The Year of Small Things

Radical Faith for the Rest of Us

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When Sarah and Tom Arthur were appointed to a suburban church after three years in an urban Christian community, they faced a unique challenge: how to translate the practices of "radical" faith into their new context. Together with their friends and fellow church members Erin and Dave Wasinger, the Arthurs embarked on a yearlong experiment to implement twelve small practices of radical faith--not waiting until they were out of debt or the kids were out of diapers or God sent them elsewhere, but right now.

This book is Sarah and Erin's story, told with humor, theological reflection, and practical insight, exploring such practices as simplicity, hospitality, accountability, sustainability, and social justice--but, most of all, discernment. Along the way readers will consider how God might be calling them to embark on their own year of small but radical changes, right where God has planted them. Each chapter includes discussion questions and suggested readings. Foreword by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

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Foreword by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Introduction: The Street View
1. Covenantal Friendship
2. Hospitality beyond Martha Stewart
3. Radical Finances
4. Reclaiming Spiritual Habits
5. Stuff
6. Holy Time
7. Vows
8. Planted in the Church
9. Kid Monasticism
10. Sustaining Creation
11. Unselfish Self-Care
12. Just Living
Closing Thoughts
Appendix A: Engaging Three Strands of Radical Christianity
Appendix B: Hospitality Covenant
Appendix C: The Arthurs' Christmas Letter


"The Year of Small Things is the best kind of spiritual formation book: serious and funny, smart and vulnerable--and, most useful of all, practical. If you want to live the way of Jesus but struggle to know how to do this in the midst of family busyness, financial struggle, even depression, Sarah Arthur and Erin Wasinger can be trusted to help you and your community reimagine and engage in practices of spiritual wholeness and social justice. Honestly, this is one of my favorite books this year."

Jen Pollock Michel, speaker and author of Teach Us to Want

"This is the most provocative and profound book I've read in a long time. I plan to buy a box and give it to my friends so they can laugh, cry, repent, and soul-search as much as I did. Deeply moving--and necessary--for the faith community."

Joel Salatin, renegade farmer and author of The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs: Respecting and Caring for All God's Creation

"Sarah Arthur and Erin Wasinger's beautiful book offers a minirevolution that could shake up the world, or at least your neighborhood--and it doesn't require growing kale or living in a hut. It begins with dinner. Open doors. Being real with one another. In a me-and-my-family-first culture, Arthur and Wasinger compellingly show us not only how we can be the body of Christ but how to actually share life together as the body of Christ."

Leslie Leyland Fields, author of Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt, and the Seas

"The Year of Small Things is a field guide on how to implement Mother Teresa's admonition to 'do small things with great love.' In the midst of flu shots for the kids and complaints from the neighbors about the dandelions in the yard, the book shows--with abundant humor and grace--how to live a joyful, costly, and authentic faith."

Tim Otto, copastor of the new monastic community Church of the Sojourners in San Francisco, author of Oriented to Faith, and coauthor of Inhabiting the Church: Biblical Wisdom for a New Monasticism

"I am often asked if intentional community is a short-lived fad for young, idealistic singles. I always respond that following a common set of spiritual practices for the sake of our neighbors is the basic lifestyle of a disciple. We then have a conversation about how 'realistic' it is to follow Jesus. Now I can refer them to The Year of Small Things as evidence of how some families with young children are in fact practicing intentional community in their suburban context. This beautifully written book is a gem!"

Elaine Heath, dean of Duke Divinity School; author of God Unbound: Wisdom from Galatians for the Anxious Church

"What a wonderful story of two ordinary families dealing with the normal struggles of life, coming together to grow deeper in life with God. Written with grace, authenticity, and wit, Arthur and Wasinger's book made me excited to follow their path--the mark of a truly great work."

Nathan Foster, director of community life, Renovaré; author of The Making of an Ordinary Saint

"Sarah and Erin get it. They cut grapes for tiny fingers, they wipe runny little noses, they bandage skinned knees, and they love the world that God loves. If you want to practice your faith right where you are, these women are the reliable guides you need."

Margot Starbuck, author of Small Things with Great Love: Adventures in Loving Your Neighbor

The Authors

  1. Sarah Arthur

    Sarah Arthur

    Sarah Arthur (MTS, Duke University Divinity School) is a fun-loving speaker and the award-winning author or compiler of eleven books, including the best-selling Walking with Frodo: A Devotional Journey through "The Lord of the Rings" and At...

