While a leader’s primary source of wisdom will always be the Bible, those who embrace other sources of knowledge have more tools and context for its interpretation, and case studies for how best to apply biblical teaching in a modern church leadership role.
When searching for church leadership books there are a lot to choose from, but not all authors have the strong theological education and discipleship experience to provide instruction on church leadership.
So how do you find the best books for you and your leadership team without reading through the entire bookstore? The humble book review is here to help. In this list, we bring you some of the most iconic Christian leadership books that teach different approaches to the unique challenges of pastoral ministry.
Best Church Leadership Books
1. Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence For Every Believer by J. Oswald Sanders
Part of the Sanders Spiritual Growth series, this book is best read by church leaders looking to enhance their leadership in the spiritual and physical realms to lead their congregation or church community better under the strong guidance of the teachings of Jesus Christ.
The book draws from the Scripture and has elaborate examples of charismatic servants of God like Nehemiah, Moses, Paul the apostle, and Charles Spurgeon. While Sanders recognizes that natural leadership attributes are a gift from God, they are only truly effective when used to bring glory to God. As such, church leaders keen on enhancing their leadership abilities should check out this book and draw from its teachings on topics such as:
- The one major requirement of true leadership
- The cost of true leadership
- Leadership responsibility
- Tests of leadership
- How to reproduce good leaders
- The attributes of quality leadership
- The criteria of quality leadership.
- The key principles of true leadership
2. The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World by Peter Scazzero
This is part of the eight books in Scazzero's Emotionally Healthy Spirituality series and is best for church leaders looking to enhance their inner life to make more impact in their leadership in the church and the world at large.
The book shows church leaders how they can build a satisfying Christ-led inner life and focuses on key areas such as overcoming stress, planning, decision-making, team building, influencing other people and nurturing a healthy culture. It is geared toward helping you become a holistic individual with the proper emotional health required to lead as a Christian.
The book focuses on some key areas such as:
- Helpful tips on facing your shadow, leading others whether you are married or single, slowing down, and embracing new beginnings out of different endings
- Elaborate assessments meant for leaders to gauge their leadership health
- Practical, tried, and tested ways for equipping leaders both at local churches and internationally all over the world
- Core issues of unique Christian leadership.
3. Who Moved My Pulpit?: Leading Change in the Church by Thom S. Rainer
This 160-page church leadership book is a good choice for ministers, pastors, lay leaders, and other key leaders in the church who are struggling with understanding and managing change in a fast-changing world. As much as change is inevitable and is beneficial for the development of a church, Christian leaders need to know how to embrace such change to ensure both they, and the entire church, remain spiritually healthy.
This short book will cost you a few hours of your time to read or listen to but it will be a gem in your journey with church leadership, especially where changes are frequent and intensive. It will equip you with some of the following key points:
- Knowing where change is coming from
- Knowing why changes are happening
- Finding out how you should deal with the changes while still following God all along
- Being ahead of change to ensure your church remains true to its timeless calling while still serving opportunities in the new era
- How to change approaches to reach a fast-changing culture.
You can also check out Rainer's other bestseller, Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive.
4. Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tod Bolsinger
Sometimes as a church leader, minister, or pastor you may find that the tables have turned and you are leading in a cultural context that is way different than your expectations.
You may realize that, at such times, your training holds you back rather than carrying you along. This celebrated book by Tod Bolsinger changes such scenarios for you and illuminates your leadership path with practical insights for reimagining effective leadership.
In a fast-changing world, you will need more than just canoes to conquer the mountains of modern-day Christian ministry. I like Bolsinger's book as it leads the reader into finding new navigational tools to be able to conquer the hardships of ministry.
The book now has a study guide that helps you formulate ways to lead in Christianity with courage and confidence. The most important thing to do when you find yourself in a different cultural context is to adapt to new ways of leadership, and this book will help you do so drawing from Bolsinger's extensive pastoral experience.
5. Courageous Leadership: Field-Tested Strategy for the 360° Leader by Bill Hybels
If your zeal is to do your best to effectively lead your church in spreading God's message of hope to bring change in the world, then this is the right book for you. As a leader, you have the potential to positively change the world by bringing believers together and nurturing their spiritual gifts to help non-believers become devout followers of Jesus Christ. This book will show you the right tools to use to achieve this noble responsibility.
