Baab, Lynne M. Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2011). Lynne Baab explores the components of meaningful friendships—including listening, remembering, praying, asking, giving, thanking, sharing, caring, accepting, and forgiving. She asserts that the key challenge of friendships is growing in the capacity to be a friend. Major portions of the book are devoted to the role of technology in either enhancing or diminishing friendships.

Blodgett, Barbara J. Becoming the Pastor You Hope to Be: Four Practices for Improving Ministry (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2011). Barbara Blodgett focuses on four practices that can significantly improve ministry: soliciting credible feedback; forming relationships with good mentors; developing peer-based communities of learning; and transforming your role in public life. Here is a book that will not only help new pastors develop important skills, but also help seasoned pastors develop already-existing capacities and approach their ministry in fresh ways.

Brooks, James L. The Unbroken Circle: A Toolkit for Congregations Around Illness, End of Life, and Grief (Durham, NC: Duke Institute on Care at the End of Life, 2009). This book asks congregations to consider three questions: (1) how can they help all people to remain connected with their faith communities in times of illness and grief?; (2) how can they “mobilize care and support for people living with illness, end of life, and grief?” and (3) how can a congregation’s education, pastoral care, communications, worship, and facilities together provide a supportive community?

Conner, Benjamin. Practicing Witness: A Missional Vision of Christian Practices (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2011). Benjamin Conner explains his definition of “missional theology” and reflects on how “Christian practices” can “contribute to and be challenged by the work of missional theologians.” Conner discusses the practices from Practicing Our Faith, Craig Dykstra’s conception of Christian practices, opportunities for “practicing witness,” and the touchpoints between practices and mission.

Foster, Richard J. Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2011). Richard Foster emphasizes that while we are called by God to silence and stillness, we are also called to action and “obedience to the ways of God. Hearing and obeying.” The three book sections—on laying the foundation for prayer, engaging in prayer practices, and dealing with distractions—offer an accessible introduction to meditation.

Kegan, Robert, and Lisa Laskow Leahy. Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing, 2009.) The authors assert that those of us who lead at any level are often driven by an agenda that is embedded in our mindsets, yet eludes our awareness. This book provides insight into how change works, the value of the authors’ change process for individuals as well as groups, and specific approaches to applying this change process for ourselves.

Palmer, Parker J. Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011). Fully participating in American democracy, holds Parker Palmer, requires us to heal our hearts of the distrust which has proliferated in public life. Believing that we must “come together in dialogue toward mutual understanding,” he encourages us to begin healing by taking small actions that promote listening and mutual respect.

Thumma, Scott and Warren Bird. The Other 80 Percent: Turning Your Church’s Spectators into Active Participants (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011). While it’s a truism that twenty percent of a congregation does eighty percent of its work, Scott Thumma and Warren Bird argue that it need not be that way. Thumma and Bird visited numerous churches to discover why people chose each church, how they got involved, and how they grew spiritually. They narrate their discoveries and advise readers on what these discoveries imply for turning “spectators” into participants.

Warford, Malcolm L. The Spirit’s Tether: Eight Lives in Ministry (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2011). This book examines the lives of eight men and women who entered Union Theological Seminary in 1976 and have reflected on their work as local pastors over more than thirty years. Through hearing their stories and learning of their joys and losses, Warford points to some issues for the church—including the significance of congregations in calling pastors, the ambiguities of ordained life, and how clergy seek help.