Change: How To Remain A Strong Leader During Your Church’s Transition, by Janice Stinnett
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/WestBow Press in exchange for an honest review.]
It is difficult to know whether a book like this ought to be commended or censured. On the positive side of the balance, this particular book is short and offers lengthy and relevant biblical citations as well as opportunities for the reader to write and reflect on their own thoughts about themselves as a leader. The author writes with a disarming candor about her own experiences with a leadership crisis in her own congregation that gave the opportunity to serve as a Treasurer, and this story is itself more than a little interesting for those of us who are perhaps too familiar with such turmoil ourselves . However, although this does make the book a worthwhile read, it is necessary as well to comment upon the negative side of the balance, including the fact that the author openly admits to being a very unseasoned and immature Christian who, despite her family background as a preacher’s kid, was long very lax in her studies and in her relationship with God, and the fact that the author does not appear to have been experienced enough as a leader to serve as an expert in church leadership. Rather, this book resembles a modified memoir about her own experiences and can be enjoyed as such.
This book is, in light of its contents as far as church leadership goes, well organized into twelve chapters. While presenting an overall narrative of success in discussing the author’s spiritual growth and the fact that church turmoil and the absence of leadership led to her own growth and development as a leader, there are other chapters that do not have much in the way of narrative discussion but are meant to provide the reader with the opportunity to read relevant passages about biblical leadership and to assess their own strengths and weaknesses as leaders. In some ways, the fact that the writer is not such an obviously seasoned and experienced leader acts in her favor, in that readers of this book are not likely to consider themselves unqualified for positions of congregational leadership after comparing their own qualifications and talents and abilities with those of the author. Of course, the author’s own experiences are not likely to be very comforting to those people for whom the proper handling and encouragement of local membership represents a particularly difficult challenge, as it is in many congregations.
In reflecting on whether this book is a good one or not, one must examine many aspects. The book itself is pleasant enough and likely an enjoyable read for anyone who thinks themselves, or is thought by others, to have a great deal of leadership potential within their congregations. The author’s focus is practical and unlike many authors, she refuses to let herself be distracted by pet theories and profitless digressions, or in boasting about herself or what kind of leaders she knows , all of which makes this book a pleasant read and likely a practical one. Even so, this book represents a context in which a large number of fiercely divided congregations finds it necessary to develop congregational leadership in the face of uncertain and unreliable leadership, and so the existence of this book, and the fact that there are a lot of people who would likely appreciate its contents, is itself a sort of sign of larger problems amiss within many denominations on a local level. As is the case so often in life, there is a trade-off between the good of having people who would not have been thought to be obvious leaders getting the chance to develop such God-given gifts, but it is a shame when such growth comes about as a result of crisis and turmoil rather than a result of institutional growth and strength.
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