The one major aspect I like about the book is that it draws heavily from Hybels' personal life experiences, through which he brings out important life principles with compelling first-hand stories. Hybels explores the challenges, tasks, and tools of your true calling. Among other things, he helps you to:
- Discover the power of a vision and turn it into constructive action
- Embrace change
- Discover your leadership style
- Walk with God and stay put in your God-given course
- Develop other leaders; and
- Make the best of the spiritual gift of leadership in you.
6. Leading Change Without Losing It: Five Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition by Carey Nieuwhof
Leading Change Without Losing It is part of Nieuwhof's The Change Trilogy and is a good fit for the church leader who has encountered opposition while trying to bring about change.
As a leader you try your best to bring change into an otherwise disoriented world, but this is often met by opposition and you have to equip yourself with means of navigating the change itself as well as the opposition.
Nieuwhof's book helps you bring about change without losing it through the following five strategies:
- Determining the people who support or are opposed to the change and why
- Deciding where to put your undivided attention
- Developing the questions that will inform your course of action
- Learning to attack problems rather than the people fronting them
- Persevering right up to the crucial breakthrough.
Other church leaders will find this book a gem as they try to navigate the uncertain waters of bringing change in the ministry and leaving a positive lasting legacy in their churches and beyond.
7. In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri Nouwen
At only 107 pages, Henri Nouwen's In the Name of Jesus is a short read. It’s aimed at church leaders curious about discovering Nouwen's unique approach to Christian leadership as not just the effort of church leaders but also that of the entire church community.
Nouwen believes that the best way to determine the success of leadership is to consider the "communal and mutual experience" rather than the ordinary consideration of the effectiveness of the leader only. This unique approach posits that leadership without the community is impossible since, as Christians, we are all collectively called by God into enjoying a common experience.
Church leaders, pastors, and ministers will find this book a game-changer amongst the broad outlook on matters of church leadership as they now have to factor in the contribution of the congregation in shaping leadership.
It is not enough to recognize that, as a leader, you have the responsibility to lead. It is important to know and understand the role your community plays in how effective or ineffective your leadership turns out.
8. The Motive: Why So Many Leaders Abdicate Their Most Important Responsibilities by Patrick Lencioni
Patrick Lencioni's approach to major leadership lessons using simple fables endears him to scores of readers across the world. The Motive is one such fable that Christian and business leaders can look to for tips on examining their true motivation for taking up leadership.
While it calls for utmost honesty to oneself, not many leaders would be able to fully discover the true motivation behind their zeal to lead. Lencioni presents us with practical ways of examining ourselves to see what spurs us into leadership.
By following his actionable tips, as leaders we are able to avoid the loopholes that kill our church communities and eliminate the pitfalls that cause hurt to the very followers we are serving.
Lencioni uses plot twists and dialogues to bring us to an unexpected and equally enlightening resolution, coupled with simple life lessons from the fable and practical advice drawn from his theory on leadership and life in general.
9. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
This bestseller is part of Sinek's Start with Why series. It explores, in depth, the idea that leaders need to determine the reasons or motives that drive people into joining a movement or service. For the leader, the Why part would include assessing oneself to determine the reason you are involved in leadership.
This is a must-read leadership book for examining the real-life motivations that guide people into different lines of action. He also draws comparisons between major world leaders who, although from different backgrounds, exhibit similarities in their manner of thinking, acting, and communicating. Sinek names this aspect The Golden Circle.
The Golden Circle offers a system through which movements are led, organizations built, and people inspired. Sinek provokes us with several questions, such as why some people command greater loyalty from both employees and customers. The same methods can be replicated in church situations.
10. Next Generation Leader: 5 Essentials for Those Who Will Shape the Future by Andy Stanley
Church leadership will soon become obsolete if churches fail to invest in leadership development to bring up a future disciple team from the youth ranks. In this book, Andy Stanley notes that missional mandates can be instilled in the youth to prepare them for leadership roles in the future through equipping them with the five basic characteristics:
- Competence; and
Andy Stanley shows us how the future crop of leaders can be mentored through practical advice and approaches to:
- Leverage uncertainty
- Maintain stable moral authority
- Discover and tap into one's strengths
- Enlist the help of leadership coaches
- Harness one's fears.
At only 176 pages long, this is a must-read for all church leaders who realize the importance of nurturing the next generation. Just like a robust country thrives on how best the youths are trained, a healthy church calls for an equipped young generation.
Other ways to improve your ability to lead churches and congregations include church leadership training programs and attending church leadership conferences. And as we all know, leaders are always learning new things. Why not take a look at this article: 10 Top Church Technology Resources For Leaders in 2023.
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