Radical Book for Kids also includes radical fun with a 3,000-year-old game, a secret code, hands-on activities, fun facts and more. It’s radical strength, depth and fun.

On one level, I hope those who read this book — whether children and teens or their parents and grandparents — would come to love, trust and follow the Lord Jesus Christ more. It’s my prayer this book will be used by God to grow deep roots of faith in all who read it.

In addition to this, it’s my hope that the middle schoolers and young teens who read about the spiritual disciplines, the names of God, biblical wisdom, union with Christ or men and women who gave their lives for the Lord will one day come back for more as they later decide to explore more deeply and widely the riches of God’s truth. In other words, I want to scatter a packet of assorted seeds across the minds and hearts and imaginations of the next generation, which in God’s time and by His Spirit will take root, sprout and bear much fruit. If this book makes children and teens (and adults) more curious and thirsty to know God and the good news of His Word, then it will have done its job.

Matt:  Tell us a little about the process of creating this creative book. How did you come up with the unusual format and all of this cool content? What was the hardest thing to write and the happiest thing?  What surprised you the most as you wrote it?

Champ: A quick search on amazon.com will yield various books promoting: “everything a boy/girl should know or do.” Yet all of them are secular in content and approach. The Radical Book for Kids is different; it’s what I wanted my own children to know about God our Savior, the Word He has written, and the world He has created.

So I started by making a list of all the things (about God, the Bible, theology, life, etc.) that I’d want my kids to know about or know how to do. Then I emailed over a dozen friends in ministry, asking them what they’d include on their short list of things for kids to know or do. Initially, over 100 topics made the list, but we eventually landed on the 67 mini-chapters that make up The Radical Book for Kids. 

Through the entire process, I wanted to write in a way that would resonate with young readers. There’s nothing boring about God — He’s the most engaging, creative, vivid and energizing Being in the universe. In fact, just look at the universe He’s created! A riot of colors, sounds and smells, tastes and textures. This is beauty, but His truth is just the other side of the same coin. God’s beauty, truth and goodness are all different expressions of the same reality — God’s reality. So, He’s the farthest thing from boring, and when we teach about Him in a way that’s uninteresting, we misrepresent Him. 

New Growth Press and I wanted this book to engage minds with truth, ignite hearts with His goodness and captivate imaginations with His beauty. And Scot McDonald’s creative design work has brought all the wonder-filled fun-factor I had hoped for when writing the book. Vivid colors, eye-catching pictures, hand-drawn sketches and illuminating sidebars fill its pages. It’s been a collaborative creative process throughout.

Numbers of chapters presented a challenge to write—how to communicate big and sometimes complicated truths in an age-appropriate and engaging way? Perhaps one of the most difficult was the chapter on how to read the prophetic books in Scripture (“How to Profit from the Prophets”). I wrote probably 4 or 5 significantly different drafts of that chapter before finally landing on the finalized version which is in the book. The happiest was periodically getting to collaborate with my oldest son—hearing his opinions (pros and cons) and seeing the book through his eyes. As to the most surprising element, it may be the time involved. I started writing in the spring of 2014; after this the book went through several rounds of re-writing and editing over the next few years.

Matt: Give us a guide to the best reading experience. Who do you hope reads this book and how do you hope they read it?

Champ: This is a book that kids, ages 8 and up, can read on their own. For curious readers, a table of contents and index make topics easy to find. So kids can explore their book however they like: hopscotching around via topic or just reading straight through. For kids of younger ages, parents can also read this book aloud in family devotions. Bible teachers can use it to supplement their main curriculum. For parents or teachers, there are plenty of places to stop reading and to discuss issues posed, consider questions asked or just laugh at something funny. (Also, as the book has been previewed, I’ve learned adults have found this book useful for themselves or to give to others who are growing in their faith.)

Matt: Thanks, Champ, taking the time to answer these questions, but even more for investing the many hours to creating the Radical Book for Kids. I think it's a great resource. When I got my advanced copy, I read parts out loud to my family, and they chuckled, hooted, and hollered at all the right places, and didn't realize that they were learning something important. That's a mark of a great book!