Never has it been easier to access information. But that also creates a glut of misinformation. We want a trustworthy perspective on hot button issues, but who has the time to sort through all the data?

To provide such a broad yet informative overview, the Barna Group, with its vast stores of public opinion research, has developed a series of booklets called Frames. These booklets address our need for well-researched information in an easily-digestible form. Each Frame provides a framework (get it?) for approaching unwieldy topics ranging from what to do about our failing public schools (Schools in Crisis) to guidance for women seeking to balance career and home life without losing their identity (Wonder Women) to why the church still matters in the wake of declining membership (Sacred Roots).

Each pocket-sized edition is about a hundred pages long and includes lots of infographics. The Frames read like briefs: structured to quickly orient the reader to the topic, the research surrounding it, analysis from some of the key players, and some potential responses.

Frames follow a uniform structure:

Infographics. Each Frame begins with a section of vividly-designed, detailed infographics. These snapshots of public opinion in an easy-to-interpret format provide a helpful context for the topic.

Framework. The selected topic is introduced with a bird's-eye view drawing on Barna's analysis. If you're strapped for time, this section alone gets you up to speed on the conversation and research surrounding the topic.

Frame. The main portion of the Frame is an extended essay by a trusted voice. For instance, David H. Kim, who works with twentysomethings at Redeemer Church in New York City, provides an insightful snapshot of the millennial generation's unique challenges and contributions (20 and Something).

Re/Frame. This section provides one or two briefer treatments. Sometimes it's a personal story related to the topic, as with Stephan Joubert's account from apartheid South Africa (Fighting for Peace). Sometimes it's practical advice as with Brandon Schultz's tips for combating the overly-connected life (The Hyperlinked Life). Particularly entertaining was a presentation from an ambitious 10-year-old plotting out his life goals (Multi-Careering).

Finally, each Frame is bookended with study questions to help you internalize the material. They lend themselves well to group discussion as well. The Frames also come in a DVD format.

Personalized and informative

The Frames series personalizes huge issues that can seem unapproachable. Adoption and foster care, for instance, can seem confusing or polarizing. Jedd Medefind in the Becoming Home Frame provides the steadying, expert voice of someone who works closely with issues of adoption in his role as president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans. Not only can he invite you into the ongoing conversation, but he adds faces to the topic with gripping anecdotes of how real lives are affected.

The series also avoids the trap of personalizing its topics so much that the views become myopic. By surrounding each author's voice with current research, the reader gets a sense of the larger scope of the topic.

The Frames series is a quick way to orient yourself to today's hot-button issues. The rich cultural analysis will help you step with confidence into conversations on the pressing issues that will shape the landscape of ministry for years to come.

Books in Season One:

The Hyperlinked Life
A Theology of Information in the Screen Age
by David Kinnaman & Jun Young

20 and Something
The New Shape of Young Adulthood
by David H. Kim

Fighting for Peace
Christians in a Culture of Violence
by Carol Howard Merritt & Tyler Wigg-Stevenson

Finding Work that Matters
by Bob Goff

Greater Expectations
Stewardship of Life in the Digital Age
by Claire Diaz-Ortiz

Becoming Home
Adoption, Foster Care, and Mentoring
by Jedd Medefind

Wonder Women
Navigating the Challenges of Motherhood, Career, and Identity
by Kate Harris

Schools in Crisis
They Need Your Help (Whether You Have Kids or Not)
by Nicole Baker Fulgham

Sacred Roots
Why the Church Still Matters
by Jon Tyson

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