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Books on Church Leadership

Essential Reading

Confessions of a Reformission Rev. (sic)

reDiscovering Church

Leading Through Change:
Shepherding the Town and Country Church in a New Era

Other books

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Coaching 101

Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life:
Rethinking Ministry to the Poor

Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving Broken Promises, Violaged Expaecations and Bad Behavior

E3: Effective, Empowering Elders

Getting Things Done
The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Guidelines for Communal Discernment

Leading Turnaround Churches
Leading Turnaround Teams

The Thin Book on Naming Elephants

Toxic Churches

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Steven Covey
Free Press, 2004 – 384 pages, paperback
Rating: 4 stars

This is a classic time-management book which has been updated and reprinted many times. What strikes me is not the technique for making progress in our personal lives. (For that I prefer Getting Things Done.) Yet Covey's work mirrors so much of our work as SIMs that I wonder if it is not best used to train churches how to run. He begins with the private victory (principles, self-governance, and self-management) and then moves on to the public victory (thinking win/win, seeking first to understand and then be understood, and generating creative cooperation aka synergy. Finally he calls his readers to never neglect continual self-renewal. Such principles applied to the life of a church would not go far wrong in setting aright many of the issues SIMs face.

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Coaching 101:
Discover the Power of Coaching
Robert E. Logan, Sherilyn Carlton (with Tara Miller)
ChurchSmart, 2003 – 284 pages, paperback
Rating: 4+ stars

Logan and Carlton have given us a clear and well written step-by-step guide to coaching. Using a 5-step technique and plenty of very clear illustrations, you cannot help but understand what it will take to coach.

The advantage of coaching is that it empowers others to do long after you leave. It gives you the ability to work with situations which you have never faced before, since you do not have to (and, indeed, don't want to) play the expert as a coach. Indeed, the only basic skills you need is asking the right kinds of questions in the right order. I was especially glad to see that Logan et. al. do not demand "a foolish consistency", as you see that in some of his coaching illustrations the "coach" does not simply ask questions. Yet the simplicity of asking questions and letting the person (and the Spirit) guide the conversation presents such an elegant solution to many of our leadership problems, that this alone allows will be worth the price of the book.

Additionally, experienced SIMs may notice how this process parallels the mission self-study process for the church. In a way, coaching replicates for the individual what self-study does for the church. Conversely, studying coaching may help us more clearly empower churches to find and implement God's vision for their church.

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Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life:
Rethinking Ministry to the Poor
Robert D. Lupton
Regal Books, 2007 – 139 pages, paperback
Rating: 4+ stars

For those experiencing "giving fatigue" in dealing with endless lines of poor and (often) ungrateful people, Lupton's book has an answer: community redevelopment. Moving beyond ministries of "betterment" (where we "do for people" rather than help them to "do for themselves" (i.e development), Lupton calls for us to quit giving and start loving.

John Perkins (Voice of Calvary Ministries) wrote the Foreword to this fine little volume. I hope that will reassure many who are stuck in a "social services" mindset. After many years of doing things that make people more dependent on the church, Lupton has realized that biblical love sets people free and gives them the self-respect of doing for themselves. From abandoning clothing closets in favor of thrift stores to encouraging churches to constantly ask "what is good for this neighborhood when considering building projects/parking, etc. Lupton calls for us to abandon "do-gooder" models and embrace "the market".

Though sometimes he sounds almost like Ayn Rand, do not mistake Lupton for a cold-hearted capitalist. He cares deeply about his neighbor and encourages Christian gentrification that looks at the poor and elderly around them and seeks to give them a hand up, not a hand out. Over and over again he asks us to consider, "Will this ministry empower those living in our challenged neighborhoods to improve their lot in life and foster the dignity of providing for themselves?"

Lupton accepts that inequalities are not injustices. (Not all of us have the same abilities and therefore we cannot expect that we will achieve the same success. We can't all be Bill Gates.) And he provides a detailed history of the mistakes he made in ministering to the poor along the way to constructing this successful philosophy of ministry. The chapters are short and the book very readable. As someone who has served in blighted urban communities, I think that anyone interested in effective urban ministry will want to read this book.

