And yet somehow they do find time to read, and often toward decidedly productive ends. Those who lead probably benefit as much, if not more, from reading thoughtful literature on theology and ministry, because they have a role in which what they are learning applies, and book length treatments, when read, help them gain critical distance sufficient enough to peer in to their ministry with a modicum of objectivity.
So, in answer to one of the more frequently asked questions of clergy, "What have you read with your governing board?" I offer these resources culled from my own experience, or recommended to me by trusted colleagues.
1. My neighbor in ministry at the Episcopal church highly recommends Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers: Ministry Anytime, Anywhere, By Anyone. This book is designed to set ministry free, to create a permission giving culture in congregations. It can help boards stop bottlenecking ministry through control and regulation.
2. Increasingly I am hoping that our church, and many churches across the country, will engage their neighborhoods. This book is a leading resource focusing congregations in this direction: The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches Are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community
3. Too many churches focus so much of their energy for mission on reaching the kind of people already going to other churches. This is a "red ocean" strategy, competing with neighboring churches for the same set of people. Developing "blue ocean" strategies that reach new communities with the gospel requires creativity, not only in refocusing strategy, but building the systems and structures to accomplish it. Blue Ocean Strategy, Expanded Edition: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant
4. Some councils are hoping to reconnect to the source and ground of their faith. Rowan William's recent book, Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer, is one of the more profound and succinct introductions to Christianity I have ever read.
5. I can't even begin to say how much I have been influenced by Luther Snow's thinking on asset-mapping. The Power of Asset Mapping: How Your Congregation Can Act on Its Gifts
6. Sometimes I think leaders would benefit from insensitivity training. Any board that is guided too much by the anxiety of the system won't actually lead. I'm not sure there is a better guide to self-differentiation and leadership than Edwin Friedman, whose post-humous A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix is worth reading and re-reading.
7. Charles Lane's Ask, Thank, Tell: Improving Stewardship Ministry in Your Congregation offers the most practical framework for improving the three essential aspects of stewardship ministry: asking for gifts, thanking those who have given, and telling about the ministries that gifts have funded.
8. You don't have to buy a book. You could just read a blog post. Many pastor's do, including reading blog posts from Lutheran Confessions. Some especially popular ones include:
9. If you are looking for a very readable book that will also challenge the faith community to work towards reparations in multicultural relationships, look no further than Jennifer Harvey's Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation (Prophetic Christianity)
10. For a recent review of this last book, see By the Rivers of Babylon: Blueprint for a Church in Exile. There are many ways to be church in the world today, and traditional churches may benefit from hearing stories of alternative patterns for life of Christian life together.
11. For the handbook on board ministry that every council member needs but may not have received, see Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership
12. A colleague recently recommended Clif Christopher's because of its focus on finances and mission. Rich Church, Poor Church: Keys to Effective Financial Ministry