Armstrong, Karen. Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (New York, NY: Anchor Books, 2011). In 2008, religious historian and scholar Karen Armstrong began the “Charter for Compassion,” a project dedicated to activating the Golden Rule worldwide. This book is an outgrowth of that Charter. Armstrong explicates the principles and practices for making compassionate living an ongoing reality in our lives. Among other things, she counsels readers to learn about compassion, develop compassion for ourselves, and— perhaps most challenging—love our enemies.

Bill, J. Brent and Beth A. Booram. Awaken Your Senses: Exercises for Exploring the Wonder of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012). In their book on exploring the wonder of God with both sides of our brains and with all of our senses (tasting, smelling, seeing, touching, and hearing), Brent Bill and Beth Booram help readers to re-connect with a fully aware and embodied faith. They aim, as they put it, “to help more of you experience more of God.”

Garner, Stephen Chapin with Jerry Thornell. Scattering Seeds: Cultivating Church Vitality (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2012). Many congregations want to know the formula behind successful church renewal. But Stephen Chapin Garner and Jerry Thornell hold that the answer cannot be formulaic. Pointing to the Parable of the Sower— as well as to the story of their own church—they show how “scattering the seeds” of God’s word and trusting in the work of the Holy Spirit are essential components of a revitalization effort.

Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011). Daniel Kahneman demonstrates exceptions to the belief that reason is a prime force in decision-making. He documents how we have two vital but at times incompatible systems of thinking: one which intuitively draws snap judgments, and another which ponders situations more slowly and uses logic more deliberately. The author concludes that wiser decisions result when organizations supply checks and balances to the decisionmaking processes of any one person.

Marcuson, Margaret J. Leaders Who Last: Sustaining Yourself and Your Ministry (New York, NY: Seabury Books, 2009). The author applies family systems theory to the stresses faced by most clergy in congregations. In particular, she helps leaders to understand that they cannot directly control others. A better approach is to offer one’s point of view while challenging and respecting alternative viewpoints. Here is solid wisdom on fostering spiritual maturity among those you lead.

Nadler, Reldan S. Leading with Emotional Intelligence: Hands-On Strategies for Building Confident and Collaborative Star Performers (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2010). You may have been exposed to the theory and concepts behind emotional intelligence (EI), but you need tools to apply EI to your life and work. This book explains how EI supports increased confidence, teamwork, and communication. Each chapter features a “coach’s corner” that provides exercises and applications for developing yourself and your direct reports.

Newman, Katherine S. The Accordion Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents, and the Private Toll of Global Competition(Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2012). Perhaps you’ve seen it in your congregation’s families, or even your own family: adult children who return to their parents’ homes because economic conditions make living elsewhere untenable. The Accordion Family examines this phenomenon, its relation to the pressures of globalization, and its impact on adult children, their parents, their communities, and society.

Pinsky, Mark I. Amazing Gifts: Stories of Faith, Disabilty, and Inclusion (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2012). Amazing Gifts presents stories that demonstrate “what can be done to integrate people with disabilities into faith communities, in the belief that the house of God should include everyone.” Three kinds of stories are offered: those focusing on how congregations make themselves more accessible; those focusing on the ministries of people with disabilities; and those focusing on the families and close relations of people in the disability community.

Roberto, John. Faith Formation 2020: Designing the Future of Faith Formation (Naugatuck, CT: Lifelong Faith Associates, 2010). Church consultant John Roberto offers a forward-looking vision of lifelong faith formation that targets four groups: (1) those already active in congregations; (2) those who participate in faith communities but are less active; (3) those who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious”; and (4) those disengaged from spiritual or religious life altogether.  

Congregations Magazine, 2012-06-15
2012 Issue 2, Number 2