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Confessions of a Reformission Rev.:
Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church
Mark Driscoll
Zondervan, 2006 – 207 pages, paperback
Rating: 5 stars

It seems that we can only have one honest pastor of a rapidly growing church per decade. Last decade it was Bill Hybels (see reDiscovering Church below). This decade it is Mark Driscoll. After reading this Confession my wife says "Driscoll is arrogant, but that is one of his better qualities." I must agree with her and I wonder, "What's her point?" This is a Confession in every sense of the word. Driscoll, the sarcastic, testosterone-soaked Emerging church pastor, wants us to see how Mars Hill (his church in Seattle) grew, warts and all.

You may not find everything that he tells you credible (especially you who are less charismatic). Still you cannot miss his passion and his ability to point out that most of us are too concerned with pleasing everyone or having a stable church to focus on mission. Driscoll confesses that he sinned, burned out, offended and did much we would find unacceptable. Thinking of this reminds me that Peter sucked up to the Judaisers, David committed adultery and murder, and and Paul threw away a ministry partner (John Mark) who could have been rehabilitated and got into such a snit about it that he broke up his Spirit-designated ministry team. And God still used them. The jury remains out on Driscoll. I only wish there were more pastors willing to risk being wrong to do something exciting for the kingdom.

[side note: what is it with "chapter 0" showing up in a lot of books lately? I suppose it's supposed to look "cutting edge". It really only looks silly. Either write chapter 1 first or re-order the book. 'Nuf said.]

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Crucial Confrontations: Tools for resolving broken promises, violated expectations and bad behavior
Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler
McGraw-Hill, 2005 – 284 pages, paperback
Rating: 4 stars

Every leader must confront others at some time. However, "confront" has acquired a very aggressive - even violent - connotation. This volume will help you learn how to confront well in all areas of life. It is a bit pedantic, yet filled with examples and scenarios that make everything very clearl. If you fear confrontation I believe that this book will give you all the instruction you need.

I found "Part 1: Work on Me First" an especially insightful part. Learning how to resist being reactive and to pick the right confrontation. (I learned that in any situation there are many issues to confront. Finding the right one can make all the difference.)

Even those of us (like me) comfortable with and successful in confrontation will find this a thoughtful and insightful review. For the rest of us, this will be essential reading.

Ps. There is also a companion book, Crucial Conversations which deals with lesser confrontations. It was written before Crucial Confrontations and covers much of the same issues with other illustrations and less-helpful graphics. Don't buy both unless you just like having extra books on your shelf.

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E3: Effective, Empowering Elders
Dr. Rick Thompson
ChurchSmart Resources, 2006 – 141 pages, paperback
Rating: 2+ stars

It pains me to speak badly of a ChurchSmart book, so let me get the criticism out of the way:

Thompson's theology of the church and Elders is fatally flawed. He revisions the church after the American federal government (executive, legislative, judicial branches) making the congregation the "judicial branch". Why he did not stick to the more biblical categories of Prophet, Priest and King I can only guess. And I guess that it is because the vast majority of the book is taken, explicitly, from secular management sources.

Ok, now for the good stuff. The rest of the book is filled with much good practical (albiet standard secular) advice on being a leader. I suppose that dressing up wise management ideas in biblical garb does make it accessible to those who won't read Drucker directly. All truth is God's truth.

Still, I cannot recommend you give this to your Elders for use.

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Getting Things Done
The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
David Allen
Penguin, 2001– 259 pages, paperback
Rating: 4 stars

OK, no on I know gets excited about productivity books. However, this one works if you work the system. Basically, David Allen shows you how to make sure there are no loose ends in your life. He gets rid of all the annoying "to do" lists and puts your life in either a calendar or a folder with a calendar time to refer to it. Yes, it's a bit more complicated than that. However, of all the systems I have tried (and I have tried many) this one works the best... when you are consistent.

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Guidelines for Communal Discernment
Office of the General Assembly, PC(USA), 2008 – 22 pages, paperback
Rating: 4 stars

Don't let the source fool you. This booklet is an interesting suggestion for getting beyond Robert's Rules of Order. It details a way of working through difficult and thorny issues in a loving, Biblical and Spirit-directed manner. The key to the whole process is establishing authentic, loving relationships across lines of disagreement and maintaining those relationship as you seek God. While you may not like some of the recent decisions by the PC(USA), this pamphlet authentically wrestles with the question of how to be more deliberately Christian in our decision making processes.

