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The Complex and Beautiful Vocation of Raising Children

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Books on parenting abound, with many suggesting that specific strategies will produce desired results. Gifted theologian Holly Taylor Coolman offers something different. Rather than a how-to guide for child-rearing, this book provides a theologically and biblically rich commentary on the theme of raising children.

As a mother of five who is known for approaching parenting in a theological way, Coolman is often asked for advice. In this book, she explores parenting as a complex and beautiful vocation in which mothers and fathers themselves are made and unmade, offered troubling sorts of gifts, and drawn deeper into connection not only with their children but also with God, others, and themselves. Coolman describes child-rearing as a vocation to which parents are called that requires them to develop the skills of apprenticeship and invitation. She also locates raising children firmly within the context of the church. At a time when many parents need a form of an extended family, the church holds a profound possibility to meet parents in the hard and beautiful places of raising children.

This book will appeal to Christian parents, especially adoptive and foster parents, as well as pastors, church leaders, and students.

1. New Parents
2. Beyond Birth: Other Ways of Welcoming Children
3. Fostering Community, Within and Around
4. Toddlers: Not That Terrible
5. Mapmaking and Apprenticeship
6. The Growing Years
7. The Art of Discipline
8. The Challenge of New Technology
9. Parenting in Survival Mode
10. Parents--and More Than Parents
11. Busy Days
12. Moving into Adolescence
13. Parents and Marriage
14. Single Parents
15. School and Other Ways of Learning
16. Later Adolescence
17. Parenting Adults
Suggested Reading


"I simply adored this book. In Parenting, Coolman has created an invaluable resource for any parent in any season of life. Who doesn't want to love their children better? To know them more fully? To have more peace and joy in their home? Coolman writes like a friend who's been there, bringing a lifetime of wisdom and scholarship. She doesn't sugarcoat the challenges of parenting even as she encourages her reader to delight in the task."

Anna Keating, author of The Catholic Catalogue: A Field Guide to the Daily Acts That Make Up a Catholic Life

"As a fellow theologian mom, I have long admired Dr. Holly Taylor Coolman. She's been an example to me both in the work of theology and in the vocation of parenting. So I am thrilled and grateful to be able to endorse her new book. Readers will find in Coolman a wise and gracious guide eager to help other parents with their vital work of 'apprenticing children to love.' Church leaders will find numerous insights into how best to support parents and children. There are a lot of books about parenting on the market--and I've read most of them. But I think Parenting is uniquely thoughtful, inclusive, and peaceable. It is a resource I recommend to anyone who cares about children, parents, and the vocation of child-rearing in God's kingdom."

Emily Hunter McGowin, associate professor of theology, Wheaton College

"I literally learned parenting and theology on Holly's couch, and I'm so glad her wisdom is now available in this book, which is different from any other parenting book you've encountered because it's first about who God is."

Beth Felker Jones, professor of theology, Northern Seminary; author of Practicing Christian Doctrine

"Holly Taylor Coolman offers people of faith and indeed all people a beautiful perspective on the challenges and rewards of parenting. I am particularly grateful for her wise words about the complexity of parenting today, whether through fostering, adopting, giving birth, or other forms of relationship (grandparenting, parenting from distance, etc.). Far from offering distant ideals, Coolman writes from the thick of her own experience. This book is real and will lift readers to see the vocation of forming children into adults as shot through with grace, even in the hardest times. Read, and then share this book with parents and those involved in family ministries!"

Tim Muldoon, professor of philosophy, Boston College; coauthor of The Discerning Parent

"Parenting is both a gift from God and a wilderness. I can't think of a better guide to receiving well the gift and navigating the wilderness than Holly Taylor Coolman, who writes out of her deep faith, theological understanding, and profound experience. Reading this book was like having a long conversation with a very wise friend about things that matter most. I look forward to recommending this book to parents in my congregation."

L. Roger Owens, Hugh Thomson Kerr Professor of Pastoral Theology, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

The Author

  1. Holly Taylor Coolman

    Holly Taylor Coolman

    Holly Taylor Coolman (PhD, Duke University) is assistant professor of theology at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, and a senior fellow of the Principium Institute. Her areas of expertise include Christology, ecclesiology, Christian theologies of...

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