Beaumont, Susan. Inside the Large Congregation (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2011). Inside the Large Congregation addresses the organizational dynamics of congregations whose average weekend worship ranges from 400 to 2000. It presents a typology within the “large” framework that defines the multi-cell, professional, strategic, and matrix churches. It also examines how to align five leadership functions: clergy roles; staff team design and function; governance and board function; acculturation and lay roles; and strategic planning and implementation.

Chaves, Mark. American Religion: Contemporary Trends (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011). Drawing on the General Social Survey and the National Congregations Study, Mark Chaves documents the continuities and the changes in American religious life and practice. Chaves describes trends in seven areas: diversity, belief, involvement, congregations, leaders, liberal Protestant decline, and polarization. Here are comprehensive data sets to support conclusions about the state of religion in America over time.

Covey, Stephen R. The 3rd Alternative: Solving Life’s Most Difficult Problems (New York, NY: Free Press, 2011). Stephen Covey offers an approach to conflict resolution that emphasizes an alternative beyond insisting on “my way,” caving in to “your way,” or reaching for an unsatisfactory compromise. This alternative entails four elements: first, seeing oneself as a person of worth; second, seeing the other as fully human; third, seeking to learn from others because they see things differently; and fourth, synergistically creating possibilities not yet considered.

Didion, Joan. Blue Nights (New York, NY: Random House, 2011). Reflecting on her daughter’s death, Joan Didion demonstrates her ability to draw her readers’ attention to profound pain without traces of sentimentality. Blue Nights floats from memory to question to description to reflection in a way that emulates the confusing aftermath that death leaves in its wake. But here, we also see Didion’s reluctant acknowledgment that the mystery of death, which has claimed her husband and daughter, will one day claim her.

Jones, Jeffrey D. Heart, Mind, and Strength: Theory and Practice for Congregational Leadership (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2008). This book summarizes the best thinking on leadership from a wide variety of contemporary writers. It also offers practical ways to implement these ideas in the congregational setting. Chapters specifically address how to model values and authenticity, discern vision, create and sustain common ground, empower others, work with groups, and deal with institutional stress and conflict.

Martin, James. Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter at at the Heart of the Spiritual Life (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2011). Drawing upon personal experience, scripture, and the lives of saints, Father James Martin argues that a holy life is a joyful life. Joy, humor, and laughter are common experiences that allow people to know themselves and the world better. Martin explores how a faith community can recover its sense of playfulness and levity, how joy can become a vital part of people’s prayer, and how people can nurture their spiritual lives through laughter.

Parks, Sharon Daloz. Leadership Can Be Taught: A Bold Approach for a Complex World (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2005). Challenging the notion that leadership is a matter of charisma, style, or in-born traits, Sharon Daloz Parks defines leadership, explains how it can be taught, and offers an approach to leadership education that emphasizes experience over memorization, as well as adaptive creativity over a technical “fix-it” mentality.

Rendle, Gil. Journey in the Wilderness: New Life for Mainline Churches (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2010). Gil Rendle discusses recent findings on church growth, congregational transformation, clergy development, and congregational identity and mission. He also explores cultural shifts that have significantly affected the mainline church. Later chapters in the book examine the need for deep change in leadership practices and conclude with thoughts about possible futures.

Tennant, Matthew. Preaching in Plenty and in Want (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 2011). Matthew Tennant—a former executive at a Chicago brokerage firm and a current pastor—provides tools for “taking the economy into consideration when preaching.” More specifically, Tennant seeks to educate ministers on the economic context in which they preach while enabling them to connect economic realities to their sermon preparation.