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‘Letters from Downstream’ guides families through choppy spiritual waters of college life |

BOONE – Jim Musser, author and campus minister at Appalachian State, yearns to inspire the parents and guardians of college students to help lead them into a spiritually mature life as they grow into adulthood.

In his first publication, “Letters From Downstream: Why Teaching Kids How To Follow Jesus Is So Important– Insights for Parents and Churches,” Musser explores the shaky faithfulness of youth, and explains what can be done to foster stronger spiritual foundations in college- age students as they mature. Through short essays, personal accounts, and research in the format of a letter to parents and church leaders, Musser addresses many matters of maturing through young adult years, and the potential effect on the beliefs of the younger generation.

Q: What was your inspiration behind writing “Letters From Downstream?”

A: I served as a campus pastor for 38 years and for that entire time saw how spiritually immature most of the freshmen (18-19 years of age) were when they arrived, despite the fact they were raised by Christian parents and involved in a local church growing up. They were not very familiar with the Bible, uncomfortable with prayer, unable to articulate their faith to others and why they believed, and they had little missional understanding of their lives—that they were to be making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) and be “ambassadors for Christ” (II Corinthians 5:20).

So, you have young people who have spent their whole lives living with Christian parents and involved in the local church, yet have very little understanding of what it means to live the Christian life as a follower of Jesus. I equate this in my book to a high school senior reaching graduation who is illiterate. If this were the case, there would be an uproar by his/her parents of her and the school district would certainly come under scrutiny. Yet, for most parents and churches, the lack of spiritual maturity in Christian young people is not a concern or is viewed as normal.

My inspiration for this book is the hope of changing this dynamic. To sound the alarm that things “downstream” (on campus) are not as good as most people believe. (Pastors and parents often believe that as long as their young people are living relatively good and moral lives, that is enough to conclude they are doing well spiritually), and to provide a vision of what impact Christian young people can have on university campuses if they come to campus more spiritually mature.

Q: What has your career in writing been like?

A: I wanted to be a writer since I was in junior high school and actually began college with journalism as my major. I eventually changed my major to social work and then went on to complete a Master of Divinity degree at a seminary in east Tennessee. All along, I was praised by professors for my ability to write. In 1997, I began writing a daily devotion for students called “Words from the Well.” I wrote that for 20 years (It can still be found at I now write a weekly blog, which can be found at, along with articles that I have written over the years. “Letters from Downstream” is my first book, but I have ideas for several other books that I hope will become reality in the next few years.

Q: What do you want people to know about you as an author and/or a pastor?

A: With regard to my book, I was raised by parents who claimed to be Christians and took me to church regularly. But what I saw in their lives was not a devotion to Christ, rather, it was how unhappy they were, that they never read the Bible, they never prayed and their “faith” was really not much more than going to church. So, when I left for college, I didn’t think Christianity had much to do with daily life because it didn’t in my parents’ lives. When I discovered what authentic Christianity was by meeting peers at college who truly loved Jesus, that was when I decided I wanted to follow Him.

Since then, my life has been dedicated to helping college students discover what I discovered—that we are deeply loved and that the Lord desires us to become what He intended us to be when He created us—to live an abundant life for Him (John 10:10). Now, I want to help parents and churches discover how to help their young people come to that understanding much earlier by putting parents at the forefront of spiritually raising their kids rather than the local church through its programs. Biblically, it is the parents’ responsibility to do that, but that has not been the general practice for decades. Instead, parents expect the local church to do the spiritual training of their kids and the church has been more than willing to do it!

Q: Who are you hoping to reach through this book?

A: Church leaders (pastors, elders/deacons, youth pastors, children’s directors, and youth volunteers), parents, grandparents and anyone directly involved with the raising of children.

Readers and interested community members can reach Musser and read more of his work on his personal website Musser will hold a book signing for Letters From Downstream this Saturday, June 25, at Cornerstone Christian Bookstore in Boone from 11 am to 2 pm


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