Blanchard, Ken. Leading at a Higher Level (Revised and Expanded Edition) (Upper Saddle River, NJ: FT Press, 2010). “Leading at a higher level,” claims Ken Blanchard, is “the process of achieving worthwhile results while acting with respect, care, and fairness for the well-being of all involved.” Values undergirding this process are ethical behavior, mutual trust, profitable operations, and continual learning. Congregational leaders involved in vision-setting, strategic planning, employee management, or team motivation will find the clear insights and illustrations invaluable.

Comins, Rabbi Mike.  Making Prayer Real: Leading Jewish Spiritual Voices on Why Prayer Is Difficult and What to Do about It(Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2010.) Rabbi Mike Comins has gathered more than fifty Jewish leaders to guide readers into a more vital, enlivening life of prayer. This book begins by explaining the meaning of prayer and prayer’s spiritual dynamics. Subsequent sections explore beginning to pray, growing and healing through prayer, embracing traditional Jewish prayer, and building a prayer practice.

Froese, Paul and Christopher Bader. America’s Four Gods: What We Say about God—and What That Says about Us (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010). Citing research showing that nearly 95 percent of Americans believe in God, sociologists Paul Froese and Christopher Bader assert that the existence of God may not be our primary religious battle. Instead, the battle may be over who God is. The authors contend that the way we view God can significantly affect the way we view ourselves, our lives, and our world

Long, Thomas L. Accompany Them with Singing: The Christian Funeral (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Thomas Long challenges the notion that the purpose of a funeral is to manage grief. He believes, rather, that the purpose is to find meaning. Long explores the marks of a good funeral, the practical matters involved, and preaching at funerals. He also discusses particularly difficult funerals—such as when the deceased are children or have committed suicide.

Merritt, Carol Howard. Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2010). Defining a “frame” as a mental structure by which we understand our lives and the world, Carol Howard Merritt invites readers into a new way of framing ministry and congregational life. While this frame would acknowledge both the rich traditions and the dark valleys of our past, it would also proclaim a real hope for Christian vitality—one grounded in the “changing demographics, shifting social concerns, and burning spiritual yearnings” of younger generations.

Pascale, Richard, Jerry Sternin, and Monique Sternin. The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems  (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing, 2010). Organizations seeking solutions to difficult problems usually opt for the advice of outside “experts.” But the authors contend that, within a troubled group, at least one person (the “positive deviant”) has likely met and dealt with such problems. They illustrate how positive deviance especially applies when problems are embedded in complex social realities.

Putnam, Robert D. and David E. Campbell. American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us  (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2010). Drawing on Harvard University’s “Faith Matters” Survey, Robert Putnam and David Campbell argue two seemingly contradictory points: religious political polarization is a deep reality of American life, and yet Americans display “a high degree of tolerance for those of (most) other religions, including those without any religion in their lives.”

Steinke, Peter. A Door Set Open: Grounding Change in Mission and Hope (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2010). Applying his knowledge of systems theory and the ways that emotionality operates in congregations, Peter Steinke explains the barriers to change and the strategies for responding to these barriers with maturity. He also discusses the context in which many congregations function and the centrality of mission for dealing with cultural and systemic issues.

Whitney, Diana, Amanda Trosten-Bloom, and Kae Rader. Appreciative Leadership: Focus on What Works to Drive Winning Performance and Build a Thriving Organization (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2010). “Appreciative leadership,” say the authors, “is the relational capacity to mobilize creative potential and turn it into positive power—to set in motion positive ripples of confidence, energy, enthusiasm, and performance—to make a positive difference in the world.” Key elements and core strategies of this leadership are examined and discussed in detail.
Congregations, 2011-04-01
Issue 1 2011, Number 1