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  2. Erin F. Wasinger

    Erin F. Wasinger

    Erin F. Wasinger is a freelance writer, speaker, and journalist, having worked as a newspaper editor and columnist before moving to Lansing, Michigan. A voracious reader as well as a storyteller and lay theologian, she writes at

    Continue reading about Erin F. Wasinger


"[This book is] about the hard work of serious discipleship when you have a life and family. . . . One of the most common critiques of radical Christianity is its root implausibility in the culture of the modern family. Arthur and Wasinger assess this difficulty honestly and directly. . . . Listening into their processes of discernment, readers may discern more clearly a way forward for themselves. Further, knowing that others have successfully walked the same path gives readers courage that they can do it too. . . . The Year of Small Things offers a helpful look at what serious Christian discipleship might look like in practice. It isn't just for recent college graduates. It's also for people whose lives have gotten more complicated. Although Arthur and Wasinger don't have all the answers, the way their families discern the questions in community leads to some wise and inspiring conclusions."

Greg Williams,

Christian Century

"This funny and grace-filled project shows that living simply is doable--especially if you've got a supportive team. In The Year of Small Things, two families share their yearlong project of living in a way that is more in tune with their Christian values. . . . By admitting that the two families still haven't aced their mission, the book establishes a welcoming, realistic-but-striving vibe. Both writers are accomplished and know how to tell a touching story. Their voices blend fluidly together--it is sometimes hard to keep track of who is saying what--forming a chorus in a book which is, after all, about striving for a more spiritual life through togetherness. In describing the families' spiritual journeys, The Year of Small Things makes some wonderfully honest points about the hardships of raising young children. . . . Their experiment is summarized and analyzed, punctuated by often sweet vignettes."

Meredith Grahl Counts,

Foreword Reviews

"Those unfamiliar with the New Monasticism will find in this book a helpful explanation of the movement's tenets and an honest, at times amusing, picture of what embracing those tenets can look like. With leading Christian thinkers such as Brian McLaren inviting us to consider Christianity not merely as a program of beliefs but as an invitation to live those beliefs in relationship, the Arthur and Wasinger families are doing the work of pioneers. They are reminding us of Christianity's roots in the beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount, and they are calling us back to the faith of the early believers who inherently understood that small acts counted for much in the kingdom of God. Indeed, the two families learn that small acts are almost always more radical than they appear."

Abigail Carroll,


"Where The Year of Small Things shines is in the places [the authors] contextualize the marks [of New Monasticism (NM)] for their suburban life. . . . Each chapter ends with three helpful pieces that make the book as much how-to as spiritual memoir. First, there is a challenge to practically engage the month's practice. Second, there is a series of reflective questions. Finally, further reading recommendations are made. . . . These create a kind of devotional feel to the book that should encourage others who share their context. . . . The book accomplishes its goal as a transparent chronicle of two families' pursuit of contextualizing the practices of NM in the suburbs. Their journey is interesting and largely successful, and expands NM literature in several helpful ways. . . . It will serve best NM devotees who are not rooted in the edges of empire, living in an intentional community, and/or who have children. But hopefully [it] will cause more discussion in these circles around these key themes. Whether you are firmly convinced of NM, skeptical of it, or unfamiliar there is plenty here to challenge you to be a more radical disciple."

Jordan Kellicut,

Englewood Review of Books

"The book is an engaging read as the authors alternate unfolding stories with differing perspectives of the same commitment. . . . Spiritual directors will find chapter 4 on reclaiming spiritual habits in the family context of special interest. Questions for reflection and discussion along with references for further reading at the end of each chapter make the volume most useful for group study."

Willared Roth, FAPC,

Sharing the Practice

"[This book] is not a field guide for moving from the comfortable suburbs into commune life. Instead, it's an intimate look at the authors' desire to enter into radical faith through a yearlong experiment in new monasticism. . . . Arthur and Wasinger share their struggles, failures, and celebrations with humor, transparency, and grace. The invitation to join them, and have our own hearts and communities transformed, is hard to resist."

Aimee Fritz,

The Cresset