Belsky, Scott. Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality (New York, NY: Portfolio, 2010). Creative people frequently generate visionary ideas and strategic plans. Less frequent, however, is making these ideas and plans happen.  Implementation requires hard work, argues Scott Belsky, but not genius. Everyone can do it—by organizing themselves, collaborating with others, and exercising leadership. Congregational leaders needing to dust off that strategic plan and make their visions real will find this book invaluable.

Chittister, Joan, and Rowan Williams. Uncommon Gratitude: Alleluia for All That Is (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2010.) Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister and Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams explore the place of gratitude in the face of doubt, conflict, suffering, and death. At the root of such gratitude are the convictions that God is good, that life in all its pain and variety is rich with meaning, and that our “alleluias” can signify our longing to find God in the dark times as well as in times of joy.

Dreyfus, Hubert, and Sean Dorrance Kelly. All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age (New York, NY: Free Press, 2011). Professors Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly explain how the Western classics can serve as doorways to a renewed appreciation for the sacred dimensions of existence. Images and ideas from Homer, Augustine, Dante, Kant, and Melville—among others—can help us respond “to the manifold senses of the sacred that still linger unappreciated at the margins of our disenchanted world.”

Hopkins, Paul E. Pursuing Pastoral Excellence: Pathways to Fruitful Leadership (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2011). Pastoral counselor Paul Hopkins invites clergy to “bear fruit that will last,” creating ministries that make an ongoing difference. Excellent pastors, asserts Hopkins, demonstrate a sense of holy purpose, dependable authenticity, trusting relationships, generous servanthood, creative adaptability, disciplined persistence, and faithful spirituality. With discussion questions and an annotated set of resources, here is a guide to growing as a pastor.

Johnson, Steven. Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (New York, NY: Riverhead Books, 2008). Believing that some environments foster good ideas while others suppress them, Steven Johnson describes the factors and conditions that make innovation possible. He offers seven principles of creativity—including the notions that fruitful thinking requires time, good ideas often follow from many failures, and existing ideas can be repurposed in fresh ways.

Larson, Edward J. Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2006). Edward Larson documents the famous 1925 trial of John Scopes—a Dayton, Tennessee high school teacher arrested for teaching evolution. Featured are the heated exchanges between defense lawyer Clarence Darrow and prosecutor William Jennings Bryan, as well as photographs from the trial. The book’s afterword draws parallels and distinctions between the Scopes trial and recent public debates.

Meyer, Keith. Whole Life Transformation: Becoming the Change Your Church Needs (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010). The term “whole life transformation,” holds the author, means opening the mind and heart to God’s presence here and now. Beyond that, it means seeking God’s kingdom through intentional discipleship. Keith Meyer explains how “God is calling the church to recover the life that is ours in Christ, a life that the Holy Spirit keeps on breathing into the church.”

Olsen, Charles M. The Wisdom of the Seasons: How the Church Year Helps Us Understand Our Congregational Stories (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2009). Charles Olsen illustrates the value of weaving our individual and communal stories with the biblical stories that form the church year. Exploring three key concepts (letting go, naming God’s presence, and taking hold), he helps readers tap the wisdom in biblical traditions and integrate it with everyday life. This book will benefit congregations seeking to connect ancient traditions with modern living.

Senge, Peter M., et. al. Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future (New York, NY: Crown Business, 2008). Learning theorist Peter Senge and colleagues discover the value of collective learning processes, in which all participants profoundly affect the outcomes of planned change. A component of these processes is “presence,” which happens when people listen deeply, let go of needs for control and certainty, and envision an emerging future.