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Leading Through Change:
Sheperding the Town and Country Church in a New Era
Barney Wells, Martin Giese, Ron Klassen
ChurchSmart, 2005– 112 pages, paperback
Rating: 5+ stars

My first impressions: WOW!

Those are my second and third also. This little volume should be mandated reading for every person coming out of seminary or Interim Training and considering work in the rural churches. It touches on every area of change and challenge facing leaders in rural churches and addresses how to lead churches through those changes well.

Wells, Giese and Klassen use a variety of parable-like illustrations which could easily become sermon-illustration material or conversation starters. Their comments on change are systematic along with both general and specific directions on how to make changes in rural churches. The cautionary notes they add along the way completely reflect the common mistakes made often by both rural churches and leaders inexperienced in rural churches. They close the book with four true-life stories of how change was made in worship style, facilities, adding a worship service and adding staff.

I have only one minor quibble. Wells, et al. do not address how to lead a church that has embraced the urban/suburban transplants into their congregation. That next step in confronting the pioneer/homesteader conflict yearns for coverage. Still, if you are in a rural church and don't have this book on your shelf (or memorized) you need to.

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Leading Turnaround Churches
Gene Wood
ChurchSmart, 2001 – 167 pages, paperback
Rating: 4+ stars

Leading Turnaround Teams
Gene Wood and Daniel Harkavy
ChurchSmart, 2004 – 222 pages, paperback
Rating: 3+ stars

Gene Wood knows how to turn churches around. He's worked with several churches leading them not only away from decline, but also into dramatic growth. When he talks about leading turn around churches and teams, he knows his stuff. He comes to the question of turning churches around from a distinctly Baptist perspective and so he promotes a rather muscular vision of the (Senior) Pastor.

The first of these volumes clearly documents the various behaviors, convictions and characteristics of turnaround pastors. It will challenge anyone thinking about this vital issue to consider whether they have what it takes. I believe that all his insights are well founded and well to be heeded. Characteristic #3 especially challenges SIMs working to turn churches around.

"#3 Turnaround leaders avoid a church which does not desire to become healthy"

We don't always chose churches which desire to be healthy, but seek to implant that desire and begin the turnaround. Furthermore, we seek to create a congregation-centered (not pastor-centered) vision and assist the church in finding the pastor that fits that vision. These challenges itself can discourage. And so this volume is essential for keeping perspective as well as informing our work.

The second of these books was written with Daniel Harkavy, a church and leader consultant of considerable knowledge and experience. Wood and Harkavy focus in on constructing teams to surround and assist the pastor and Harkevy's experience shines thorough in the detail in which they describe the process of construction. Yet, the depth of his understanding makes this volume more unweildy than the first because of the volume of technical details included. That said, you can do much worse than working through this book and using the details as a technical manual on the subject.

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reDiscovering Church
Lynne & Bill Hybels
Zondervan, 1997 – 224 pages, hardcover
Rating: 5 stars

This book speaks more truthfully about growing churches than 100 "how-to" books combined. A two-part expose of Willow Creek by it's two central insiders, this book will give every pastor inspiration and pause. While part two (by Bill) will ground you with essential principles to growing a church, the real jewel in this volume is part one (by Lynne) which candidly (and sometimes brutally) recounts the history of Willow Creek from youth group to the (now) second largest church in the US. The "warts and all" account will remind us of the hazards of deviating from good biblical practices and wise living. I got the chance to personally thank Bill for this account and I think everyone who reads will want to. This book will remind every pastor of the joys and hazards of ministry and cure all of us of "ministry envy".

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The Thin Book on Naming Elephants
Sue Annis Hammond and Andrea B. Mayfield
Thin Book Publishing, 2004 - 110 pages, paperback
Rating: 3 stars

A secular book on leadership, you will need to work to apply this to the church or SIM ministry. Still, don't write this book off. For a SIM chapters 2 and 3 can be mined fruitfully. Chapter 2 deals with a process for getting assumptions on the table. Such assumptions can sabotage an interim process. Surfacing those assumptions (including the "we don't need an interim" assumption) may well be very helpful. Chapter 3 deals with destructive leaders. I am sorry to say that several pastors I have followed (as a pastor and as a SIM) have reflected the evils described here.

see also on my Books on After Pastors page

Toxic Churches

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